Graduating ASUCC president Czernowski develops community and academic partnerships; helps peers
For the past school year, UCC graduate Larisa Czernowski has served as the president of ASUCC. “We help support students in the best way possible. Some of that looks like school supplies, and some of that looks like food, transportation,”Czernowski says. “We really try hard to make it an equitable experience for all students, so that when they are participating in school, they feel like they’re well surrounded with everything that they could need to succeed.”
Part of Czernowski’s education journey included being that voice for the students to help all succeed on campus. “We’re really just here to represent students. It’s really about service work,” Czernowski says, “bridging the language between faculty and staff and instructors, between them and students.”
This year, one service that ASUCC performed was the dental clinic. “For example, we decided to allocate money to the dental clinic a couple of times so that they could do dental procedures on students who need them and even some of their close family members who also didn’t have insurance,” Czernowski says. Czernowski explains that ASUCC’s mission is to support students, but the student leadership team itself also supports ASUCC staff, helping them network and get experience with service work and community partnerships.
“Through ASUCC, I’ve been able to sit down with members of the Ford Foundation. I’ve been able to sit with other members of the community,” Czernowski says, “to take on their polices and their views and what they want to see for students bettering themselves. I’ve seen how they impact those things and those relationships in my personal life,” Czernowski explains. Through these opportunities, she was able to make a connection with a Ford employee who met her for lunch and helped her prepare for the Ford Scholars Foundation interview. “I think it was that opportunity that meant I was able to be awarded that scholarship,” Czernowski says.
Czernowski has many faculty members to thank for her success, especially in the human services department. “I received help in that department from Pauline Martell, a human resources instructor, who wrote recommendations on my behalf for scholarships, or Alex Olson who does a weekly check in with her students to see where they’re at emotionally and physically and academically,” Czernowski says. She also appreciates instructors who have remained flexible and supportive. “All of those teachers really get being human,” she says.
Professors also supported Czernowski through her math courses: “Mary Stinnett, mathematics associate professor, and Marie Gambill, associate professor, met with me after class every time to go over the instructions, one-on-one, to make sure I was really comprehending it because for class, it’s really difficult for me to receive information. They used their own time to meet with me on a one-on-one level, really to learn where I was at in my learning style with math.”
Czernowski also thanks Les Rogers, UCC’s former accessibilities coordinator. “He worked with me through accessibility services and really helped encourage and teach me a lot about resources,” Czernowski says.
Czernowski says that faculty support wasn’t the only thing that helped her strive for her degree; her own peers also helped. “A lot of it was my peers and my significant other who always believed in me, but I think the acknowledgment and the support that I got form my classmates was also what really made it so worthwhile,” Czernowski says. “I remember walking into class, and I had a group of students get excited to see me, and there was just this overwhelming feeling of joy and inclusivity. When I drive down this road, I know I’m going somewhere where I’m wanted and needed and loved.” This experience with other students gave her what she calls a “glimmer,” a term she uses for the little happy moments in life.
Czernowski explains that glimmers are “things that bring humans peace or joy. I would call that my first real glimmer.”
On June 16, Czernowski graduates with more than an associate’s degree. “I’m getting a couple pathways certificates: the Addiction Studies Certificate, the Addiction Treatment Pathway Certificate and the Case Aide Pathway Certificate,” Czernowski says. “With those, I’m also getting an AAOT, Associate’s of Arts Oregon Transfer degree.” Next fall, Czernowski will transfer to Portland State University to study social work.
Czernowski has one last piece of advice for students. “I want (students) to know this is a place where you can come and redefine core beliefs. If you don’t think you’re smart enough, if you think you’re too old, if you think you’re too young, if you think you have no money or you can’t afford it,” Czernowski says, “I would say just show up; what I found was something that I thought about a community college was disproven by just showing up and asking some questions and seeing what possibilities were there for me, a lot more me that I could have expected or could have hoped for.”
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