February 9, 2009 — The Corporation for National and Community Service honored the University of Virginia today, naming the school to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for exemplary service efforts and service to America's communities.
Launched in 2006, the Community Service Honor Roll is the highest federal recognition that a school can achieve for its commitment to service learning and civic engagement. Honorees for the award were chosen based on a series of factors, including scope and innovation of service projects, percentage of student participation in service activities, incentives for service and service-learning course offerings.
This is the third year in a row that U.Va. has made the "With Distinction" list. Overall, the corporation honored six schools with Presidential Awards; 83 were named as "Honor Roll With Distinction" members and 546 schools were recognized on the Honor Roll.
More than 8,500 U.Va. students logged approximately 450,000 hours in community service last year, according to estimates from the University's Office of University Community Partnerships.
Several volunteer programs were specifically noted:
• Bridging the Gap is one of 18 student-run programs of Madison House, the University's student volunteer center. Through mentoring and tutoring services, Bridging the Gap helps refugee youth who have resettled in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area to develop the tools needed to access greater opportunities. The children come from many countries, including Somalia, Kenya, Congo, Russia, Liberia, Thailand and Burma.
• Through the Day in the Life Program, sponsored by the U.Va. Community Relations Office, students provide tutoring and mentoring to disadvantaged youth at numerous schools and community sites to promote the value of education. Last year the program, working in partnership with U.Va.'s Office of African-American Affairs, established a University tutoring site for middle school students in the federally funded GEAR-UP Program. An evaluation of the program showed that the public school students experienced improved academic performance.
• The University of Virginia chapter of Nursing Students Without Borders, founded at U.Va. in 1999, has worked for eight years to build a new Red Cross clinic in San Sebastian, El Salvador, and just broke ground a few months ago. While this project has been on an international scale, the students have improved their fluency in Spanish, increased their cultural awareness and learned about providing health care under less than optimal circumstances – all skills and knowledge that will help them to better serve rural and underserved populations in this country.
• Through the U.Va. Law School's Pro Bono Project, law students receive the skills and values needed to instill a lifetime commitment to law-related community service. The Pro Bono Project seeks to develop an ethic of service in the students, which is vitally important to ensuring access to justice as the need for free and low-cost legal services continues to rise. Students are challenged to volunteer for at least 25 hours annually; many students exceed it.
• Project SERVE is a one-day service project organized through the University's Office of Orientation and New Student Programs, pairing first-year students with one of more than 25 community organizations, including neighborhood groups and schools, assisted-living organizations, parks and recreation organizations and the Ronald McDonald House, among others. The goal is to introduce first-year students to the many opportunities in which they can reach out to their community beyond the University Grounds and become community volunteers.
• Since 1976, the University Internship Program has placed more than 6,500 U.Va. interns in public and private-sector organizations in the Charlottesville area. The program combines academic instruction and work experience in an applied, "out-of-the-classroom" setting. Now in its 33rd year, the UIP is a supervised, for-credit, academic, professional-practice internship program offered through the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service in collaboration with the College of Arts & Sciences, and departments of Sociology and Psychology.
• The Young Women Leaders Program, a joint project run by the U.Va. Women's Center and Education School researchers, gives college women a yearlong service-learning course that covers research on the development of adolescent girls and effective mentoring, which they put into practice as they interact with seventh- and eighth-graders. When compared to a control group, after a year of mentoring, the middle school girls in the program reported significantly higher levels of competence, connection to family and sense of autonomy.
"In this time of economic distress, we need volunteers more than ever," said Stephen Goldsmith, vice chairman of the Board of Directors of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees the Honor Roll. "College students represent an enormous pool of idealism and energy to help tackle some of our toughest challenges.
"We salute the University of Virginia for making community service a campus priority."
Recent studies have underlined the importance of service-learning and volunteering to college students. In 2006, 2.8 million college students gave more than 297 million hours of volunteer service, according to the corporation's "Volunteering in America" study. Expanding campus incentives for service is part of a larger initiative to spur higher levels of volunteering by America's college students. The corporation is working with a coalition of federal agencies, higher education and student associations, and nonprofit organizations to achieve this goal.
The President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll is presented during the annual conference of the American Council on Education. A full list of the 635 schools recognized is available at www.nationalservice.gov/honorroll.