“College of Western Idaho (CWI) has pushed me to be the best version of myself and provided me the opportunities and skill set to go out into my community and make positive changes,” said 2022 graduate, Craig Petersen.
An Air Force veteran and father of two, Petersen credits his choice to attend CWI to his fiancé, Danielle.
“It has always been my dream to help people. Danielle is the one who pushed me to start college to pursue this dream. Holding true to its reputation of being there for students, CWI has exceeded my every expectation for a community college.”
In addition to studying social work, Petersen eagerly contributed of his time and talents as a member of several clubs, organizations, and initiatives on and off campus.
“Craig is an example of a student who took advantage of every opportunity to learn, be involved, and connect with the community while at CWI,” shared Professor of Psychology, Heather Schoenherr. “As one of his final services, he organized a successful community event bringing together people from CWI and the community to raise awareness of foster care in Idaho.”
“I have always had a passion to help,” said Petersen. “In volunteering as a Guardian Ad Litem, I came face-to-face with foster children, saw the foster crisis with my own eyes, and knew it was time to do something. The children in our community deserve better than what they are currently being faced with.”
In partnership with CASA of Southwest Idaho and Level Up Tattoo in Meridian, Petersen hosted the charity event, Speak Up! Ink Up!, April 9, with the goal of 100 tattoos in one day. Tattoo options for the event included designs created by foster children and CWI Art Club members.
“It was one of the most beautiful things I have been a part of – from people lining up four hours before the event, to the number of volunteers who showed up in support. For 16 hours I ran around like a crazy person talking to individuals coming in for tattoos. It was incredible to hear how many people have been touched by the foster care system, whether as a foster child themselves or as a foster parent.”
Petersen’s event was a huge success raising nearly $11,500 for CASA to assist in providing support and a voice for every foster child in Idaho.
“This event encompassed everything I learned at CWI. It was truly beautiful to see the community come together. Even after opening a second day for tattoos, we still ended up having to turn away more than 100 people who wanted to help. The day after the event I did a lot of processing and looking back at everything that went into it, and I cried a lot. The community stood behind me and my vision to make an impact in these kids’ lives. There is no better feeling than to know others are out there who care.”
“For now,” he continued, “I am appreciating the victory knowing the work isn’t even close to being done. I will be back next year in hopes to increase the impact. I hope every child currently being abused or in an unideal situation within the foster care system knows I am fighting for them, and I will not stop until I help as many as I can.”
Following graduation, Petersen plans to start an internship in hospice care, get married, and transfer to Boise State University this fall in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in Social Work with the ultimate goals of specializing in counseling and becoming a motivational speaker.
“I cannot express enough how grateful I am to have been part of the CWI family and to have been guided by some of the best professors in the nation. I have never met more amazing humans in my life. I am now equipped to go out and change lives. Because of CWI, I know I will be successful.”