On April 24, Gunnison Mayor Jim Gelwicks attended a Western Student Government Association (SGA) meeting, like he had many times during the school year. But this meeting was different. Gelwicks wasn’t just there to build stronger bonds between Western and the Gunnison community. He was there to honor students for the hard work they’d already done.
Near the end of the meeting, Gelwicks presented the Western SGA with a proclamation declaring 2019 to be Student Citizen Year, recognizing the “exemplary civic participation of students past, present and future attending Western Colorado University.”
“We got caught by surprise,” said Gary Pierson, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students. “Mayor Gelwicks had been a regular presence all year, but we never expected any recognition like this.”
The proclamation followed a year of new and continued service initiatives from Western students. One of the largest projects included improving a pedestrian and cyclist corridor along Ohio Avenue, creating a bridge between the Western campus and downtown Gunnison.
“We worked closely with the city to come up with both physical and emotional connections between Western and Downtown,” said Lauren Hopp, former Western SGA President. “The city continually welcomed us into their initiatives and we never turned them down.”
Western students also regularly attended city meetings and served on various city committees, including a hiring committee that was crucial to the design and construction of the Ohio Avenue corridor project.
But students did more than show up—they worked hard. Over the three different community service days during the 2018-19 school year, more than 300 Western students went out and served more than 22 nonprofits in Gunnison and surrounding communities.
“Getting students off-campus to volunteer helps students make stronger connections and really appreciate what our community has to offer,” Pierson said. “The students get a new perspective and the city appreciates their work. It’s a win-win situation.”
Although the proclamation recognized the work of the past year, Pierson, Hopp and other Western students know this is just the beginning of a partnership where everyone benefits. From establishing a permanent volunteer bank to continuing community service days, there is more good work to be done.
“I wanted to make sure that SGA was focused on establishing relationships and projects that affect current students as well as future students. This proclamation suggests that we have accomplished that,” Hopp said. “I am so excited for the future of Western and Gunnison and the bond they will carry for years to come.”