Empowering Employees to Give Back
By Dr. Melinda Tejada
Having spent the majority of my rewarding professional career at Waubonsee Community College, the support and encouragement the college gives to employees to get involved with our communities has had the most impact on my life.
The college’s encouragement to serve beyond our four campuses has supported my involvement on nonprofit boards for the last 22 years. Currently I am on the board of the Association for Individual Development (AID), and also serve as an advisory member for the Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry (AAIF), Ray Graham Parent’s Association and SPARK (Strong, Prepared, and Ready for Kindergarten) through the Fox Valley United Way, where I also serve on the Allocations Committee. Past board work has included the Aurora Study Circles, Quad County Urban League, Hispanic Heritage Advisory Board and a few terms as chair of the Fox Valley United Way.
This service has allowed me to witness the social impact of those causes that benefit Waubonsee’s students and the community where I live and work. I’ve been able to build relationships with accomplished leaders in the community who give their time, talents and passions. By building relationships in our community, the college has been able to form partnerships that provide direct support to our students.
Two of our more recent examples of such partnerships inspired through board involvement include work with AID and Mutual Ground. AID provides our Waubonsee Talk Line, which supports students during the hours when the college is closed and our counseling faculty are not available. Mutual Ground’s Emergency Response Coordinator has a regular presence on campus to provide resources and to help with college programming for sexual violence prevention and awareness. These are examples of how using community partnerships to support our students is a win for both the college and our community nonprofits. My work with community nonprofits has helped me to gain expertise on complex issues within our community, which helps me as a professional at Waubonsee and as a citizen. Board membership allows me to lead by my social values or mission and to work to make a significant impact in my community. Additionally, the leadership skills I have refined at Waubonsee have been a benefit to the community boards on which I serve. I want our community to see the college as a viable partner and the best way to do that is to be actively involved and understand the needs of our community.
As part of our 50th anniversary celebration this year, Waubonsee has challenged our students, staff and faculty to give 50 hours of service to the community. As someone who adamantly believes in the “community” in community college, I have found it very rewarding to witness the service hours grow each month. I’m proud to be part of an organization that loves its community. I encourage everyone to seek out a community organization that speaks to your passions. You and your community have much to gain from the experience.