Trinidad State student represents Colorado college students in Washington D.C.
Trinidad Campus / April 16, 2019 / Written by Margaret Sanderson
As a new student at Trinidad State, Destiny Calderon-Ruiz jumped right in to student government. “I love to be involved. It’s such a small campus and things are hands-on, up close and personal. I wanted to be an advocate for students.” In high school the student government was largely responsible for coordinating extracurricular events. “It’s more formal here and I like it a lot,” said Ruiz.
The opportunity to play volleyball brought Calderon-Ruiz from Pueblo to Trinidad State. She appreciates her teammates who push her further than she thinks she can go. “And I’m in such good shape because of it!” she said as she laughed. Last fall, her schedule was so packed as a full-time student in sports, she was sworn in to her state office in a car while returning from a volleyball trip to Kansas. Connected on her cell phone via video chat, she officially became a SSAC (State Student Advisory Council) member.
Thirteen Colorado community colleges serve over 137,000 students on 39 campuses. The student body from each campus with an established student government elects one student to serve on the SSAC. Calderon-Ruiz credits Trinidad State’s Ashley Cogburn for her involvement with student government. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself in to,” said Ruiz, 19, “but it turned out really good and I’m glad.” Ruiz was working as Cogburn’s work study student last fall semester (her first semester at Trinidad State) when Cogburn suggested she consider running for a position on the state board. “Students like Destiny that come in and are finding their way and then begin to blossom, to find their voice, are the reason I love my job,” said Cogburn who is the Assistant Director of Student Life and Engagement at TSJC. Although Ruiz was born in the United States, her parents came here from Mexico. Bilingual, she is a first-generation (first in her family to go to college) student, who sometimes translates for volleyball team members. “She knows the value of hard work and communication,” said Cogburn, “She’s in this for the long haul. I think she’s found her niche. She has certainly passed my expectations as a first-year student leader.” Ruiz’ schedule was so full her first semester she had to squeeze her work study duties in after 8 p.m. sometimes working as late as midnight.
Ruiz said the SSAC members meet once a month to focus on what community college students want or need the most. The meetings are held in Denver, a three-hour drive from the Trinidad campus. She attends personally when she can. Otherwise, she connects by video chat. Recently Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed the council’s bill to change SSAC bylaws to allow out-of-state students to serve on the SSAC board. Previously, only Colorado residents could serve. Ruiz welcomes the perspectives and ideas out-of-state students can now offer. This effort has given her a clearer understanding of crafting and presenting a bill.
“This has been amazing.” said Ruiz. “Learning about the legal process and networking with students from other community colleges – single mothers, fathers, married and coming back, and GED seekers. More young students are coming too. It’s fun to hear from other students. One community college has a flight school. We have a gunsmith program. I prefer to do my associate’s in a community college and then transfer because there’s such diversity. I’ve learned a lot about other people and their needs.”
While in Washington D.C. March 8 – 12, Ruiz had the opportunity to speak to Colorado Congressman Scott Tipton. “He was the opposite of what I expected,” said Ruiz. “He was humble, relaxed and casual. He supports the NRA (National Rifle Association) and has been to the Trinidad campus to see the gunsmith program.” While in Washington D.C. and visiting the Colorado delegation, the students focused on the time it takes to pay back college loans. Currently, payments must begin six months following graduation. They would like to see it extended to one year to give the students more time to get established in a job before they are required to start making payments.
“It was so interesting to see how other schools work and their dynamics. It was just such a great experience,” said Ruiz about her trip to Washington D.C.
Ruiz is looking forward to team-building exercises at Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely, Colorado, on May 30 – June 2 where SSAC members will team-work through a ropes’ course to build trust and help them prepare for next year.
To learn more about student government opportunities at Trinidad State, call Ashley Cogburn at 719-589-7003.