Campus program encourages servant leadership

Western students sledding
Western's Academic Leadership Program students mix work, play, and learning in their service learning activities.

Within Western’s community lies a smaller one—a group of students and faculty dedicated to leadership, campus involvement and service work. The Academic Leadership Program Scholarship, commonly known as ALPS, provides both tuition support and guidance for first- and second-year Western students. Through ALPS, a trend toward service-based learning is transforming the Mountaineer experience.

The first year experience for an ALPS student focuses on participation. For incoming freshmen, opportunities presented at biweekly ALPS meetings forge connections between academics and community activities.

The second year of ALPS blends these service activities with leadership training, with talks from such individuals as Terri Houston, a diversity activist and speaker.

Learning to lead through service can be a difficult process, particularly in the college environment. For new Mountaineers, a support group is a key part of leadership education.

“The leadership at Western starts with the students—it starts the second a leader starts to understand the needs of the people they are leading,” said Jenny Cirkovic, leader of Western’s WordeHorde poetry troupe.

Students in ALPS strive to meet the needs of their community, both on and off campus. Members are encouraged to achieve service goals in organizations like the Gunnison Country Food Pantry, Mountain Roots Food Project and the Gunnison Valley Animal Welfare League. ALPS students share with all campus leaders a motivation to improve the lives of others.

A long-time service tradition in ALPS is the Sweetheart Ball, a multigenerational Valentine’s dance held at the Gunnison Elks Lodge. Prior to the Sweetheart Ball, ALPS students receive dance lessons from Extended Studies ballroom dance instructors and help to prepare decorations and refreshments.

“ALPS encourages students to connect with the community by volunteering, networking and conversing with local businesses,” said Grace Horvath, a sophomore ALPS student.

In her leadership work with ALPS, Horvath works with Gunnison Valley Mentors, a local organization dedicated to helping community youth succeed.

In their involvement with ALPS, Mountaineers sometimes find that their leadership education presents unique opportunities beyond the Western Slope. This March, ALPS students will travel to the Rocky Mountain Peer Leadership Conference to represent Western and increase their potential as leaders.

Following this trip, another group of ALPS students will spend spring break in Clarkston, Georgia. Their efforts will aid the organization Something New in improving the lives of refugees. Students who attended this Alternative Spring Break program last year said they found the experience to be challenging, rewarding and ultimately life changing.

As a student group focused on leadership, ALPS encourages first- and second-year Mountaineers to do more for their campus and community. With a core support group connecting students to new service learning opportunities, ALPS is a unique force making Western’s community stronger.

Story by Anna Lhuillier

Date: 
Tuesday, February 28, 2017 - 1:15pm