Students from the Liberal High School JAG-Kansas program paid a visit to Seward County Community College Monday, to observe the Student Government Association meeting. While it was business as usual for SCCC/ATS student representatives, the meeting was an eye-opener for the high school visitors. That’s exactly what Will Ponder, JAG coordinator, hoped.
“First and foremost, I just wanted my students to see how the college student government runs their meetings,” he said. “It was a great way for them to see what protocol is, that when you want to get things done, and be taken seriously, you don’t just walk into a room and start talking.”
The point was not lost on JAG secretary Brendon Sarabia, a senior at LHS.
“They’re so well-organized,” said the LHS senior after the SGA meeting adjourned. “They’re well-prepared, the meeting was in order…”
“That’s what we need,” said JAG president Vangie Padilla.
Maryssa Puerto, the JAG vice president, said she was surprised that students at SCCC/ATS have the authority to make decisions about money.
“We’re able to come to conclusions in JAG, but we don’t handle that kind of money,” she said. “They’re pretty smart about it.”
Though the high school students entered the meeting without knowing quite what to expect, all three relaxed as they chatted with SCCC/ATS President Dr. Ken Trzaska.
“I really want you to get comfortable on our campus, because we want to partner with JAG and other student organizations,” Trzaska said. “You’ve got to feel at home to be able to do everything that you have the potential to attempt.”
Ponder said the JAG students, who are all seniors, need to establish a sense of familiarity at the college.
“If they feel like they’ve got a foot in the door, that makes all the difference in the world,” he said. “The high school does a great job of getting students ready academically for college, but a lot of them are not always ready for the everyday living part of it.”
Those “soft skills” have more to do with societal and cultural expectations, Ponder said: “It’s things like knowing how to prepare for a job interview and handle scheduling and other issues.
Knowing how to make smart choices about living arrangements, having a budget.”
While a visit to the college’s student government association might seem unconnected to soft skills, Ponder said the real-life experience offered lessons much more potent than classroom lectures.
“Instead of me up here talking and teaching you, let’s get some hands-on experience,” he said. “College? This is actually a reality. They can see what’s ahead, and get serious about preparing themselves.”
In a word, Ponder said, the goal was empowerment.
Trzaska echoed that viewpoint in talking with the JAG students.
“What I tell our students here on campus is that we know you’re here doing what you do because you have a standard for yourself, a goal,” said Trzaska. “I think you should take your expectations and double them. It’s OK to fall a little short of greatness. It’s not OK to fall a little short of average.”
Inspired by the meeting, the JAG officers said they couldn’t wait to get back to business and finish the semester with style.
“The Ugly Christmas Sweater Fiesta that the Seward SGA is having?” said Padilla. “We want to do that.”
“But we’re also going to run our meetings more organized,” added Puerto. “And try to come out the college with the rest of the JAG students.”
“It would be great if it was more comfortable for incoming students,” said Sarabia, “for them to feel like they can just come out here anytime.”
With that, the three high schoolers headed into the college cafeteria for dinner with the president.
Credit: High Plains Online Southwest Daily Leader & Times, Saturday, 21 November 2015