February 21, 2008

Cornell Univ. Makes Service Honor Roll

Print More

This past week, Cornell was one of among 528 American colleges and universities to be named to the 2007 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). This honor recognizes institutions of higher learning for their exemplary local, national and international community-service efforts.
Cornellians can be found serving communities locally, domestically and abroad — and now they are being recognized for their contributions. Students have made their mark through various events and organizations from Into the Streets held in Ithaca, as far away as the Bridges to Community in Nicaragua.
Out of the 528 honorees, six were granted with Presidential Awards. Syracuse University was also nominated for its efforts. The complete Honor Roll recognized 127 schools, including Cornell, as Honor Roll with Distinction members. The remaining 391 schools were considered Honor Roll members.
Honorees for the various award levels were selected based on a range of factors. These include the percentage of student participation in service activities, to the extent to which the school offers service-learning courses.
According to Siobhan Dugan, Public Affairs Specialist for CNCS in Washington, D.C., the purpose of this award is threefold. [img_assist|nid=28038|title=Pedal for hope|desc=Adam Barry ’07 (red and green on bike) and Terrence Zimmerman ’08 (white shirt on bike) ride in place on Ho Plaza for several hours to advertise for Push America’s “Journey for Hope,” a ride across America to raise money for people with disabilities.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“Through this recognition, we hope to draw attention to the accomplishments of the students, faculty and staff of American universities who are actively involved in their communities,” Dugan said. “The CNCS also hopes to highlight the benefits of universities to their local communities, in order to improve ‘town-gown’ relations, and finally, we hope such recognition will help recruit students to these community service oriented-institutions.”
Community service seems to be increasing on a national scale; this trend is especially evident on college campuses. Research has shown that students who were enrolled in middle school and high school during the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center seem to gravitate toward community service opportunities.
“[These students] were made very aware of community needs,” Dugan said. “It is important that we work with that interest and provide [students] with both opportunities and recognition.”
As a land grant institution, Cornell is bound by its mission statement to extend its reach into communities.
According to Leonardo Vargas-Mendez, executive director of the Cornell Public Service Center, students are more committed than ever to making a difference in their world. The Center has almost 5,000 students a year participating in its programs.
“The students we serve are incredibly driven; they do not want to know how they can volunteer, they want to know how they can create systems for sustainable change,” Vargas-Mendez said.
Lauren Wein ’09, a Project Coordinator for Into the Streets, the largest day of community service at Cornell, strives to educate Cornellians about the needs of the Ithaca area and surrounding communities.
“The goal of ITS is to help students [establish] that first day of contact with the community, in hopes that they will enjoy it and continue to do service on their own,” Wein said.
According to CNCS, recent studies have underlined the importance of service-learning and volunteering to college students. According to the corporation’s 2007 Volunteering in America study, 2.8 million college students gave more than 297 million hours of volunteer service in 2006 alone. Using Independent Sector’s estimates of the value of volunteer time, college student volunteering in 2006 was worth more than $5.6 billion.
“If we apply the dollar value estimated by the Independent Sector in 2006 for these volunteer hours, it will be equal to $3,231,000 worth of highly skilled labor provided to these communities by Cornell students alone,” Vargas-Mendes said.
Last year, 4,792 Cornell students worked 172,133 hours volunteering in local communities, domestically and abroad.
“I think that the value of volunteerism … is worth the equivalent hourly rate and much more,” Vargas-Mendez said. “Service-learning — the public service pedagogy used to prepare students for the world of practice and social intervention — imparts a wealth of knowledge that students will take with them as responsible citizens of a democratic society for years to come.”
With so many things going on in the lives of college students, the dedication of America’s youth to volunteerism and community service is worthy of recognition.
“I think students here are clearly busy and may not have service as their first priority, but that makes it even more amazing to see the amount of students who are involved despite rigorous course work, research and other commitments,” Caitlin Corner-Dolloff ’08 said.