Office of Civic Engagement

Civic Engagement Spotlights

Hamilton City Elementary School Mural Project

This week Civic Engagement would like to shine the spotlight on the youth engagement efforts by Melissa Stearns and Rebecca Shelly in Hamilton City. Melissa Stearns is a Health Education Specialist that works with the Center for Healthy Communities at Chico State. She currently oversees Nutrition Education programs in Glenn County, and has been working with Hamilton City Elementary School for almost 5 years now. Beautification of the campus has been a top priority for Hamilton City Elementary, a school who is made up of mostly low income families and receives very little resources. Melissa Stearns came into contact with Rebecca Shelly, who was teaching Art classes at CSU Chico at the time, to collaborate on a beautification project at the school. Melissa and her team used their Nutrition Education programming to engage a group of students in thinking about “What does health mean to you?” Melissa’s team then shared these findings with Rebecca, who created a mural design that encompassed all of the different themes that arose including gardening, harvesting, rivers and playing soccer. Rebecca broke up the mural design into different grids, one for each of the students chosen to work on the project. With the help of Rebecca, each student got to paint their grid of the mural.

woman painting

The final masterpiece proved to have major impact for the students of Hamilton City Elementary and the surrounding community. Located right outside of the cafeteria, students are reminded of their visions of living out a healthy lifestyle. These beautification efforts have empowered students to get involved with their school and increase respect on the campus. The mural also serves as a symbol for the time, energy and resources that have been invested into making the campus look and feel more welcoming. The families of Hamilton City Elementary showed great appreciation and excitement over the mural.


Town Hall 2.0

Students become more engaged scholars and gain confidence about their capacity to do meaningful work when they have an opportunity to share their research in public dialogues with interested others. The bi-annual CSU, Chico Town Hall Meeting provides students with a public arena for discussing current policy issues with other students, faculty, and community members. Students research and prepare talking points for topics such as immigration, freedom of speech, and homelessness, and receive feedback on their ideas from community consultants. Afterward, they write an action plan based on their conversations at the event.

This activity has shown to have such positive impacts for Chico State students that we want to share this opportunity with communities in our region. Town Hall 2.0 was an idea hatched by Karyn Cornell, a student in the Masters of Public Administration program. The goal is to enlist college students to mentor high school students in other communities in the North State, using all of the civic engagement skills they had learned as participants in the Town Hall meeting. Along the path of researching and developing a project proposal, Karyn was introduced to Amy Rhoades, an undergraduate in Social Work working on her honors project. Amy attended Salisbury High School, a Red Bluff continuation school, many years ago as a teen mom. She credits the staff at the school for seeing her potential and helping her graduate high school. At the time, Amy didn’t think college was an option for her. Now, for her honors project, Amy wants to return to her home community and support more students from Salisbury in getting to college.

Karyn and AmyWhen Karyn and Amy met to discuss their shared interests, they decided that Town Hall 2.0 should make its stage debut at Salisbury and the principal of the high school, Barbara Thomas, agreed. Town Hall 2.0 is designed to provide young people from North State communities and Chico State students the opportunity to interact and learn from one another. The goals are to provide all student participants with skills in collaboration, research, and community engagement, and potentially encourage more young people to attend college and then return to their communities to continue their civic work. The hope is that Town Hall 2.0 will be coming to other North State communities in the future.


North State Together

Civic Engagement shines the spotlight on Kevin O’Rorke, CEO at North State Together, an initiative that supports community collaborations in rural areas to increase educational options in the North State. The McConnell Foundation awarded North State Together $2.5 million dollars to create a “Cradle to Career” partnership where leaders from education, business, philanthropic and faith communities join forces to improve education for every child.

North State Together partnerships focus on increasing educational opportunities at all levels, which ultimately impacts the overall economic health of communities. North State Together will provide direct funding to rural counties and serve as “backbone support” to collaborations like Reach Higher Shasta and Expect More Tehama, providing funding and resources to help them run smoothly. The newly formed partnership between North State Together and Chico State serves as a model hub for the Rural Schools Collaborative. Through this collaboration, we are able to support regional teachers in using place-based education in their classrooms.

Kevins spotlight photo

Ember Swan and Linda Swayne, primary teachers at French-Gulch-Wiskeytown, being awarded a $750 Grants in Place award by the Chico State-North State Together hub to be used for a native plants and butterfly garden for their outdoor classroom. Also pictured, Ann Schulte, Sharron Strazzo, Kevin O'Rorke and Kate Mahar. Learn more here!

For more information about how Chico State is partnering with the North State, see our Rural Partnerships page or Contact Ann Schulte, Faculty Fellow for Rural Partnerships AKSchulte@CSUChico.edu.


Expect More Tehama

Last week Civic Engagement shined the spotlight on Kathy Garcia, one of the founders of Expect More Tehama (EMT), a community initiative supporting educational attainment. Kathy was raised in Red Bluff and Dairyville, but didn’t come to appreciate Tehama County until she spent time attending colleges and working in Sacramento, Portland and Long Beach. She rediscovered Tehama County and hasn’t looked back.

spotlight on Kathy Garcia

Rural areas have a lower percentage of residents with higher education, and those that do go to college often seek jobs elsewhere. Expect More Tehama was started over a cup of coffee in 2009 by a group who wanted more for their students beyond just a high school diploma. As the discussions grew larger, a movement was born. EMT became a community collaboration to transform the county by partnering with stakeholders to energize and motivate people to take action to improve resources, civic engagement, opportunities, and a brighter future. Kathy Garcia has truly carried this movement to where it is today, and has made a major impact in the North State.

For more information about how Chico State is partnering with Kathy and Expect More Tehama, see our Rural Partnerships page