Make a Difference in the SGA

SGA students working on cleaning Dandini Boulevard
Rebecca A. Eckland

Jaime Gudino Vargas is a second-year student at TMCC. He’s studying Entrepreneurship but will graduate with two associate degrees in 2023 in both Entrepreneurship and Political Science. As a high school student, Vargas worked as an intern for a business incubator, which gave him insights into owning a business, which included creating a business plan and a marketing strategy. The experience inspired him to get a business license while also working to develop a growing clientele for a landscaping company he runs with his father, using the strategies he’s learned along the way.  “It has been a lot of work and a lot of commitment to keep the business going,” he said.  

A natural leader and innovator, Vargas is also a Senator in the TMCC Student Government Association (SGA), where he works on specific projects to improve the campus community for other TMCC students. At the moment, he is working with the Counseling Center to develop strategies for communicating the importance of mental health awareness. “I want to make sure that students at TMCC have no problem with approaching a counselor about questions they have about their own mental health, especially with the ongoing pandemic, which can create very isolating environments that have affected a lot of us. I’m focused on creating a proposal with the Counseling Center that I can present to the entire SGA.”

In addition to coordinating with other TMCC departments to come up with ways to improve other students' experiences on campus while working to grow his landscaping business, Vargas has also participated in volunteer opportunities organized by the SGA. 

SGA President Darian Richards said that providing students with opportunities for volunteerism and stewardship were priorities for her during her term. “I want our students to get more involved not only on campus but out in the community, too. During the clean-up events, we’re able to social distance. Also, just to be able to meet other students in a way that was fulfilling while doing something meaningful,” she said.

Giving Back to the Community

In Fall 2021, the SGA hosted two clean-up events in partnership with the Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful (KTMB) Adopt-A-Spot program. The program, which has been the signature program of KTMB since 1994, encourages citizen participation in beautification projects and litter clean-ups of designated public areas at regular intervals.  

According to Matt Webber, Adopt-A-Spot Coordinator from KTMB, students who participate in these clean-up projects are certainly making a difference: Adopt-A-Spot organizations are required to conduct a minimum of three clean-ups a year. 

“The best part of my job is working with partners like TMCC. The students and staff have been everything we could ask for in a volunteer group; passionate, enthusiastic, and committed to keeping the gateway to their campus clean,” said Webber. "After each cleanup, there's a real feeling of accomplishment and productivity in making the Truckee Meadows a great home."

SGA Senator John Fenton participated in the first volunteer clean-up event as a result of the TMCC SGA-KTMB partnership, which was hosted at Sun Valley Community Park. Fenton along with several other SGA officers and TMCC students helped to clear the park of not only trash, but also weeds and other large items, like discarded tires and furniture.  

In many ways, Fenton is a very nontraditional student: in addition to his service in the military, Fenton’s journey to TMCC is an unusual one. “I got out of prison in January 2021. I had a little over $200 in my pocket and I knew my GI Bill would expire in a year and a half,” he said. He started interviewing for jobs right away, facing over fifteen rejections. Yet, the veteran’s organization Nation’s Finest placed Fenton in a part-time job working for a shelter. As he gained experience, the organization served as a reference and Fenton was able to secure two additional part-time jobs. Between his three sources of income, he was able to support himself and afford a car, something he knew he would need in order to attend college classes in pursuit of his professional dream of one day going to law school.  

The first volunteer clean-up event at Sun Valley Community Park was especially meaningful for Fenton. “It gave me a lot of satisfaction. The park is located in the type of neighborhood I came from, and it was very rewarding to clean up a lot of the debris to help make that park safe and clean for families who want to use it,” he said. The initial clean-up event also led to the SGA adopting Dandini Boulevard as its official “Adopt-A-Spot” location. 

Vargas, who commutes to the TMCC Dandini Campus from his home in Carson City, said that cleaning Dandini Boulevard of trash has made a visible difference on his day-to-day experience commuting to campus. “Every time I think about it, I’m surprised at the amount of trash we picked up. These days, going up the hill to [the Dandini Campus] is a pleasant experience, and so that was very rewarding,” he said.

To date, TMCC students have collected 1,360 pounds of trash, 900 pounds of weeds cleared from Sun Valley Community Park, as well as additional discarded furniture and tires. For students interested in volunteer opportunities the partnership between SGA and KTMB provides a safe yet rewarding opportunity to give back to the environment and the community. 

“Participating in clean-ups like this shows how much trash exists in our public spaces, and how we have to take action to keep those places beautiful and welcoming to our community,” Vargas said.

Make a Difference: Join the SGA

For students who worry about committing too much of their time to something that isn’t directly related to their degree, Vargas said participating in SGA events is worth every second. “When I attended the clean up event, it was a wide, diverse group that we had. We had people volunteer from the community, we had students and we had student government… and I learned a lot from that experience. For example, a volunteer from KTMB talked to us about composting, and how it takes a plastic bottle over fifty years to decompose… and it’s also very useful for you to be able to network with different types of people.”

The support from staff who oversee the SGA has helped and supported Vargas on his academic and professional journey. “You have a lot of opportunities at TMCC, but serving on the Student Government Association has been such a privilege because I never knew how many resources that TMCC has to offer,” he said. Advocating for those resources has not only enriched Vargas’s college experience, but has helped him to advocate for the success of his peers.

Fenton, too, said the SGA is worth the time that he commits to projects and initiatives. The support from staff who oversee the SGA has helped Fenton to develop strategies for time management, which include using a Google Calendar, filters on his email among other tips that keep him on track. He also receives a lot of support. “I was not tech-savvy as other students are… but the SGA staff sends me gentle reminders because sometimes I need that level of support. But even in the Recognized Student Organizations at TMCC, I find that the advisors for the clubs are nothing but supportive.”

By participating in the SGA, you too can make your world and the world a better place. As a participant and volunteer, you will gain a vast repertoire of service experience. As a Senator or Officer, you will have the opportunity to gain leadership skills, and to represent the needs of TMCC students in a large way.  Like both Vargas and Fenton, you will make a positive impact on the community while working toward your educational goals and improving your life. It might not seem like much, but even making small changes can add up to not only impressive notes on a resume but to making the world better. 

SGA President Richards sees the SGA as an opportunity for students to learn how they can become involved in their communities in more meaningful ways– and that’s something that they can take with them well beyond their time at TMCC. “We have so many opportunities for students to volunteer. Being a part of the SGA, we have so many events like the Blood Drive, clean-ups with Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful. And these are long-lasting opportunities. It doesn’t just stop when you leave the SGA. These are experiences that give you knowledge of how to get involved,” said Richards.

“I would highly recommend that students get involved with the SGA,” said Vargas. “You can either run for Senator or to be an Officer… doing that will enable you to experience many opportunities and the vast diversity of our community at TMCC… You will have the opportunity to work with a strong team, and to really make a difference.”

For more information on getting involved with the Student Government Association (SGA) at TMCC, contact their office at 775-673-7203.