College Earns Distinction for Community Service

College Earns Distinction for Community Service


SUNY Cortland recently won special recognition for its community engagement from the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by being named to the Honor Roll with Distinction for the first time.  

The 2010 Honor Roll marked the fifth consecutive year SUNY Cortland won national recognition for its civic engagement, but it was the first time the College received the elite “with Distinction” designation.

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 Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve America.

Of the 641 schools recognized as honor roll members, 114 received distinction honors, including three other SUNY institutions. The full honor list is available from the CNCS.

“Every member of our SUNY Cortland campus community and our many community partners should feel very proud of being listed with distinction on this year’s President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll,” said Richard Kendrick, director of the College’s Institute for Civic Engagement and a professor of sociology/anthropology. “This is an institutional achievement, and every school and division of the College contributed to this year’s award.”

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

In total, more than 3,000 students from the College contributed 142,292 community service hours during the 2009-10 academic year. About 1,000 of those students contributed at least 20 hours of volunteer work, according to Kendrick.

“This award validates our College’s position as a national leader in the area of civic engagement and it demonstrates the many ways that we practice the stewardship of place that President (Erik) Bitterbaum promotes,” Kendrick said.

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

· The SUNY Cortland AmeriCorps program, which completed its second year in 2009-10, served 13 community agencies.  through an assessment process dubbed “Cortland Counts.”  As part of our AmeriCorps program, AmeriCorps members recruited more than 400 students who offered 7,528 hours of their time to agencies that included the YWCA, the Cortland Downtown Partnership, the Lime Hollow Center for Environment and Culture and the Seven Valleys Health Coalition. One of only three SUNY institutions to run an AmeriCorps program, the College and its community partners helped develop the local Cortland community through volunteer recruitment, infrastructure improvement and the development of websites and promotional materials for community agencies.

· More than 16,000 meals were served as part of a partnership 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. MEOP staff offers General Education Diploma (GED) preparation and tutors migrant families in language and math courses. SUNY Cortland health majors taught lessons in nutrition, childhood/early childhood majors supervised children and physical education majors led weekend activities.

· Students and faculty from the Physical Education Department devoted nearly 7,000 hours to helping about 200 community members through 13 adapted exercise and mentorship programs. Volunteers from the College taught physical skills, developed the self-confidence of participants and built appreciation for civic engagement. Organizations like the local Board of Cooperative Educational Services, the McDonald Sports Complex and the Cortland and Homer Central School Districts aided SUNY Cortland volunteers.

· Future teachers tutored and mentored 500 students from the Syracuse (N.Y.) City School District through Cortland’s Urban Recruitment of Educators (C.U.R.E.) program. The group seeks to improve urban education by developing teachers who are proficient at dealing with conditions in high-needs schools. In 2009-10, pairs of college students helped teachers individualize instruction through tutoring sessions in a variety of subjects.

· SUNY Cortland students and faculty from the Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies Department helped Cortland Junior/Senior High School in creating the “League 56 Academy,” an after school program that combats the effects of bullying. College students and faculty led two cooperative activities using a benefits-based programming model to promote resiliency and academic performance. The survey responses of program participants showed a decrease in aggressive behavior and a heightened perception of resiliency.

· Three youth assist programs of Family Counseling Services — in one-on-one mentoring, group mentoring and homework help — received more than 2,000 volunteer hours from SUNY Cortland students. The programs were designed to build confidence and develop appropriate social, communication and decision-making skills through interaction with positive role models. Nearly 100 middle and high school students participated in the programs. Students raised their grades from an average of 73 to an average of 80, according to survey results.

During the 2009-10 academic year, SUNY Cortland obtained a $100,000 grant from Bringing Theory to Practice in order to initiate a major research project investigating the link between service learning practices and student growth. The College also initiated the President’s Leadership Coalition for Student Engagement to coordinate student engagement activities.

“This work is not possible without the extensive collaborations the College has formed with its community partners, and this award recognizes the best that our faculty, staff, student and community members have to offer,” Kendrick said. “I know we don’t do this work for recognition.

“We do it because it is important work to do.”

The honor roll is jointly sponsored by the CNCS, through its Learn and Serve America program, and 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.