Many students are unaware of De Anza College’s learning communities, an umbrella term for groups of directors and students who share a common academic goal.
For example, the Vasconcellos Institute for Democracy in Action (VIDA) provides opportunities to connect with the social justice community. While social justice has always been relevant to our political climate, advocacy has been especially important since the Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate movements during COVID-19.
At VIDA, Students can learn to professionally affect change in their communities by obtaining a certificate in leadership and social change. Should someone want to pursue a career in this type of work, the learning community is also a great way to build a network in the nonprofit sector.
VIDA director Cynthia Kaufman said that while learning communities share a common theme of being a mix of student-run clubs and academic programs, each one has a different history behind it.
“Some communities came into being to create community among certain racial and ethnic communities or to meet some academic needs,” Kaufman said. “When I think about VIDA, it was one of the college’s basic missions to increase students’ civic capacity and their ability to make a difference in the world.”
While Kaufman said that the nonprofit sector is one of the fastest growing in the U.S. economy, she lamented that the White middle-class tended to obtain most of the professional jobs available. As a result, there aren’t as many opportunities for people of color, especially from low-income communities.
“People from communities with a lot of social stress due to large-scale social problems are able to work to transform, serve their communities, and get high-paying jobs in the industry through VIDA,” Kaufman said.
Computer science major Dean Chen, 44, originally began advocating for safer traffic lights and making classroom signs legible for the visually impaired at De Anza. Chen himself was frustrated with the lack of visibility himself and began searching for solutions.
“I started doing more advocacy because I needed the resources I wasn’t getting,” Chen said. “I decided to work at VIDA to learn more about leadership and how to manage myself and other people.”
After gaining experience, Chen now helps other students train to become interns for VIDA as an intern himself. He works with them to create public presentations to advocate for VIDA’s projects.
Psychology major Aya Boubezari, 19, originally decided to join VIDA to fulfill her community service hours requirement, but after getting involved with the community, she said it inspired her to keep volunteering and she too eventually trained to become an intern.
“I looked at their common goals and it matched with my goals in terms of becoming a leader in our community,” Boubezari said. “I wanted to gain organization skills, nonviolent communication skills, and a network for future jobs.”
Boubezari said she hopes to still work with VIDA as a mentor in the future, as well as continue working in the social justice industry.
“I didn’t know that you can do social justice work as a job honestly, but VIDA taught me that you can have a job and be financially stable doing what you like.” Boubezari said.
If students are interested in joining VIDA, a link to their webpage is viewable here.