AU recently earned placement on the 2007 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in the “with Distinction” category for commendable service and service directed toward aiding disadvantaged youth.
The award, which the Corporation for National and Community Service started giving out in 2006, recognizes colleges and universities that show “innovative, effective and exemplary community service,” according to a press release from Learn and Serve America, an independent federal agency of the Corporation for National and Community Service. Of the 528 schools on the 2007 honor roll, AU was one of 127 recognized “with Distinction,” ranking it within the top 1 percent of colleges and universities nationwide for community service.
“AU students are very creative and very organized,” said Marcy Campos, director of AU’s Community Service Center. “Many students come to AU already having a fair amount of experience with community service, but in coming to D.C., they are able to go out into the world and see for themselves how things are, and they want to make a difference. Students at AU want change.”
AU received the placement in the category “with Distinction” because of involvement with youth-related service programs such as DC Reads, the Latino Youth Conference, D.C. Today ... D.C. Tomorrow and alternative break trips, Campos said.
DC Reads, a citywide project that strives to improve literacy levels of children in kindergarten through eighth grade, works with several community-based organizations. These organizations include Facilitating Leadership in Youth, which three AU students founded to provide a variety of programs throughout the year benefiting children, according to the AU Community Service Center.
Anna Cottone, a freshman in the School of Communication, recently joined the DC Reads program in which tutors spend four to eight hours per week helping children develop their reading skills.
“DC Reads particularly interested me because, as a college student, there is not much I can do to solve the literacy problem in America,” she said. “However, through the program, maybe I can teach a child to read a favorite book.”
The Latino Youth Conference and D.C. Today ... D.C. Tomorrow also work to benefit youth. The Latino Youth Conference program addresses issues related to the school dropout rate among Latinos, which reached 21 percent in 2003, according to the Pew Hispanic Research Center. D.C. Today ... D.C. Tomorrow offers a service-learning initiative to help high school students become aware of D.C. issues through their own community service work, according to the Community Service Center.
AU students have also helped the university get onto the list by participating in alternative break service trips. Audrey Pernik, a 2007 graduate from the School of Communication, and Amy Pucino, a 2007 graduate from CAS’ graduate program, helped lead a trip to Chicago that focused on empowering urban youth. The eight students who went on the week-long trip completed approximately 200 hours of service, including working with organizations like People Educated Against Crime in Englewood and an after-school program for preventing gang membership.
“The idea wasn’t to change things around for those kids, nor was our mission to help save them,” Pernik said. “Rather, my hope was to have our group leave Chicago with a deeper, more humbled understanding of the world in which we live, and perhaps that other members of our group would be called to action next year.”
Community service can shape students into who they are as human beings, Campos said.
“Community service for AU students is not just about serving others, but it is also about learning for themselves,” Campos said.