“Thinking civically,” explains Professor of Political Science Kimberly Klein, “involves looking beyond an ‘I’ toward a ‘WE’ viewpoint. This broader perspective encourages us to understand our role as a member of the larger community in shaping the world that we want to be a part of.” And Kim walks this talk, both on campus at Delta College and in the larger academic community with the publication of her essay “Thinking Civically: Delta College Champions Community Engagement” in the forthcoming book Enhancing Performance: A Best Practices Guide for Innovations in Community Colleges (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers).
“The essay describes Delta’s commitment to creating a culture highlighting the importance of civic engagement,” Kim explains. “Engagement equals action and action is empowering! When we act, we tend to get buy-in, and with it comes a sense of belonging and a belief that we matter.”
Exemplifying this engagement in her work at Delta College, Kim is co-chair of The Democracy Commitment, which hosts on-campus events, such as voter registration drives and Change Your World Week (which has continued to take place virtually during the pandemic).
Community outreach that Kim spearheads centers on an annual Race to College event and Safety Town program. “Race to College,” Kim explains, “involves a partnership with local elementary students introducing them to Delta through the use of a bike. Delta students, faculty, and student services personnel using hands-on activities teach youngsters about bike and traffic safety, along with health and wellness. We have established partnerships with Michigan State Police, Michigan Department of Transportation, Covenant Hospital, Jack’s Bicycle Shop, and our Police Academy Cadets.
“We intentionally designed activities that would bring the young people and the law enforcement community together. Our goal involved law enforcement and youngsters viewing each other in a different light. Operating in a relaxed, inviting environment created an opportunity to get to know one another on a different level.
“The Safety Town program is geared toward teaching kids how to stay safe as accidents are the number one cause of death in the 0 to 14 age group. Hands-on lessons involving fire and water safety, stranger danger, and COVID safety are included in this outreach. To date, we have impacted the lives of 1,100 elementary students with the day-long Race to College on-campus visits (pre-Covid) and our Safety Town event has impacted 300 kindergarteners through third-grade students.
“The coolest thing about teaching using thinking civically,” Kim shares, “is being a part of the transformation that happens with students. Students gain confidence as they begin to see what a difference they make in their own life and the lives of others.” And for herself as an instructor, Kim adds, “It is invigorating to have the freedom to develop projects that challenge our students and ourselves.”