California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) was named to the 2009 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement.
The Corporation for National and Community Service, which administers the annual honor roll award, in March recognized more than 700 colleges and universities for their impact on issues from poverty and homelessness to environmental justice. On campuses across the country, thousands of students joined their faculty to develop innovative programs and projects to meet local needs using the skills gained in their classrooms.
Honorees are chosen based on a series of selection factors, including the scope and innovation of service projects, percentage of student participation in service activities, incentives for service, and the extent to which the school offers academic service-learning courses.
“Service learning rests on the notion that the university is not the only place of enlightenment for students,” noted Juan M. Benitez, director of CSULB’s Center for Community Engagement. “It is important for CSULB to keep emphasizing its commitment to community engagement efforts in new and innovative ways in our effort to continue offering students ‘highly valued degrees.’ Additionally, service learning is a critical strategy for student engagement, and we know that the more students are engaged, the more successful they will be in their university experience and beyond.”
At CSULB, 2,572 students were engaged in community service during the 2008-09 academic year, according to a report compiled by the university’s Center for Community Engagement. In all, these students volunteered 81,398 hours to various academic service- learning and community assistance efforts, including 2,287 students who engaged in at least 20 hours of community service per semester.
Among the programs these students volunteered for were:
- The Long Beach BLAST Mentoring Initiative, where students provide direct one-on-one and small group academic mentoring to youth from disadvantaged circumstances through the K-8 and High School Academic Mentoring Programs of the Long Beach BLAST (Better Learning After School Today). Student volunteers help their mentees develop life skills related to academic success and improved socialization while helping them discover future college goals (324 student volunteers, 9,500 service hours);
- The Villages at Cabrillo Oasis Community Center, where students, faculty and staff work primarily with families providing mentoring and tutoring (in- and out-of-school) to homeless children, run two summer day camps (a Young Artists Camp and a Young Scientists Camp) and support combined programming for parents such as a four-week, Monday-Thursday Life Skills class that addresses personal finances, personal growth, job hunting and parenting. (35 student volunteers, 875 service hours).
- The CSULB Community Scholars Program is a leadership development and organization capacity building effort for community-based organizations. Primarily for leaders and emerging leaders of Latino voluntary associations in Southern California, the program is designed to help sustain these organizations’ efforts to improve social and economic conditions in the United States and their countries of origin. Participants fulfill a 30-hour requirement for each of three components – “Leadership and Small Group Dynamics,” “Community Projects,” and Policy and Systems Change” – in order to receive a certificate of completion from the university’s College of Continuing and Professional Education. (56 student volunteers, 2,200 service hours).
“The Community Scholars Program has become one of our most successful community engagement initiatives, reflecting a best practices approach to service learning and community-based participatory research,” Benitez pointed out. “We have worked with more than 300 emerging community leaders representing more than 50 community organizations. At the same time, more than 50 CSULB Chicano and Latino studies students have been trained and served as co-facilitators in the program. The impact of our work has benefitted implementation of community projects here in the United States and binationally with the populations that we have served.”
College students make a significant contribution to the volunteer sector; in 2009, 3.16 million students performed more than 300 million hours of service, according to the Volunteering in America study released by the corporation. Each year, the corporation invests more than $150 million to foster a culture of service on college campuses through grants awarded by its programs; the education awards that AmeriCorps members receive at the conclusion of their term of service to pay for college; and through support of training, research, recognition, and other initiatives to spur college service.