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Community Service Earns Presidential Honor Again

Community Service Earns Presidential Honor Again


For a fourth consecutive year, SUNY Cortland has received federal recognition for its community service by being named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

Since 2007, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has annually presented this honor to colleges and universities to recognize exemplary service efforts and service to America’s communities.

The CNCS is a federal agency that improves lives, strengthens communities and fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering. The corporation administers Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve America, a program that supports service learning in schools, institutions of higher education and community-based organizations.

SUNY Cortland was among 621 schools recognized as honor roll members for their commitment to service-learning and civic engagement during the 2008-09 academic year. The full honor roll list is available at A short video about the recognition can be accessed at

“Congratulations to SUNY Cortland and its students for their dedication to service and commitment to improving their local communities,” said Patrick Corvington, CEO of the CNCS. “Our nation’s students are a critical part of the equation and vital to our efforts to tackle the most persistent challenges we face. They have achieved impactful results and demonstrated the value of putting knowledge into practice to help renew America through service.”

“I’m very proud that our faculty, staff and students have come together to make a meaningful difference, not only in our community on campus but in the greater community in which we live,” remarked SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum.

“Hopefully, this will be the start of a lifetime involvement for our students in service to their community, to their country or to the world, for that matter. These students will run for government office, join parent-teacher associations or help non-profit agencies, making a difference in their communities. That’s what has to happen for us as a nation as we move forward. People do have to better their communities, and it’s really done locally.”

“We have been on the honor roll every year since its inception, indicating our ongoing institutional commitment to community service and civic engagement,” added Richard Kendrick, director of the College’s Institute for Civic Engagement and a professor of sociology/anthropology. “This is an institutional award, and it is something of which the entire College and the Cortland community should be proud. It reflects the many ways that we participate with one another in the communities of which we are a part and the value the entire community places on participation in public life.”

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 the extent to which the school offers academic service-learning courses.

Between July 1, 2008, and June 30, 2009, more than 6,000 SUNY Cortland students contributed almost 96,000 hours of service to the community, according to data on general community service submitted to the CNCS by Kendrick.

“These hours include service projects of our athletes, fraternities and sororities, student clubs and organizations, and our service-learning classes, and they include the hours devoted to internships that focus on service,” Kendrick said. “I appreciate the help of all of those who contributed to documenting the service hours and projects of the College, and I am grateful to our community partners who take their time to encourage and nurture our students in their service projects in the community.”

Of those students, 395 engaged in academic service-learning projects and the other 5,750 offered their time, talent and energy to endeavors outside the classroom. More than 500 students each performed at least 20 hours of community service.

The College’s honor roll application highlighted six particular service programs of the College.

• More than 50 students and Physical Education Department faculty involved in the award-winning, eight-year-old Skills Builders, Infant-Toddler, Sports Movement Programs taught children and adults with physical disabilities how to exercise for fun and health.

• More than 70 students and two SUNY Cortland AmeriCorps members worked in three different Youth Assist programs offered by Family Counseling Services in Cortland. The volunteers worked to build confidence and develop appropriate social, communication and decision-making skills among at-risk youth of Cortland County by providing them with opportunities to interact with positive role models during weekly activities.

• Eighty-five future teachers volunteered their services to Family Nights at the YMCA, a mentoring program in which college students help instill healthy family behaviors in parents and their children. The six-year-old project, which serves about 600 children and parents a year, is a collaboration between students in a service-learning course offered by the Childhood/Early Childhood Education Department, SUNY Cortland, the YMCA, the Community Action Program of Cortland County, and Children, Families and Communities.

• More than 50 students mentored elementary school-age children to raise their aspirations as part of the YWCA’s 10-year-old Bridges for Kids. The YWCA employee who directs that program was honored with a SUNY Cortland’s Leadership in Civic Engagement Award.

• The College’s Perspective on Disabilities Service-Learning Course gave 25 future special education teachers an opportunity to develop an appreciation for the families of children with disabilities. Working with the Franziska Racker Center and Onondaga-Cortland-Madison Board of Cooperative Educational Services, the students observed the day-to-day experiences of children with special needs and their families.

• Future teachers tutored and mentored about 600 kindergarten through high school age children who are part of the Syracuse (N.Y.) City School District’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Program, which focuses on urban children who might not have considered the college option. The 36 SUNY Cortland students, who were enrolled in the Cortland Urban Recruitment of Educations (C.U.R.E.) program, learned and applied the principles and value of tutoring and mentoring techniques.

Kendrick noted the College also supplied information to CNCS about two current federally supported community service initiatives. In September 2009, SUNY Cortland was awarded a $247,000 congressionally directed grant through the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education for its Building Community Leaders program. SUNY Cortland also reported managing a series of CNCS AmeriCorps grants totaling $248,000 to continue an AmeriCorps program that placed 23 volunteers who performed an additional 7,900 hours of service in the Cortland community.

“Some of the members in these positions are, themselves, SUNY Cortland students who perform service in the community,” Kendrick noted. “Some are recent graduates. Many recruit SUNY Cortland students for participation in their programs. During the reporting period, our AmeriCorps members contributed an additional 7,900 hours of service.”

 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, go to