Victor Huerta ’18 on Civic Engagement

30 May 2017

FOCUS student Victor Huerta ’18 has found a balance between his love of community, health, and society through civic engagement. An Educational Fellow for College Access and PSEO through the Center for Community and Civic Engagement (CCCE) for the 2016-2017 academic school year, Victor has been involved as both a volunteer and leader in the civic engagement community on and off the Carleton Campus. Learn about his journey through volunteering and the way giving back has impacted Victor’s academic passions.  

How did you become involved in the CCCE or other volunteering outside the CCCE while at Carleton?
At the end of my freshman year, I applied for the PSEO TA position, which was out of character for me because I wasn’t involved at all in the earlier part of freshman year. I actually don’t remember what drove me to apply but I am glad I did!

What types of programs are you involved in (please describe)? Do you have a leadership role, and if so, how have you developed in your programs overtime?
As a PSEO TA, I tutored at the high school for an hour a week and held one hour-long PSEO session per week on Wednesday nights; these sessions allowed me and another Carleton student to help Northfield high school students complete online college coursework and help them stay on top of their workload. It was a great experience and, this year, I’m the CCCE fellow in charge of the program and it’s been great to see the program change and develop. I’ve also volunteered at blood drives and taken multiple ACE (academic civic engagement) courses.

The only leadership position I maintain is my fellow position (which I’ll continue next year). I’ve seen PSEO change and develop over the past two years– the model we use now is different from what we’ve used before this year. The one for next year is also a new model, a result of constant coordination with the TORCH staff in the high school, who are our community partners, to figure out what would work best and would best benefit students.

How do you see civic engagement relating to your interests, course work, or science?
I found many of the science classes I took to lack a humanistic component. I’m really interested in the intersection between science and society so it wasn’t just enough to do science – I wanted to understand how science performs and is perceived in the non-science world. Now, as an American studies major, I get a pretty well-rounded academic life: in doing civic engagement, I’m able to understand students’ experiences through theoretical frameworks I’ve learned about in my major’s classes but also use what I’ve learned in my science classes to help the students I work with in their’s. (Of course, that’s not to say all science classes are the same – some do incorporate a humanistic component, like my Genomics class did last term!)

What has civic engagement meant/mean to you?
This is a difficult question because it’s changed over the years. It started out as just volunteering – doing something to help students who come from relatively similar backgrounds as mine – and that’s definitely part of what I think about now. But I’ve also realized that working in the CCCE and doing civic engagement has helped me answer this question – How do I do work that matters to me and actually has an impact?

How have your experiences benefited you? What have you gained through civic engagement?
I’ve definitely grown a lot as both a leader and a speaker. I’ve become more comfortable with taking charge when necessary and speaking to people of different ages. Doing engagement in education specifically is great because it also serves as a review in different subjects and forces you to know topics well enough to articulate it to people who aren’t as familiar with the subject. In English classes, we’re frequently told to know our audience and civic engagement forces you to do that.

Anything you’d like to add?
You can spend all of freshman year not doing anything through the CCCE, like I did, but you can still get involved whenever in your Carleton career. The CCCE may seem like a daunting place but feel free to stop by and talk to anyone who’s working in the office! If you’re interested in certain fields or areas, you can ask about that too. Stop by anytime!

Interested in finding out more about the Center for Community and Civic Engagement and ways to get involved with the Carleton, Northfield, and wider community? Visit the CCCE website here (https://apps.carleton.edu/ccce/) or stop by their office in Sayles!