OSWEGO — The engagement of SUNY Oswego’s students in the community and professors’ use of service learning in classes have again earned the college recognition on the PresidentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
The Corporation for National and Community Service bills the honor roll as “the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service learning and civic engagement.” Oswego has been on the annual list four consecutive years, since the honor roll’s inception.
More than 1,300 Oswego students joined with faculty in projects to meet local needs using the skills gained in their classrooms in 2009, according to data collected by the college’s Center for Community Service and Service Learning. Students contributed about 24,300 hours of service, said Alyssa Amyotte, the center’s director.
Accounting students helped hundreds of taxpayers file their tax forms, education students tutored at-risk youth and mentored teenage children of migrant farm workers, students in a gerontology class volunteered in nursing homes, and other students organized anti-hunger campaigns and food drives.
“Every semester we are reaching out to get involved in as many community service projects as we can,” said senior Erica Mallery, who has worked weekly with Adopt-a-Grandparent since her sophomore year. “Every semester we have more and more students who sign up to become involved. I think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s great. We are now thinking about others instead of thinking about ourselves, and you can definitely see a ripple that we’ve created in the community.”
Working in six nursing homes in the Oswego area, she said, “I know for a fact that we make a difference. Many of the residents there have told me that when we come it just makes their week. Just knowing that when we walk in and their faces light up, I know we are doing something great for the elderly community.”
As a result of her experience, she said, she plans to use her degree in human development by pursuing a career in social work with elderly people.
Selection criteria for the PresidentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Honor Roll include scope and innovation of service projects, percentage of student participation in service activities, incentives for service and the extent to which the school offers service-learning courses.
At Oswego, civic engagement is an important part of the college’s mission, a pillar of the college’s strategic plan. SUNY Oswego is also a founding member of the New York Campus Compact, a commitment to civic engagement and community service.
A day of service is built into welcoming week for new students in the fall. Residents of Hart Hall and Johnson Hall have service-learning requirements, 33 classes have a service-learning component, and many of the 150 student organizations engage in community service.
In addition to local service, students had opportunities in 2009 to volunteer in Jamaica, New Orleans and with Habitat for Humanity out of state.
“A lot of students say they feel like they get more out of it than they give,” Amyotte said. Scott Ball, a senior last year, explained: “Going to New Orleans and walking down the street and speaking with the people who had to live through this tragedy really gave me a new perspective on life. . . . I learned about the strength in human relationships,” he said.
The President’s Honor Roll announced Feb. 26 recognized more than 700 colleges and universities, 62 from New York state, for their impact during 2009 on issues from poverty and homelessness to environmental justice.
In 2009, 3.16 million students nationwide performed more than 300 million hours of service, according to the Volunteering in America study released by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The corporation, a federal agency, oversees the Honor Roll in collaboration with the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Campus Compact and the American Council on Education.
The list of honored institutions and other information can be found online at http://www.learnandserve.gov/about/programs/higher_ed_honorroll.asp.