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College Again Wins Civic Engagement Distinction

College Again Wins Civic Engagement Distinction


SUNY Cortland has been named to President Barack Obama’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the eighth consecutive year, making up a select State University of New York group in the process.

The 2014 honor roll marks the fourth straight time the College has earned the elite “with distinction” designation for its civic engagement programs. Of the 20 SUNY campuses included on the list, only SUNY Cortland, SUNY Fredonia and SUNY Oswego won the special recognition.

“The College should be very proud of this recognition of its institutional commitment to the communities of which it is a part,” said Richard Kendrick, the director of SUNY Cortland’s Institute for Civic Engagement (ICE) and a professor of sociology/anthropology. “This award is for the excellent work done by faculty, staff and students across the entire campus in conjunction with our many, many community partners.”

The honor roll reflects civic engagement efforts from the 2012-13 academic year, during which 3,553 SUNY Cortland students contributed 204,024 community service hours. More than half of those students — 2,040 of them — offered at least 20 hours of their time in a single semester.

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.

A total of 766 institutions were recognized as honor roll members this year. For the first time, colleges and universities were grouped in one of four categories for their achievements: general community service, interfaith community service, economic opportunity or education. SUNY Cortland was acknowledged in the general community service category. The full honor list is available from the CNCS.

“Participating in community service is an important part of any college experience, and a hallmark of our strategic plan,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “Each of our SUNY campuses has an astounding array of options for students as well as faculty and staff to give back to their local communities, and to have a greater impact on communities across the country and abroad.”

Participation in civic engagement activities is one of the metrics SUNY uses to measure its success toward one of the “big ideas” in its strategic plan: SUNY and the Vibrant Community.

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 several noteworthy SUNY Cortland efforts:

• The College’s 20-year-old service learning program involved 1,943 students giving 76,732 hours to projects dealing with the environment, the economy, health and education during the 2012-13 academic year. More than 30 local, domestic and international partners were brought in on the College’s service learning initiatives, including those that assisted local children, senior citizens and people with disabilities. The program also integrated its efforts into grant-funded work that totaled $16 million in 2012-13.

speech and hearing sciences
Close to 40 SUNY Cortland students provided nearly 1,700 hours
in audiology
screenings and speech and language therapy in

• The Migrant Education Tutorial and Support Services (METS) program, which serves 12 counties, provided migrant families 19,657 meals through its partnership with the Central New York Food Bank in 2012-13. Formerly, the work was known as the Migrant Education Outreach Program. Dental care and physicals also were offered to local children through an affiliation with Finger Lakes Community Health. METS staff members offer tutoring services for all ages, from young children to adults, with education programs that encompass English as a second language, mathematics and general education diploma preparation. More than 430 migrant students were served by volunteers in 2012-13.

• SUNY Cortland AmeriCorps, which completed its fifth year in 2012-13, served 18 agencies and programs —  12 community not-for-profit groups and six programs sponsored by the College. Sixty-three members, including 17 SUNY Cortland students, contributed more than 31,000 hours of service to the Cortland community in agencies as diverse as the YWCA, Lime Hollow Center for Environment and Culture, Inclusive Recreation Resource Center, Family Counseling Services and the Seven Valleys Health Coalition. SUNY Cortland AmeriCoprs seeks to meet the needs identified in an ongoing community-wide needs assessment process known as “Cortland Counts.” In five years, the program has contributed more than 117,000 hours of service.

• The College’s “Explore: Education Field Experience Program” connected 119 first-year education majors with eight community partners to provide roughly 3,600 hours of tutoring and mentoring for nearly 200 local children. SUNY Cortland students refined their skills with professional development workshops coordinated by the ICE. Those sessions reinforced reflective listening and tutoring skills.

• SUNY Cortland’s longstanding Adapted Physical Education Program provided physical activity opportunities for more than 200 people with disabilities, from toddlers to adults, in 2012-13. Roughly 250 SUNY Cortland students, the majority of them physical education majors, offered their time to a variety of programs in exchange for valuable experience. Among the College’s many adapted physical education programs, the Sensory Integration and Motor Sensory Exploration Center was introduced in 2012-13 to serve children with delayed sensory development. Several campus academic departments, local school districts and local non-profit agencies collaborate to provide adapted physical education opportunities.

• The Teacher Education in Australia Program, one of several international collaborations that takes place at SUNY Cortland, ensures students serve while they learn. During the spring of 2013, 21 student-teachers from four SUNY campuses provided invaluable service to 11 schools in Australia. They helped design and implement hands-on lessons in language arts, mathematics and health. They also infused literacy into all subject areas, including physical education. SUNY Cortland also shares strong relationship in countries that include Belize, Costa Rica and Thailand.

adapted p.e.
More than 200 people with disabilities, from
toddlers to adults, benefit from the College’s
many adapted physical education programs.

• The Cortland Downtown Partnership (CDP) looks to advance and promote culture and commerce in historic downtown Cortland, and SUNY Cortland students again offered their services to its staff members and volunteers in 2012-13. Nearly 300 students contributed approximately 1,000 hours to several CDP events: Chill-A-Bration, A Taste of Downtown, First Light and two community clean-ups. Combined attendance for the first three events reached 6,000 people, while the clean-up work assisted a community of roughly 20,000.

• Through the Cortland YWCA’s Bridges for Kids Program, the College helps a local not-for-profit by providing students who become mentors and positive role models for children ages 5 to 12. In 2012-13, a total of 309 students served the program, offering up 4,800 hours of their time. Some SUNY Cortland students acted as mentors to youngsters with stressful home lives while even more college students provided low-income families with nurturing activities. Many volunteers are childhood/early childhood majors, although other disciplines are well-represented, such as community health, recreation, parks and leisure studies, and biological sciences. Student mentors are asked to commit to the program for one year and they are expected to spend two hours a week with children, although many opt for more time.

• The Center for Speech, Language and Hearing Disorders at SUNY Cortland fills a gap in services by providing both on- and off-site services for two school districts in Cortland County. The partnership provides free screenings, hearing and speech evaluation, and therapy to community members who might not be diagnosed or treated otherwise. The services also free up school nurses to focus on other health areas with elementary students. Under faculty supervision, close to 40 students provided nearly 1,700 hours in audiology screenings and speech and language therapy.

Inspired by thousands of college students who traveled across the country to support relief efforts along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the U.S. President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll highlights the role colleges and universities play in solving community challenges. In 2012, 3.1 million college students dedicated more than 118 million hours of service across the country — a contribution valued at $2.5 billion, according to a Volunteering and Civic Life in America report.

CNCS has administered the award since 2006 in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as the American Council on Education, Campus Compact and the Interfaith Youth Core.

For more information, visit the CNCS website.