Civic Engagement Offers Lessons in Leadership, Personal Development

By Yosemite Pinedo

portrait of Yosemite Pinedo
Yosemite Pinedo, Student Senate President

My journey from a newly enrolled student at Waubonsee Community College to President of the Waubonsee Community College Student Senate has been defined by civic engagement. Involvement in one’s community is not only an important way to give back, but it is also an opportunity that widens your network, sharpens your skills and opens your mind.

During my first year at Waubonsee, I was introduced to several clubs and activities, including the Waubonsee Student Senate. I decided to run for Student Senate to gain leadership experience because I believe that if you want to positively change the world, you should start within your own community. As a student representative, I went from a senator, to vice president, to my current position as senate president.

This experience has helped me grow in many ways. With this new involvement and new responsibility, I not only developed as a person, but my network and the community I built around myself grew as well.

As a Waubonsee Community College student, I have learned that “student” is a word that you can mold into whatever experience you seek to gain. But I have also learned that keeping an open mind is the most important part of the journey of a student, because that allows you to try new things, meet new people, and discover interests and abilities in yourself that you never imagined before.

Before joining Student Senate, I didn’t know how to format an email, I didn’t know how to properly use a copy machine, and I had never heard of Robert’s Rules of Order as a way to conduct a meeting. But my lessons have been about more than learning new tools and skills. I also learned how to lead a group of people in a professional and efficient manner, and I learned how to shape myself as a leader.

A huge part of leadership involves listening to your peers. The only way to truly understand your peers and what they want is to listen and be empathetic. Practicing these skills of listening and empathy in Student Senate has helped me to keep an open mind. I also learned to delegate tasks, work efficiently within the team, and to make difficult choices and have the confidence to carry them through.

But the rewards of this experience have been many: Not only have I learned all of these skills, but I have also met many people who continue to mentor me, support me and open doors for me. Civic engagement is the thread that binds a community together, and it takes many individuals to create a strong bond. While I have learned much as a student in the classroom, I have also learned so much by engaging with the community that is built around those classrooms.