When Del Mar went virtual in spring 2020, the closures impacted the way students were able to interact with one another and altered the college community experience.
The Office of Student Leadership and Campus Life and the Student Government Association got together to brainstorm a way to keep students engaged through the pandemic.
“When the pandemic hit, we all sat down together to see how we can make this virtual,” said SGA President Sofia Jimenez. “We did a lot of work with the IT department to set it all up and everybody in the whole office pitched in.”
Once set up, the SGA had their first virtual in meeting in April 2020 and started looking for ways to involve students by doing giveaways during the SGA’s Freebie Funday Friday events, which are done on their Facebook page, and having special appearances by Valdar, the DMC school mascot.
Freebie Funday Fridays includes trivia about the college and resources available to students. It also addresses important upcoming deadlines such as last day to drop classes and FAFSA deadlines. Prizes include DMC T-shirts and hoodies, gift cards and other swag that is paid for by student services fees. Winners are picked by random drawings.
“A little after the pandemic hit, I was just trying to find ways to keep the students engaged,” Jimenez said. “I try to keep it random, so some of it’s trivia about either our president or maybe important campus dates.
“I also make sure in between doing trivia and interactive posts that I share the resources on campus or the community,” Jimenez said. “I was sharing where they could get vaccinated or where testing was going on.”
Aside from using Microsoft Teams for meetings, the SGA looked into using multiple social media platforms to interact with every demographic of students. In addition to Facebook, they also use Instagram and TikTok.
“We knew that social media was the platform that we were going to be able to access the best for all our students,” said co-advisor Estevan Guerra, a studio art major and Student Life mascot specialist. “On top of that, I was doing small things here and there for the bookstore and library with Valdar to remind students at home that, ‘Hey, don’t forget, even though we’re still at home, you can still access all these things.’ ”
Once word got out, Guerra started receiving positive feedback from other departments within the college. He also noticed more interaction from students than before the pandemic.
“I think one of the cool things about this entire situation is that COVID helped us figure out is that we were able to reach students that we have never seen before,” Guerra said. “I think we get that mindset of focusing that we’re going to see the students in the student center and some of those students never even come this way.”
Since the move to virtual, the SGA has noticed an increase in attendance in meetings. Jimenez attributes that to the ability for students to be able to access the meetings 24/7 because meetings are posted on their Facebook page. More than 100 students participated in the most recent Freebie Funday Friday, with 50 winners.
Another virtual event hosted by the SGA, along with the Safe Space student organization was the Safe Zone training event in mid-October. Safe Space is a three-hour training course that helps bring awareness and education about the LGBTQI+ community and its allies. The recent events brought in 336 participants.