Reality check for students at LTCC
A unique course at Lake Tahoe Community College is bringing government back to the people and encouraging participation in not just the typical class lectures, but also the real world.
A description from the syllabus for Lake Tahoe Issues and Agencies provides an insight into this class, designed to give students a better understanding of how government and nonprofit organizations work.
“This is a course for anyone interested in learning about key issues in the Tahoe basin and opportunities to get involved in shaping the future of the community,” the syllabus states, explaining that in meeting representatives of the area’s main agencies and organizations face-to-face, students have the chance to learn about all facets of local government, commerce, services, transportation, natural resource management and environmental protection.
Kim Carr is the instructor for the second consecutive year. The class meets every Thursday from 6-9 p.m. at the community college.
“The students get involved in a number of ways. First is learning the basics of what agencies exist in Tahoe and what they do,” Carr explained. “By having guest speakers, it gives the students an opportunity to meet people from these organizations and network with the speakers as well as other students.
“Assignments are to interview people from agencies or attend public meetings (in addition to presentations to develop public speaking skills),” she added. “What changes from year to year is the issues we look at and the speakers. That’s how they learn to get involved.”
Last week the class was visited by El Dorado County Supervisor Dave Solaro, who spoke on a range of topics and challenged students to brush up on their knowledge of local government, as well as their public speaking skills.
“You have to practice,” Solaro told the class. “Public speaking is one of the things I hated most in high school, but it’s one of those things you just have to do.”
The professions of the course’s guest speakers vary widely, but all are somehow involved in public service in the basin.
In the first week of class, the guest speaker was Janet McDougall of the South Lake Tahoe Redevelopment Agency and next week a representative of the St. Joseph’s Community Land Trust will speak to the group.
“We always have a really good discussion (after the speaker),” Carr said. “It’s great because this is a big group of people who are very enthusiastic.”
Carr noted that many of those registered for the class are actually adults interested in effecting change, wanting to know more about getting involved with local government agencies and private, nonprofit organizations.
“Last year we had two people who ended up getting jobs through the class in the environmental field, so that was very rewarding,” she said. “This year we already have one woman who is applying to be on a city commission — and she learned about that through this class. This time a majority of the students are interested citizens (and not traditional community college students). They are there because they want to be there.
“We spend a lot of time on the environment,” added Carr, who also does watershed restoration work for the California Tahoe Conservancy, “because that’s what people are interested in and it is a very important issue in Tahoe.”
Other topics that will be covered during the semester are lack of housing, transportation problems and social services. A course project is required to pass the class. This involves identifying and researching a current issue facing Lake Tahoe, then presenting the topic with differing perspectives to the class.
“We cover a lot,” she said.
Chad Sellmer may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com
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