As I reflect on what “community” means to me, I am saddened to think of the many “communities” that have met with tragedy and have had such disruption of their “communities” with the recent events of hurricanes, as well as the horrific tragedy of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. My reflection of “community” reminds me of how we all have to be cognizant of the safety and security of our greatest assets: our students, faculty, staff and community members, as well as be mindful that we need to watch out for and take care of each other. This is what the Hill College family does best — take care of each other and reach out to “communities” in need. At the end of the day, you have to do the right thing.
Webster’s Dictionary refers to community as a group of people who live in the same area such as a city, town, or neighborhood. Other concepts of community refer to “community theater,” “community organization,” or “community service,” which we are a part.
If we are called to do the right thing, then “community” means that you are a part of something that is larger than yourself. It doesn’t necessarily mean in your town, in your state, or even in your country. At Hill College, we take “community” seriously because our community is whom we serve, as well as whom is in need. Community can best be explained by examples of how we partner, serve, and collaborate with communities.
The Hill College family has once again come to the aid of “communities” whom have found themselves the victims of recent disaster. Our Student Government Associations worked diligently in a community project to collect cleaning supplies and materials to aid the victims of the recent hurricanes on the Texas Gulf Coast. Our Hill College family came together to support the mayor’s request to adopt the city of Ingleside by shipping 100 unused desks to the local school district in Ingleside. This was the right thing to do.
Oftentimes, we find that our “community” may be right in our own backyard. Over the last several years, our faculty and staff have come together to purchase and provide toiletries, linens and other supplies to assist students living in our residential halls at the Hill County Campus with basic needs, again the right thing to do.
To do the right thing also means reaching out to support local events and efforts in our own community, such as partnering with the local chambers of commerce for events like the Cleburne Chamber Business Expo, the Burleson Chamber Founder’s Day Celebration, the Hillsboro Cotton Pickin’ Fair, and the Whitney Pioneer Days celebration. At events such as these, Hill College provides a booth, personnel and information to bring awareness to the “community” of the opportunities, affordability and accessibility of higher education. For the past few years, the college has partnered with the local school district in developing “community” gardens with our biology department teaching children the importance of growing your own food and good nutrition.
“Community” can also be expressed in providing health awareness to our citizens, reflected by our having local nurses come to campus to offer flu vaccines to faculty, staff, students and the “community.”
Collaborative efforts can occur in partnerships with higher education universities such as our recent signings with Southwestern Adventist University, Hardin-Simmons University and Texas Tech University, offering affordable educational opportunities for the “community” to receive transfer scholarships, as well as bachelor’s degree offerings while staying close to home in the “community.” Another example is our partnership with Texas A&M University in planting a large rose garden on campus with the assistance of our local “community” master gardeners to research the Rose Rosette Disease affecting numerous rose bushes in the North Texas region. Biology students are collecting and reporting data to their lead researcher for the next two years, again the right thing to do.
“Community” can also mean bringing educational opportunities and entertainment to our campuses, such as the recent leadership conference held on campus bringing 225 educators from the North Texas region, providing opportunities for individuals to stay in our “community” hotels and eat in our “community” restaurants.
A significant focus of our mission is to bring awareness to the “community” of not only the educational, but also the cultural opportunities available at Hill College, such as our renowned and highly recognized performing arts series. The series has featured well known performances such as Cirque Zuma Zuma, finalist in “America’s Got Talent,” and the most recent performance of The Light Crust Doughboys swing band. Not only did the Doughboys perform to a record number of “community” members, but also have selected Hill College as the official repository of The Light Crust Doughboys’ memorabilia. These performances, held on our Hill County Campus, are made available free to the “community,” ... the right thing to do.
Our mission is to serve. The right thing to do as a “community” college is to offer affordable, quality educational opportunities to the “community,” support “community” events and workforce readiness opportunities, be of service to the “community” by partnering with local initiatives, and be a servant in responding to the needs of the “community” with timely and efficient support in times of need. This is absolutely the right thing to do.
Pam Boehm is president of Hill College