On Tuesday, Hobart and William Smith Colleges were given special notice on the first President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for distinguished community service. The honor was awarded in recognition of the extraordinary volunteer efforts by the Colleges and their students to serve the Geneva, N.Y. area and Gulf Coast communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
The Colleges and 74 other institutions of higher education were recognized “With Distinction for Hurricane Relief Service” among nearly 500 schools named to the President's Honor Roll at the Campus Compact 20th Anniversary. HWS were also one of 71 schools honored for “Distinction for General Community Service,” contributing time, resources, energy, skills – and intellect – to serve America.
“Hobart and William Smith have set a strong example for college-level civic engagement,” said Stephen Goldsmith, Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that works to foster a culture of volunteering and service in America. “Many people and communities have been improved because the Colleges and their students identified some of society's most pressing needs and got involved.”
Mark D. Gearan, President of Hobart and William Smith, commented from the ceremony in Chicago, “I am proud that our students’ extensive engagement in Katrina relief and the Colleges’ overall approach to its civic mission were recognized by this prestigious national honor. Through their commitment and actions, our faculty and students have shown great appreciation for the vital role of community service in contemporary society.”
In response to Katrina, HWS raised more than $39,000 for the American Red Cross from faculty, students, staff and alumni. “The Public Service Office organized the first service relief trip in January, 2006, and between then and this October a total of four groups have traveled to New Orleans to work with Operation Helping Hands,” said Director of Public Service Ave Bauder. “They have gutted 9 ½ houses, contributing over 2,000 hours of work.” While the Colleges’ commitment to service is felt far across the country and around the world, in the Geneva area, 32,500 hours of service were provided last year.
The President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll is co-sponsored by the Corporation, the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, USA Freedom Corps, and the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation. The recognition is presented in cooperation with Campus Compact, a national coalition of nearly 1,000 college and university presidents, and supported by all the major national higher education associations.
The award presentations came a day after the Corporation for National and Community Service released a comprehensive study showing college student civic engagement has risen significantly in recent years. The study, which used data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed that student volunteering increased approximately 20 percent from 2002 to 2005, and that 3.3 million college students serve their communities and nation. The study showed that college students between ages 16 to 24 are more likely to volunteer than cohorts in that age group who are not enrolled.
Observers have attributed the growth in student service to several causes: the proliferation of high-school and college service-learning classes; an increase in the number of campus offices that link students to volunteer opportunities; and the lingering impact of the September 11 and Hurricane Katrina catastrophes.
The Corporation for National and Community Service is working with other federal agencies, higher education and student associations, and nonprofit organizations to encourage even greater levels of service and civic engagement by college students. Their goal is to increase the number of students participating in volunteer service to 5 million college students annually by 2010.
The Honor Roll provides more new evidence that the nation is beginning to move toward that level of student civic engagement. More than 1.1 million students from Honor Roll schools participated in local community service activities, and more than 219,000 Honor Roll students provided hurricane relief.
A total of 492 institutions – including private and public schools, four-year institutions, professional schools, and community colleges – were named to the first Honor Roll. Those schools chronicled a broad variety of service programs and activities that have strengthened neighborhoods around them and in the Gulf region.
Community service programs and activities included mentorship programs for foster children, literacy tutoring for preschool children in underserved communities, medical and other professional services, homebuilding through Habitat for Humanity, and neighborhood cleanup programs. Universities reported that college students provided nearly 2.3 million service hours volunteering in Hurricane Katrina relief. As one example, tens of thousands of college students substituted work for fun during their winter and spring breaks by traveling to the Gulf to gut homes, clear debris, repair roofs, and paint buildings. The value of services provided by Honor Roll colleges and students was approximately $87 million.
College student community service and civic engagement are key elements of the new five-year strategic plan of the Corporation for National and Community Service. Each year, the Corporation makes a significant investment in building a culture of service on college campuses through Learn and Serve America and AmeriCorps programs at institutions of higher education. In addition to direct grants to support service-learning and engagement of students in their communities, the Corporation has also supported higher education through the more than $1.2 billion in Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards to AmeriCorps members who complete their service and use their awards to pay for college tuition or to pay back student loans.