Each fall Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) students studying at Edmonds Community College take part in an 8-week program sponsored by the City of Lynnwood, called Lynnwood University. Students visit the fire department, police station, waste water treatment plant, and other city departments for presentations, tours, and hands-on activities related to local government.
This fall NWCCI students are participating in the class for the sixth year. In past years the connections made during Lynnwood University have led to internships at the City of Lynnwood, topics for class projects and relationships that have lasted throughout the program and beyond. Below Edmonds Advisor Kim Kraft describes the Lynnwood University program and shares current students’ perspectives on what they have learned during the first half of the class.
Lynnwood’s Council President Loren Simmonds says, “Our objective in Lynnwood is to further educate and encourage our citizens to participate in their local government where they have the greatest opportunity to impact their community for the common good.” Julie Moore, Manager of Communications and Public Affairs for the City of Lynnwood, helps coordinate the program and says there are 57 registered participants this year including seniors, business owners, staff from the school district or community college, high school students, college students, and anyone in between. The program is open to anyone that is interested in learning more about the City of Lynnwood.
Simmonds says his hope for the international students who attend Lynnwood University is two-fold. “First, since many of them come from countries with different forms of government from top to bottom, I hope to expose them to our working model at the local level. Secondly, some (not all) come from countries where the government or government officials are to be feared for various reasons. My hope is to put a human face on local government. I want them to realize that elected officials and appointees are just people like themselves. We are a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” I hope to strengthen this perspective by establishing new friendships and/or working relationships. In some cases, this may result in short internships to gain exposure and limited experience while here. At the very least, I would hope it might result in possible small group or one-on-one dialogue.”
Julie Moore says that the NWCCI students’ participation in Lynnwood University these past few years has been mutually beneficial. “The students most often times come from countries that are run drastically different than the United States, so I think it is a great opportunity for them to see a part of the American government system. They all seem to learn so much from the experience at Lynnwood U and have fun stories to tell when they return home,” she adds, “I really think having the NWCCI students in our classes have benefited our American students as well. The NWCCI students bring their own cultural perspectives with them and often times will ask questions that someone who has lived in the states their whole life wouldn’t think to ask. Sometimes looking at something from a different viewpoint can bring a lot perspective and clarity.”
The students’ responses to the program so far confirm that Simmonds and Moore’s objectives are being met, here is what a few of the students have to say about Lynnwood University after three weeks in the program:
“I was surprised by the small number of people who run the city so well to keep the city clean and comfortable, they supply water through the city, they plan and maintain new roads, and they control the traffic. I was also surprised by the transparency of use of the government budget. We can also access online their plans for this city and how they use the budget.” – Azhar, Indonesia
“I have learned about the government recreation system, water purification project, and I will also visit the fire department. I am learning how local government works here with the city mayor and her staff. Everything is here well organized and no one puts his work for tomorrow. Being on time and working hard are the keys to having a healthy city.” – Noor, Bangladesh
“I have gained a lot of information and knowledge about the city and its operations. I have also learned how to do her bit in keeping the city clean.” – Lerato, South Africa
“Back in my country, I need to boil the water before I drink it or sometimes we purchase water bottle… After visiting the waste water treatment plant, now I know the reason why we can drink the water directly from the tap in the U.S. It is really clean water because it takes a long process until finally it ready to drink. Lynnwood University is also a good place to learn more about American culture especially about how American run their city. It’s really amazing how they work so hard to serve the best for the citizen. I hope the government employees in Indonesia can also work like employees here, because believe me, Indonesian employees especially who work for the government get a really big amount of salary but the do nothing. They aren’t really nice and sometimes they aren’t in their place when people need them.” – Pasa, Indonesia
Maira from Brazil’s comment emphasizes just how important community partnerships are for the program, she said, “I feel glad because the NWCCI students from 2013-2014 left a very good impression from the program, which resulted in a very warm reception for us in each department we have visited so far.”
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S.Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.