April 5-7, 2013, Siena College Office of Academic Community Engagement, in partnership with the Bonner Foundation, hosted Inspire 2013, a Siena College student organized and led community engagement conference featuring 4 elective workshop blocks focusing on community engagement projects and issues, a networking fair, and social activities.
Over 100 attendees came including representatives from the Bonner Foundation, Program Senior Officer, Ariane Hoy, and Program Associate, Josh Blair, as well as Bonner Service Leaders from Siena College, Rutgers University-Camden, Middlesex County College, The College of New Jersey, and Burlington County College. Also in attendance were Siena College AmeriCorps VISTA Fellows and Leaders and local faculty, administrators, students, community partners and young professionals.
The Inspire 2013 opening plenary featured a showing of The Throwaways, which tells the story of activist filmmaker and ex-felon, Ira McKinley, documenting his struggle to bring positive changes to his community in inner-city Albany, NY. Bhawin Suchak (Producer/Director, Cinematographer, and Editor) and Ira McKinley (Producer/Director) attended the filming and answered questions afterward. One audience member praised McKinley for making the documentary film, citing it as a positive influence for young people who need strong, community engaged mentors. After the film, attendees were encouraged to attend pre-planned social activities, one of them including a more in depth question and answer session with the filmmakers.
Day two of the conference featured three workshops blocks with a diverse range of topic areas including life planning and mapping, nonprofit strategic planning and building sustainability, resume building, career networking strategies, and other beneficial workshops aimed at building both personal and professional skills.
On day two during the afternoon luncheon, ACE held an AmeriCorps Honorary Ceremony and recognized alumna Meghan Timmins’ 12 from the Siena ACE Bonner Service Leaders Program and alumna Nefisah Sallim from Siena ACE AmeriCorps* VISTA Fellows Program. After the Ceremony, attendees participated in a one hour networking fair with representatives from Capital Region organizations, including those who were presenting at the conference. The evening concluded with a talent show in which over ten acts entertained with dances, skits, poems, and songs.
Day three of the conference featured one workshop block and the closing ceremony. At the closing ceremony, attendees were invited to engage with one another about their weekend experience. They discussed what they learned and what surprised and inspired them.
The goal of Inspire 2013 was to give attendees the chance to engage in training and dialogue around community engagement and pedagogy. Siena ACE is proud to say that the conference was a huge success and they would especially like to recognize their students for leading the effort in making Inspire 2013 possible. As leaders of today and tomorrow, Siena ACE credits them for their effort to organize, lead, present, and facilitate during Inspire 2013. The weekend was a powerful and inspiring experience for all involved.