Leadership development is a top priority for Moorpark College President Luis Sanchez who established the Student Leadership Forum in the fall of 2015. The small group consists of less than twenty student leaders who meet once month on a Friday throughout the academic school year. Students are exposed to valuable leadership strategies that relate to academic and career success. Sanchez invites guest speakers to provide students with diverse insights into what it means to be a leader. Ventura County Community College District Board (VCCCD) Trustee Dianne McKay and Scott Harris, co-owners of Mustang Marketing, were the featured guest speakers for the February meeting. In a roundtable discussion, students were challenged to define leadership and success on their own terms; enlightened to pursue mentors and positive role models; and encouraged to seek balance. "Most students plan to graduate and get a job, I think it’s important to graduate and get a life," stated Harris.
Another key component of the Student Leadership Forum that helps participants build leadership skills is the special project they are charged with completing by the end of the year. Each student thinks of an idea and shares it with the group. The project must benefit the college and align with specific criteria and must be approved by the Moorpark College Administrative Council. This year, the students voted on a project suggested by Annalise Robbins.
Robbins, a third year Moorpark College student (who has attended since high school), suggested creating a student group responsible for making announcements in classrooms regarding resources available to benefit students. "After some constructive feedback from my peers, the idea grew into a student-to-student run blog specifically for posting announcements about little known yet pertinent information," stated Robbins. "Students cannot use Moorpark College resources if they do not know about them. The purpose of the blog is to connect students with campus events, departments, resources and programs by posting announcements," added Robbins. Robbins worked at ACCESS (Accessibility, Coordination Center & Educational Support Services) where through interacting with students she identified the reoccurring problem of students lacking knowledge of resources provided by the college. She also witnessed gaps in communication across departments. This caused her to consider solutions and thus the idea for The Announcement Blog was born.
Robbins and fellow students proposed the project to the Moorpark College Administrative Council in December 2016 and it was approved. "The managers asked us really great questions such as ‘What are the next steps? How can the school monitor the information? How are you going to make students aware of the blog?,’" stated Robbins. All of which forced Robbins and the forum members to fine tune the initial concept.
A beta site for the blog is set to launch in early March. The group established four committees (content, outreach, sustainability and website) to collaborate and complete the full launch by the end of the semester.
Silvana Iskandar, chair of the outreach committee, also passionately involved in developing the blog, shared that the Student Leadership Forum has had a significant impact on her life. Referred by Extended Opportunity Program and Services (EOPS), Iskandar, like Robbins, came to the forum highly recommended due to natural expressed leadership capabilities.
"I love working with people who have stories to share," commented Iskandar, who shared the Student Leadership Forum has made her feel more connected. Working on the blog’s outreach provides her the opportunity to network around campus and with high school communities to make this resource a public benefit.
Leading the sustainability committee, Robbins sees the blog providing an infrastructure to serve students and create better overall connectivity on the Moorpark College campus. Existing student interest surrounding the blog is high with the desire to develop an app to complement the blog. Additionally, Robbins is working on creating internship opportunities with the potential to give academic credit in the future.
Both Robbins and Iskandar revere President Sanchez for being an authentic leader who is humble and open to sharing life experiences and insights with students. Both Iskandar and Robbins credit the leadership forum with changing their lives.