College of the Redwoods


Cal Poly Humboldt

College Matters | Students put civics lessons into action

This article was originally posted in the College Matters column of the Times-Standard.

Thursday, November 16, 2023 - 12:15pm

At College of the Redwoods, we take immense pride in producing graduates who are inquisitive, open-minded, and engaged. In the classroom, they explore subjects that stimulate critical thinking, civic responsibility, and an understanding of complex issues. I am delighted when I hear that our students not only engage with these concepts in the classroom but also have the opportunity to bridge their classroom activities with the real world. This connection allows them to see the tangible impact of their education and become more civically engaged.

Thanks to Jim Ritter, our director of employer partnerships, fourteen CR students from assistant professor Austin Robert’s critical thinking and professor Ryan Emenaker’s U.S. government classes were recently able to participate in an “All About Civics” field trip. The day started at the Board of Supervisors meeting at the Humboldt County Courthouse, where they had the opportunity to observe the proceedings and were also invited to present to the board and share their experiences at CR and what they believed to be the institution’s value to the community.

The students who chose to present were very inspiring and I was personally impressed by how many of them were able to connect their individual experiences to significant community issues, including access to mental health care and diagnosis, lack of insurance coverage in the area, and housing and hunger concerns — all areas where the Board of Supervisors might be able to facilitate change.

Student Samantha Charlesworth shared her thoughts on the experience, saying, “It was a great opportunity for me to work on my public speaking skills and let the Board of Supervisors know how CR has helped me through my adult education. I have accomplished so much more than I ever thought I would because of the help and the attention the faculty and student advisors have given me. I’m extremely appreciative.”

After they presented to the board, they were invited to tour the Humboldt County Office of Elections where they got a behind-the-scenes look into the intricate workings of the democratic process. They learned about the new Voter’s Choice Act, how election officials ensure the integrity of elections, and how technology is employed to manage voter data.

Lastly, they enjoyed a lunchtime Q&A with John Driscoll and Andy Cairns from Congressman Jared Huffman’s Eureka office.

I want to thank all of the students who participated in this opportunity. Bryn Atkins, Stephanie Byrd, Samantha Charlesworth, Kimber Falls, Genevieve Hamaker, Sasha Huber, Arabella Insolo, Raine Kates, Phoenix Orr, Louise Schmidt, and Kees Van Dissel, represented CR remarkably. Your dedication is appreciated.

I would also like to extend my thanks to Jim Ritter for coordinating this event, professors Roberts and Emenaker for their efforts in recruiting and preparing the students, the Board of Supervisors and the Office of Elections for graciously hosting, and Congressman Huffman’s staff for engaging with our students. Your collective support made this experience possible and valuable for our students.

I am positive that an event like this teaches students to articulate their concerns, propose solutions, and, most importantly, grasp the significance of active participation in local governance. I look forward to sharing more of these events with the community in the future.

Dr. Keith Flamer is the president of the College of the Redwoods.