Aaron Whitlatch noticed that whenever he mentioned his school or his field of study, people gave him a blank stare. So he decided to create a final project to educate the community to both.
Whitlatch attends Northern Arizona University/Yavapai College, majoring in Community Development and Sustainability. He is one of about 30 percent of the 130-member student body that are obtaining either a major or minor in this program.
A 10-week course called Community Program Planning and Evaluation requires students to create and participate in a project of their choosing. Six current students embraced Whitlatch's idea, and together they will host an NAU/Yavapai Civic Forum to take place at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 25, on the NAU/Yavapai campus near the Prescott Valley Library.
Patricia Countryman, Prescott Valley resident, said people who attend the forum will take away specific cost-saving information they can put to use at home to conserve water and reduce electricity bills. The Forum also will provide an opportunity for community members to meet administrators, teachers and students, and learn more about NAU/Yavapai and to exchange ideas.
The CDS program began in the Fall 2010 with 12 students. Dr. Constance Brown heads the program and said the Community Program Planning and Evaluation class is designed to take students through specific steps: identifying an issue; defining the associated problem; and planning, designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating a program that tackles the problem.
"I'm in this program because I care about the environment. I get called a 'hippie tree hugger' when I talk about clean water or clean air," said Rose Eitemiller, whose major is Applied Human Behavior and minor is CDS. "I want to open doors so they can look at us a little differently - not a negative, but as a positive attribute for our community."
The Dewey-Humboldt resident said when people don't have the money to invest in environmentally-friendly products, it's hard to feel like they can participate. For example, replacing current lighting with LED or CFL bulbs, or investing in a rainwater harvesting system can be expensive. But people can make changes on a smaller scale.
These changes are some of the things the students will offer to the public at the forum. In addition to offering tips on bettering the environment, the students want to reinforce the presence of the college and provide a time for the public to meet college personnel, and open a dialogue on environmental concerns with community members.
Students in the CDS program say they want to apply what they've learned to future careers or areas of study. Anthony Osvog of Prescott said he hopes to use the knowledge for future work in the mental health field. Lynda Chaprnka will take what she learns to the legal field.
Eitemiller encourages everyone in the Quad-communities to stop by the college.
"This program speaks for itself. But what our group is trying to do is get the word out, for the community to come and listen to what NAU/Yavapai has to offer and what we can do to help the community for future projects," she said.