Connecting Gonzaga University students with the community to help support and create a social justice change is what the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) at GU does.  

With the recent closure of campus and classes moving online, CCE still aims to continue their mission, providing for the Spokane community and Logan Neighborhood.

Molly Ayers, director of CCE, said that CCE is trying to support the community without their student volunteers. 

Our team plans to always work to fulfill our mission, even when that takes unexpected forms,” Ayers said in an email.

With the needs of people in the community growing each day, CCE is providing the opportunity to reach out to the community through online support. 

“We are supporting Second Harvest’s ‘virtual’ food drive and Communities In Schools COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to continue providing food, hygiene and case management to youth during the school closures,” Ayers said in an email. “We are also working with partners that are developing programs to stay connected with seniors and other residents in isolation.”

The transition to online classes does not only affect students but also the community in which campus is located.

CCE partners with a variety of organizations in the Spokane community, such as local nonprofits and schools. Many of which are closed during the coronavirus crisis, forcing CCE to suspend direct engagement with them. 

However AmeriCorps, a CCE program, is in communication with many of these groups to see how they can help. 

“In our communication with our partners, we asked that they fill out a survey identifying needs that the university may be able to support during this time,” Ayers said. 

Although students cannot continue with their CCE program during this time, Ayers, Wootton and Klaassen said they are able to check in with students virtually and provide them with future opportunities as the timeline for the coronavirus case unfolds.

GU freshman and CCE student volunteer with the youth group mentoring program, Smile, Caroline Lasren said she was sad to hear about the program being cancelled for the rest of the year as it was one of her favorite things to be involved in on campus. 

“I loved getting to go once a week to see the same kids. Consistency is key to CCE programs. You bond, laugh and develop a relationship with the kids. That is why I am so bummed that Smile is cancelled because I know that not all the kids have consistency in their lives or people that show up for them,” Larsen said. 

Having closure with students a part of Smile is what the program tries to instill, so students leaving their programs without getting to say goodbye is hard, Larsen said. 

With programs being cancelled for the rest of the year, CCE said they are using this time to build their program and make it stronger by letting GU students know about future programs. 

Larsen said she will be back next semester to join CCE. 

“It’s a great way to make relationships with not only the kids at local schools but other Zags as well,” Larsen said.

The CCE team said the best way to support our community right now is to stay home and abide by the rules set before us by officials. 

One of the most important ways to support our community is by following the recommendations from Gonzaga, the Spokane Regional Health District, the CDC, and other professionals to practice social distancing, stay home when sick, etc. By following these guidelines, we are supporting members of our community - including those who are most vulnerable because of age or health condition,” Ayers said.

For those interested in supporting the Spokane community you can help CCE and donate to Second Harvest virtual food drive at 2-harvest.ejoinme.org/MyPages/COVIDresponsedonations/tabid/1137993/Default.aspx/ or Communities In Schools COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund at secure.lglforms.com/form_engine/s/DQ97Wm3FSkU1M-RB8xyUoQ.

CCE will also be posting updates on their Facebook (@CCEGonzaga) and Instagram (@gu_cce) with more opportunities to support local nonprofits and schools for the duration of the pandemic. 

Hannah Hislop is a staff writer.

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