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Interfaith Challenge Harnesses Collegiate Energy

by Ana Frigo

The opportunity for a diverse group of college kids to join together and work toward a single purpose is something that should not be taken for granted. Imagine a world in which this generation -- from both religious and nonreligious backgrounds -- comes together to serve their communities.

This is the goal of the President's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge which encourages higher education institutions to create and maintain programs that students of different faiths can participate in together. President Obama strongly believes that interfaith cooperation and community service will improve understanding between cultures and communities. As a result, students will identify and work toward a common goal despite their differences.

A Ready Resource

The power of American higher education beyond the classroom experience is undeniable. Today's collegians are more than just students; they are active contributors to our world. And it is vital that they have the necessary resources to succeed and give back to the communities in which they live.

A July 9 White House Reception brought together college presidents to share their challenge stories and experiences, and encourage more schools to participate. By engaging Americans in long-term, hands-on service, greater impact can be made on national priorities such as education, veterans and military families, disaster services, economic opportunity, environmental stewardship, and healthy futures.

A Strong Alliance

Community service participation is strong among people of faith and college students. More than one-third of America's nearly 63 million volunteers serve with or through a religious organization, and about one out of every four college students volunteer. In 2010, college students served for more than 300 million hours. However, this number can always be increased.

Interfaith service is a tool that can make an impact both on and off campus. In past years, diverse groups of students have come together to cope with disasters, organize events to provide services and donations to homeless veterans, and tutor students from low-income areas.

Cooperation is a necessity in today's world, and community service is a great way to encourage Americans to not only serve their communities, but also build stronger relations with different types of people.

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