Laryssa Truesdale of Gardner, Massachusetts is a full-immersion dual-enrollment student through the Gateway to College program at Mount Wachusett Community College. Along with being a student at MWCC, Laryssa also works on campus as a Student Leader in Civic Engagement (or SLiCE) through the college’s Senator Stephen M. Brewer Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement. In their respective roles, SLiCE members are tasked with planning and implementing service opportunities for MWCC students and community partners, as well as engaging the student population in important dialogues regarding prevalent issues both locally and globally.
I recently sat down with Laryssa to learn more about her role on campus and her most recent “deliberative dialogue” event which engaged MWCC students in a conversation regarding the hidden costs of obtaining a college education in the United States:
Why did you choose to become a Student Leader in Civic Engagement at MWCC?
“I chose to be a “SLiCE” because I have a brother who has special needs and his view on life is just so much better than everyone else’s. He is always down to help everyone – so I figured that was something I wanted to start doing too.”
In your own words, can you describe your position as a SLiCE?
“So, when I think of SLiCE, I think of just getting as many people involved in the MWCC community as possible to benefit someone or something else… [in my role], my job is to get the dual-enrollment students more involved at the college in any possible way. This includes students in the Gateway to College program, the Pathways Early College Innovation School, and other high school dual-enrollment programs.”
Can you explain the concept of “deliberative dialogue?”
“Basically, deliberative dialogue is a conversation that gets more people involved in what’s being said so that it doesn’t feel like [a speaker] is talking at them. It’s more of a conversation than a lecture.”
Can you tell me a little bit about your most recent deliberative dialogue event that took place on campus on October 16th 2017?
“My most recent dialogue was on the ‘hidden cost of college,’ which pertained to talking about all the costs that aren’t included when you get accepted to college. So, to elaborate, when you look at colleges, they give you a price. That price includes your tuition, your books, and occasionally your living expenses if you live on campus. But that price does not include things like your supplies, your transportation, etc. The dialogue was intended to open up the eyes of the students in the room about what it really means to pay for college… I was actually very impacted by some of the stories I had heard at the event. There was this one girl in attendance who told me that she was the first born out of six kids, and that her siblings are significantly younger than she is. Her parents are also both disabled so she is tasked with doing all the work to support her large family. In our conversation, she told me that she really struggles with thinking about how she is going to pay for her college tuition, never mind the other hidden costs.”
Why was this an important dialogue to have on the MWCC campus?
“This event was targeted towards people in the college like the Gateway and Pathways students on campus who are on a full-scholarship until they obtain their high school diplomas. I felt that this was a very important dialogue for them to be a part of because their minds really aren’t open to what fees they are going to have to pay once they start having to pay for college themselves. Having the open conversation between students living that life and students who aren’t was very powerful in establishing understanding.”
Do you have any more events coming up at MWCC?
“In the Spring, I am hoping to have a ‘Hunger Games’ event [based on the Hunger Games novels and film series] where every department and division at MWCC will be assigned to be a different ‘District.’ For example, the Math Majors, vs the History Majors, vs the various staff divisions all work to collect the most food for the new ‘Food for Thought’ food pantry at MWCC.”
Thank you so much for joining me and for your commitment to civic engagement, Laryssa!
-Eden Shaveet, MA-Based Regional Intern, TDC