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Evidence of Success: President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll

by Elson Nash

Last week, the Corporation for National and Community Service joined the Department of Housing and Urban Development for an event called “Evidence of Success: Institutions of Higher Education Engaging Communities.” Together, the two agencies hosted a discussion on the role that institutions of higher education play in stimulating local economies.

During the event, CNCS officially announced the launch of the 2012 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. The Honor Roll connects neighborhood revitalization with the commitment and compassion of student and faculty community engagement.

The President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll highlights the role colleges and universities play in solving community problems by recognizing institutions that achieve meaningful, measurable outcomes in the communities they serve. Honorees are chosen based on a series of selection factors, including the scope and innovation of service projects, the extent to which service-learning is embedded in the curriculum, and the school's commitment to long-term campus-community partnerships

While at the event, leaders from CNCS and HUD gathered with representatives from previous winners to discuss the impact the Honor Roll has made on their college and local communities.

Colleges and Communities: A Deep Connection

Steve Nivin of St. Mary's University in San Antonio, TX, said, “We're very proud of this award. We've got the Honor Roll logo plastered everywhere. We may even have t-shirts made next semester.”

Nivin and his assistant Aaron Hanna gave a presentation on the Neighborhood Revitalization Project, an effort to connect the classroom with brick-and-mortar projects that improve the community. The NRP has provided 4,500 hours of technical assistance and community service through service-learning and organized community improvement and beautification projects.

Casey Crabill, President of Raritan Valley Community College, emphasized the unique nature of community colleges. “Community colleges are special places because our roots are in the community,” said Crabill. “Students are able to link educational development with civic development.”

Crabill shared a story of three cosmetology students who realized that stylists often know when a client is in distress. The students went on to develop an award-winning curriculum for stylists to understand and refer clients who are victims of domestic abuse

Located on the former Ford Ord Army Base in Monterey, CA, California State University Monterey Bay is the only public institution in California that requires a lower division and upper division service-learning requirement. This allows the college to have deep connections in the community. “Our partners have grown to trust us because they know we're here for the long haul,” said Dr. Dianne Harrison, President of CSU-Monterey Bay.

Seth Pollack, a faculty member charged with leading service-learning on campus described one of their most challenging projects, the Chinatown Renewal Project. The Project aims to support a struggling area of town near campus by bringing the community together. “We want to create multicultural community builders,” said Pollack. “This project allows us to bring together service-learning with neighborhood development.”

CSU-MB brought two former homeless men they'd served through the Chinatown Renewal Project to share their experiences. “CSU-MB put me on the right path,” said Wayne a graduate of the Green Corps Initiative in Chinatown. “I'm now at a local community college in a degree program.”

“42 months ago you would have been afraid to speak to me,” Wayne said with a smile. “What can I say about the service-learners at CSU-MB? They helped shift my brain into a higher gear.”

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