By Chris Frost
CAMARILLO—The Ventura County Community College District Associated Student Leadership Summit, Aug. 24, was a powerful event that both cultivated and inspired the student body through a series of exercises that encouraged them to use their voices to the betterment of their education and the education of their fellow students.
The Associated Students of Ventura College from the Oxnard, Ventura and Moorpark campuses gathered in the district office in Camarillo, shared ideas and engaged the leaders of the college who were equally inspired by all the energy in the room.
The event was kicked off by Patti Blair from the chancellor’s office, who said the summit is a culmination of a group of visionaries who brought the idea together.
“This is all about you today, and we would like you to get as much as possible out of today, and that’s why we’re here,” she said to the students. “We have been planning this for a long time.”
Blair said her group of visionaries has been meeting and talking about the summit since 2017.
“We’ve been talking a lot about you,” she said. “Today, we stand here as good representatives of what leaders are.”
The group learned the attributes of a good leader, how to find their voices and shared ideas about how to enhance their experience when attending the Ventura County Community College District.
“When we have lunch together, I want you to look at the leaders who are here, and their careers are successful that they achieved one thing,” Blair said. “They are successful. They are here to provide you with the most awesome experience at a community college, and then our job is done. When you think about your whole life, we hope you’ll always look back at these two years you had and think about what you took from them.”
Ventura College Foundation Executive Director Anne King enjoyed lunch with the students and got to learn first-hand how they want to make their college experiences better.
“It’s extraordinary the courage these students have,” she said. “We were at a table where the five students decided to get into student government and take that opportunity to expand their contribution, and that’s incredible,” she said. “Now they are saying they have to talk and be leaders because they have this responsibility and students are coming to them.”
King said the student's energy is the reason why she goes to work every day.
“They work incredibly hard,” she said. “So many of our students have incredibly hard circumstances they live through, yet they come to college, and they succeed.”
“The students on this campus took the lead on addressing student hunger,” she said. “Because of the student government, now we have an active pantry on campus that is run by the students.”
Political Consultant Trevor Zierhut attended Ventura College and was elected to the student government two times and passed his knowledge to the group.
“I was a wayward student and had good enough grades, but not killer grades,” he said. “There wasn’t anything that set me apart from the 10’s of thousands of students applying to universities every year.
He said his passion was politics and being the director of external affairs was an excellent fit for him.
“It was one of the best things I have ever done,” he said. “Not being a part of group sports or clubs, I never really developed my voice."
One of the highlights from the day was lunch, which gave the students the opportunity to speak with leaders from the college and share their ideas.
He found his voice as the director of external affairs.
“I was able to speak before the board of supervisors and trustees.
“There are the folks who make decisions for the entire district,” he said. “I was able to work with other student government and make those connections. Developing that voice helped me understand what leadership meant.”
He said being a good leader means you can listen.
“If you’re a leader, you’re not just a leader of yourself; you’re a leader of people,” he said. “It’s being able to find out what it is the people you represent need. That is the core of leadership and using your voice on their behalf.”
After the summit, Student Government Academic Affairs Director Ashley Avakian said she comes away from the event with much good advice about being a leader.
“I’ve never been one formally before, so there is a lot to work with after this workshop,” she said. “I also learned about my counterparts and what kind of things they are implementing and how they see what a good leader is.”
She has something inside of her, and because of the workshop, Ashley is ready to reach out to her fellow students on campus.
“I can be shy, but doing this reminded me that I need to suppress that, get out of my comfort zone and reach out to the students,” she said. “I think I’ll be better at it. I’ve already participated in different events where I had to approach people, so I am getting more accustomed to it.”
Rahyen Heilmann, director of budget and finance, said the workshop adds civic responsibility to his role at the college.
“I begin with the end in mind,” he said. “As I fulfill my role this year, I make sure that I keep my end goals in mind the entire time and leave the school a better place.”
His passion is to create a foundation that will serve as a legacy.
“It will allow other people to keep moving forward,” he said.
Student Government President Adan Nevrez came in inspired and said the new tools he learned at the summit keeps him growing and moving forward.
“Speaking to other members of community college allows me to see things from their perspective,” he said. “I am going to use the tools that they already know and been using that worked for them to our advantage at Oxnard College.”
He said at; first, he would go from his car to class, and that’s and was not involved.
“Once I started getting involved that next semester, I made great friends. I walked around campus, and I know everybody. It’s an environment where you can succeed.”
Blair was excited about the event.
“It was wonderful to have all the students together collaborating and sharing ideas,” she said.
Advisor Libby Fatta loved all the energy in the room.
“To see how motivated all the students are, to see all their new ideas is exciting and keeps me motivated and inspired,” she said. “They all come full of great ideas, and fresh new people are excited to have here.”
Ventura College Student Activities Specialist Kristen Robinson noted the associates at Moorpark College set five pillars that directs every decision they make for the next year.
“When they start to come up with new ideas, the first thing they ask themselves is how does this align with the goals and priorities we set for ourselves at the beginning of the year,” she said. “Having that foundation govern their decision-making process for 2019 helps us to make sure that what we’re doing is meeting what we set out to do.”
She said they also had long conversations about prioritizing things and being realistic about timeframes to accomplish things.
“It can have a big impact on the campus,” she said. “As with any bureaucratic system, decisions have to be made and approved at multiple levels often.”
She said the college encourages the students to pursue the things they want.
“It’s been a great balancing act and does not alter or stunt their ambition because they have plenty of it, and they can achieve those things within the parameters the district has set for them,” she said.
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