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Civic Engagement Blossoms at Evergreen

Thanks to the generosity of donors, eager new students came to campus one week ahead of their peers for the Evergreen Student Civic Engagement Institute (ESCEI).

Under the leadership of faculty and staff, including Nancy Koppelman ’88, new students who aspire to be leaders on campus tackled controversial questions and developed skills that would frame their academic and social experiences at Evergreen.

The institute was inspired by Evergreen Trustee and donor Fred Goldberg, who felt strongly that civic engagement and civil dialogue should be integral aspects of a college education. ESCEI was launched in 2013, thanks to Goldberg’s generosity. The institute gives students alternate paradigms to the often-polarized and frustrating levels of American discourse.

“ESCEI exposes students to big questions such as: what is civic engagement; how can religion and science co-exist; how can I express my opinions effectively; and what does is mean to be an active citizen?” said student participant Hannah Allen-Young '18. “These are questions that we will continue to ask ourselves and be asked during our time at Evergreen and beyond and ESCEI gives us a foundation to start developing those ideas.”

Hannah helps out in the garden at GRuB, an Olympia nonprofit focused on youth and agriculture.

Hannah helps out in the garden at GRuB, an Olympia nonprofit focused on youth and agriculture which was founded by Evergreen alumni, Blue Peetz '95 and Kim Gaffi '97.

The students explored civic engagement through readings, seminars, and workshops. They applied this theory to practice through service learning with local nonprofits, including GRuB (Garden-Raised Bounty) and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County.

Allen-Young enjoyed her experience with ESCEI so much that she chose to come back in 2015 as a student mentor. “It was incredible to see the students grow so much over the course of the week. They started much like I had, shy and reserved, but once they started to participate in ESCEI they broke out of their shells and began to make genuine connections with one another.”  

She added, “I think ESCEI is important to Evergreen because it helps mold students into civically-minded and active members of the Evergreen community. All of those who participate in ESCEI have to complete a civic engagement project and many of those projects help to improve lives on campus, and the lives of students.”