Joliet Junior College, the nation’s first community college has learned lessons in developing leadership programs for students by trial and error. We’ve tried many things over the years ranging from requiring club officers to attend, to offering open and general leadership, to a program now that is three tiered and offers scholarships to students participating.
Emerging Leaders is for students who are nominated by staff or faculty of the college. This series includes three sessions each semester with the fall semester being life skill related (goal setting, conflict resolution and positive mental attitude for example) while the spring semester focuses on career related skills (identifying strengths, presenting yourself online and in person, and speed networking). If a student completes all three sessions along with five hours of community service, they are eligible to apply for a scholarship for $500 that will be awarded to the one student who shows how the sessions and service benefited them.
Student Leader Round Ups are for club leaders. In the two sessions offered each semester, student leaders are trained in things related to their involvement with clubs. This could include fundraising, promotional ideas, running meetings, and dealing with difficult people. The students who participate in those two sessions would also need to attend a Campus Community Leadership session to fulfill the requirement of three sessions along with the five hours of service and completion of the scholarship essay for a chance to win the $500 scholarship.
Lastly, our Campus Community Leadership program is open to all students and is led by staff and faculty from the college. The topics are general enough for all students to benefit from. In the past year, they included: Stress Management, Time Management, Communication 101, Financial Management 101 and others. In order to apply for the scholarship for this series, the student must attend all three sessions and five hours of service. Each year, we have awarded the scholarships and enjoyed reading the essays from the students as to how they benefited from participating in the series. The student also “wins” by earning money to put towards education. It has been a challenge to find the method of leadership programs that works but we continue to use these three programs with varied topics offered each semester.
We have also created a series of Lunch Bunch programs for pockets of students. Because we are a community college, we serve all ages and ethnicities, and our community is very diverse. Since we are primarily a commuter campus, finding a way to reach students is often challenging because they are working, have family commitments, and schoolwork that they are juggling. Enter FREE food. When food is provided, we tend to get students to attend. We started with an Adult Lunch Bunch for students over the age of 25. We met monthly with lunch provided and had various individuals come to present to this group ranging from scholarships to time management etc. The group determines the subject matter of the meeting. Since that group developed, we have added an International Student Lunch Bunch for students who are from other countries or interested in learning about other countries, a Veterans Lunch Bunch for our military veteran students and supporters, a Transfer Lunch Bunch for students whose intent is to transfer for a bachelor’s degree, and New Student Lunches for our new students each semester. A free lunch is provided and sign in sheets and evaluations are used to determine the success of each group. That old saying “if you feed them, they will attend” is true at JJC. The groups range from 10-15 to 50 for New Students. These groups allow students to see that there are others in similar situations and provides that connection that then leads to their degree completion and more.
While we don’t claim to have all the answers, we have programs that work at Joliet Junior College. We have a variety of larger programs, as well as more focused programs that are educational and social. There truly is something for every student at JJC if they are seeking involvement outside the classroom.
This post is part of our #comm_college series, which aims to explore experiences developing community college policies and processes that impact the recruitment, retention, and completion of community college students. What human interest stories do you have of community college student resilience, persistence, and success? What about a stories of transition, challenge, or transformation? A variety of SA pros working in student affairs at a community college will share their insights. For more information, please see Kim Irland’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series!