Volunteers exemplify college commitment to community

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerFor the past few years, Cochise College board members, staff and students have participated in the Salvation Army’s red kettle campaign by ringing the bell outside of local establishments during the holiday season. The college is also connected to the Salvation Army through the work of culinary arts faculty Lora Miller, who was tapped to establish a Legacy Foundation-funded culinary program for kids, an activity on which she spends about 16 hours per month planning and teaching. Despite the time commitment, Miller finds being with the kids and watching them learn and develop skills immensely rewarding.

Miller isn’t alone as a college representative volunteering in the community. Civic and service organizations, non-profits, education and environment support groups, and others have found in the college a resource for volunteers, expertise and the energy to move things forward. Until recently, the college has not formally tracked or quantified its many relationships with these types of groups. Thanks to an effort by doctoral candidate Jenn Wantz, recently appointed director of community relations and an active volunteer herself, self-reported data is now available for the year 2018 and part of 2019.

In 2018, 88 staff, students, faculty, friends and alumni reported 2,047.5 volunteer hours with 38 community organizations. In the first eight months of 2019, 59 individuals reported 1,436.5 volunteer hours with 54 organizations.

Last year was the first in which the college presented Volunteer of the Year awards. They went to students Conner Fletcher (Sierra Vista) and Sarah Ntifu (Douglas) and to faculty member Rebecca Orozco.

Orozco, who teaches history and anthropology full time, currently puts her passion to work with six community organizations: Cochise County Historical Society, Naco Heritage Alliance (Camp Naco), Friends of Warren Ballpark, Boys & Girls Club of Bisbee, Bisbee Rotary Club, Copper Queen Community Hospital. She spends between 216 and 300 hours per year on four of those activities, and there are two for which she hasn’t tracked time.

Why does she do it? “I am committed to history and archaeology and especially to saving the sites important to our local history. I am also extremely blessed in my own life and want to give back to my community.”

The college’s mission describes academic opportunities that lead not just to meaningful careers, but also to constructive citizenship and lifelong learning. Some faculty involve students with community projects through their classes. Formal student clubs also participate or spearhead activities on behalf of the community. An example is the Digital Media Arts Club’s upcoming Comic Con event, the proceeds of which will go to CANTER.

You can explore Cochise College volunteer data in more detail at cochise.edu/cares. On that website, organizations seeking volunteers also can register their needs for short-term event assistance and browse the list of active college clubs to identify students who might help. The page includes an organization connection that prospective volunteers can browse for volunteer opportunities with local organizations.

The non-profit community in Cochise County aims to make meaningful contributions that benefit others. When people with common interests work together, they can really get things done. Cochise College is proud to be part of it.

J.D. ROTTWEILER, Ph.D., is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.