08:41 AM

Becoming an 'active citizen' is key part of education at UHCL

Big Event
The Big Event offered students the chance to become more 'active citizens,' giving their time, energy and service to worthy causes in Houston and on campus.

Colleges aren’t just a place for people to get an education or a diploma. If students can become active citizens in their college lives, they’ll become more than simply educated. By connecting with real-life situations and learning to analyze and tackle problems on their campus and in their community, students participate in the growth that results in reform and positive impact.

That’s why colleges with “active citizens” can become places where ultimately, nation-building tasks can be accomplished.

“It’s my role to encourage and facilitate service learning opportunities for student organizations and student leaders that connect them to the community,” said Community Engagement Coordinator Mohammad Khan.

“We continue to cultivate relationships with local non-profits and community organizations, while developing impactful leadership and community engagement programs, including the student leadership retreat, Servant Leader Scholar Program, and Community Engagement Fair. Our goal is to empower students as active citizens here on campus, and in their communities,” he said.

Khan said that through service and leadership opportunities, he hoped students would move through what’s known as the “active citizenship continuum,” and ultimately become active Hawk citizens.

“When someone joins a community, whether it’s this campus or anywhere, they may not be aware of the issues facing their community, or perhaps don’t recognize that they have some responsibility in addressing these issues,” he said. “They’re simply a ‘member’ of the community, which is the first step on the continuum. A ‘Volunteer Hawk’ is a step past this. They know there are some problems in society and they seek to address them by volunteering.”

As a Hawk moves through the continuum, Khan explained that the next step was becoming a “conscientious citizen,” that is; one who tries to identify the source of the problem they’re volunteering for by exploring social injustice on a systemic level and furthering their knowledge about these issues in their community.

“Our final goal is to develop ‘active Hawk citizens,’” he said. “That’s an individual who recognizes their impact on their community, engages in service and civic opportunities that fight social injustice, and make choices with the intention of benefiting their community, first.”

Through the efforts of the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership, UH-Clear Lake students can participate in experiential learning, gaining a head start over others as they enter the workforce.

“It’s important to get experience outside the classroom, and demonstrate that you’re not just someone who’s just lived on campus and attended classes, but that you’ve gotten involved,” Khan said. “You’ll leave with a diploma as well as a diversified resume—and ultimately, a more aware and conscientious leader. That’s a high-impact practice.”

There are plenty of opportunities on campus for students to create a well-diversified resume, as well as develop active Hawk citizenship.

UHCL’s fourth annual Big Event—formerly known as Hawks Day of Service, took place March 5 and is the largest day of service hosted by the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership and Hawks 4 Community a registered student organization with a mission of creating community service and leadership opportunities for the UHCL community.

“Students had the opportunity to register and volunteer at six different locations, including the Galveston County Food Bank, The Sanctuary Foster Care Services, Descendants of Olivewood Cemetery, as well as here on our own campus,” Khan said. “This spring break, we went to Stephen F. Austin State Park, learned about the role of state and national parks played in social equity movements, had discussions with park rangers and then volunteered our services.”

Hawks 4 Community’s Vice President of Leadership and Engagement David Bernal said that volunteering was a great way for students to challenge themselves to do what’s out of the ordinary for them.

“Volunteering has helped me so much,” he said. “Unless you practice things like public speaking or social engagement, you won’t absorb them. Even though I’m still not comfortable speaking publicly, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and do the things that will challenge you and develop yourself as a leader and as someone who works on a team.”

Bernal added that for a certain number of service hours completed, students can receive honor cords for commencement.

“Those service hours show your future employer that you’re willing to do things beyond what’s expected,” he said. “They see you’re the kind of person who will do more than your job description. This will benefit you regardless of your degree plan.”

There are opportunities for students to apply for an officer position in Hawks 4 Community. To find community service opportunities or schedule a service-learning consultation go online.