Written by Romalyn Mirador, CSU STEM VISTA 2015-16, San Jose State University EPICS

IMG_6934.JPGAs the end of the academic year draws nearer, the students in the pilot year of EPICS have shown more determination to complete their projects while juggling their other classes. I am inspired by their efforts and eagerness to turn in a finished and working project for their community partners. I’ve even had one of the students tell me that the course made him want to work on more community service projects in the future.

Hearing from students around campus, I’m constantly reminded of their dedication and desire to get involved. The Hygiene for Homeless team has mentioned that a peer wanted to help out on their portable shower/laundry facility; a student has reached out to a fellow faculty member about wanting to work on a tiny house project for the homeless; another student spoke about wanting to teach more about environmental engineering to K-12 students using interactive models and apps.

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SJSU mechanical engineers and members of Hygiene for Homeless

With the knowledge that students were seeking community service related opportunities, I started focusing more on finding potential projects for next year’s EPICS class. As if on cue, the director of SJSU’s Center for Community Learning and Leadership (CCLL) sent me an email about working with a local organization. I came into contact with the founder of South Bay Clean Creeks Coalition (SBCCC), a community group dedicated to restoring the local watershed.  Their efforts in cleaning the creeks have resulted in 100+ cleanup events that have removed 125 tons of trash so far. I set up a meeting with the College of Engineering Associate Dean and the SBCCC Founder to talk more about potential projects for the fall semester.

We sat and brainstormed potential projects that could help with SBCCC’s creek cleanups and bring more awareness to environmental issues surrounding the creeks. At the end, we were able to come up with at least 7 projects that could help with cleaning events, observing wildlife, and educating the public about the local watershed. I also volunteered for one of their creek cleanup events to see the area and the issues myself.

The cleanup events happen in multiple areas and I was placed in a group that would clean an area in downtown San Jose. Two hours and two full large trash bags later, I’ve collected batteries, various clothing items, spray cans, plastic bags, bottles, a basket, wrappers, and more. The group had at least 10 full bags of trash from the small area we covered.

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SJSU software engineering student and StudyBuddy team member

However, I could really see the difference just cleaning up a few spots made. At that moment, I imagined how much more could be done with future EPICS students and the project ideas we went over at the meeting. Maybe they will come up with a project that can clear out trash in a larger area in the same two hours. Maybe they can find a better way to educate the public to help keep the creeks clean through interactive kiosks.

At this point, I knew that EPICS would be a great connection for the students and the community. There are plenty of dedicated students in SJSU wanting to participate in community service activities and there are plenty of projects that local communities would like to get done. I’m looking forward to seeing the new projects start coming to life for the next semester.

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