Community Service Earns Presidential Distinction

Community Service Earns Presidential Distinction


SUNY Cortland has once again been named to President Barack Obama’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction.

The 2013 honor roll marks the seventh consecutive year SUNY Cortland has won national recognition for its civic engagement programs and the third time the College has received the elite “with distinction” designation.

“The Institute for Civic Engagement coordinates the application for this honor but the commitment is institution-wide,” said Richard Kendrick, the director of the College’s Institute for Civic Engagement and a professor in the Sociology/Anthropology Department. “We should all be proud of the work that we are doing together to engage our campus with the communities of which we are a part.

“Most of all, we should be proud of the students who are engaged through volunteering, service learning and internships, and the many faculty and staff who support these students in their commitment to improving the well-being of their communities.”

Nearly 3,000 students from the College — 2,996 in all — contributed 185,772 community service hours during the 2011-12 academic year. More than 1,500 of those students contributed at least 20 hours of volunteer work, according to Kendrick.

Since 2006, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency that fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering, has presented the annual honor to colleges and universities to recognize exemplary community service. The corporation administers programs that include AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America.

Of the 690 schools recognized as honor roll members, 100 received distinction honors, including one other SUNY institution. The full honor list is available from the CNCS.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher was in attendance March 4 when the 2013 Honor Roll recipients were announced at the American Council on Education’s 95th Annual Meeting Leading Change in Washington, D.C.

Honorees for the award were chosen based on a series of factors including the scope and innovativeness of service projects, student participation in service activities, incentives for service and academic service-learning courses.

The College’s honor roll application highlighted six particular SUNY Cortland service programs:

  • The SUNY Cortland AmeriCorps program, which completed its fourth year in 2011-12, served 19 community agencies and programs, focusing on needs identified through an annual community-wide assessment process known as “Cortland Counts.” Through AmeriCorps alone, 558 students were recruited and volunteered 6,382 hours of their time to agencies that included the YWCA, the Lime Hollow Center for Environment and Culture, the Inclusive Recreation Resource Center and the Seven Valleys Health Coalition. The College’s AmeriCorps program builds on long-standing relationships between the campus and Cortland community agencies that trace their roots to Community Outreach Partnership Center grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the late 1990s. Through June 2012, the first four years of SUNY Cortland’s AmeriCorps work have injected more than 75,000 hours of service into the community.
  • Nearly 18,000 meals were served as part of an alliance between the Central New York Food Bank and the Cortland Migrant Education Outreach Program (MEOP), which is housed at the College and administered through its School of Education. Additionally, 23 children received dental care through a partnership between MEOP and Finger Lakes Community Health. MEOP staff offers GED preparation and tutors migrant families in language and math courses. Last year, more than 600 migrant students were served by staff members and 82 student volunteers. SUNY Cortland health majors also taught lessons in nutrition while childhood/early childhood majors supervised children.
  • SUNY Cortland’s Emergency Medical Squad (EMS), named the New York State EMS Council’s 2012 Agency of the Year in the summer, saw its 57 members contribute more than 16,000 service hours to the College community in 2011-12. Staffed by student volunteers 24 hours a day, seven days a week while classes are in session, the non-transporting agency’s members are highly qualified in basic life-support skills and answer roughly 350 calls per year related to injuries and illness on campus. The accolades during the 2011-12 academic year, however, were due largely to the group’s work in the aftermath of a devastating September flood in Binghamton, N.Y. Ten EMS members gave more than 600 collective hours of their time to the Harpur’s Ferry Student Volunteer Ambulance Service at Binghamton University, helping hundreds of displaced flood victims. Beyond that immediate call to action, EMS members collected food, clothing and children’s items in Cortland to distribute in the Southern Tier area.
  • “Cortland’s Authentic Service Learning Connection to Whitney Point,” a service learning project built on collaboration between the College’s childhood/early childhood education majors and teachers in the Whitney Point Central School District, saw 151 SUNY Cortland students benefit from a pre-service teaching experience while assisting one of the poorest school districts in Broome County with more than 1,100 volunteer hours. College students engaged in service learning technology projects for the classroom, community service efforts, after school tutoring services and evening programs such as Math Night, a Parents as Reading Partners program and school carnival fundraisers.
  • The SUNY Cortland Children’s Museum, the site of hands-on learning for many youngsters in Cortland County, featured activities led by 235 College students majoring in childhood/early childhood education, recreation, parks and leisure studies, and speech and hearing science. Offering events both on campus and at different community agency sites, the museum provides social, emotional and academic learning experiences for many local children who need them the most. SUNY Cortland students pour more than 900 hours into museum programs in leading academic lessons while also working to establish stronger ties to the community.
  • SUNY Cortland graduate students pursuing a master’s degree in literacy took an individualized approach to improving the reading and writing abilities of local children. The 204 graduate students devoted 25 hours each — 5,100 hours total — to improving an individual child’s literacy skills. Each graduate student assessed a youngster’s ability when the pair began working together, then tailored a learning plan to the child’s strengths and needs. Over the course of five weeks, children received the individual attention that boosted their self esteem related to reading and writing.

As part of the honor roll application, the College was required to demonstrate a commitment to its civic engagement activities and its participation in organizations that support and sustain civic engagement. One of those organizations is the Main Street SUNY Cortland outreach facility at 9 Main St. in Cortland. That building houses some of the activities of the Institute for Civic Engagement, the College’s AmeriCorps program, the Cortland Downtown Partnership and the Center for Economic Education.

The Main Street building includes the Beard Building Gallery, a teaching gallery for SUNY Cortland art students during the academic year and a gallery programmed by the Cortland Cultural Council during the summer. It also temporarily houses the College’s Dowd Gallery, which has relocated while the Dowd Fine Arts Center undergoes renovation.

The honor roll is jointly sponsored by the CNCS, the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation.

For more information, visit the CNCS website.