Today I watched community college students play football on the beach and I felt inspired to write this week’s entry immediately (which means I was subjecting my laptop to splashing and sand…but it was worth it).
I should tell you right now I’m not really into sports. I’ve tried but I have never really gotten into it. However, I am aware that I am in the minority, and I recognize the social implications that sports bring to a community. And yet often, sports are not a huge part of community college.
Sports are a huge identifier for university students. It brings people together; it gives them immediate common ground. There is something powerful when so many thousands of people are gathered together in a stadium to cheer together. It brings a certain camaraderie, emotive connection, and sense of pride that helps me understand why it is so popular.
Pride. Often community college students do not feel pride in their College. Often, they feel they are less than because they are not at a university (see “Crying in Community College” for my story). That is what I hope this blog to help instill. I want to bring pride to community college. I want community college graduates to feel such pride in their school that when they move forward and become successful they will want to give back to their community college.
But unfortunately that is not the case. Alumni associations are almost non-existent in community colleges. And as soon as people transfer they immediately identify with their university. Why is that?
There are many reasons I think – for one, community colleges tend to be seen as a drive-through–limbo version education. You go to class, you go home, and wait for the “real thing.”
But community colleges can and should be so much more than that. Football is the other piece to this puzzle, I haven’t forgotten.
I was on a leadership retreat with the community college where I work and there is a few hours of free time on the schedule. I was in charge of getting pictures of the students hanging out on the beach during this break, and when I walked out I saw them all playing touch football. And for me, it was inspiring watching them laugh, interact, build bonds, and simply have fun. Normal college stuff, right?
Not always for community college students. There aren’t often as many opportunities to build new relationships with people you don’t know. Step outside of your high school friends. Discover new perspectives and simply have fun during a time in your life where you typically are not tied down to a 40-hour per week job.
Though as a community college student we may not pack stadiums, paint our faces, and cheer for a team to run a ball across a field, we can still play on the beach. We can still invite a friend from class out for coffee. We can still run clubs, make an impact, and build relationships that last a lifetime.
But the catch is, since community colleges don’t always have the built in social network that comes from football, dorm rooms, and alumni associations, we have to create it for ourselves. We have to change the conversation and create pride in our school. And since I’m not a community college student anymore, I am counting on you.
So the challenge today is very simple. Invite at least one person from community college that you didn’t go to high school with to hang out. If you’re a group-oriented person, get a bunch of people together to go play football on the beach. Go out to dinner. Volunteer. Invite someone over. Have a conversation. Connect. Socialize. Engage. And have fun.
The more positive social experiences you create in your community college the more connected you will feel once you graduate with your four-year degree and go on to be incredibly successful like I know you will (especially if you’re reading this because that tells me you are looking for ways to reach your full potential). And when you are incredibly rich and successful I want you to get involved with your community college foundation and give back. Or maybe even help start an alumni association.
Community college can be amazing. But you have to make the effort. And if you do, not only will you enhance your life, you will impact the college experience of all those with whom you interact.
So go on, start the next community college ‘football game.' I’ll be cheering for you.