ALLEGANY, N.Y. — St. Bonaventure University has been named to the first President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for distinguished community service.
The award was given in recognition of extraordinary volunteer efforts by the university and its students to serve area neighborhoods and Gulf Coast communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
St. Bonaventure and 140 other institutions of higher education were recognized last month for distinguished service and named to the President’s Honor Roll at the Campus Compact 20th anniversary celebration. Schools receiving distinguished service recognition provided exceptional community service over the past year, contributing their time, resources, energy, skills and intellect to serve the nation.
“St. Bonaventure has set a strong example for college-level civic engagement,” said Stephen Goldsmith, chief executive officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that works to foster a culture of volunteering and service in America. “Many people and communities have been improved because St. Bonaventure and its students identified some of society’s most pressing needs and got involved.”
St. Bonaventure sent 289 people to five sites on the Gulf Coast during spring break 2006, including 220 students — more than 10 percent of the student body. Six students traveled to Mississippi in October 2005 for a week. Fifty members of Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) traveled to the Bahamas during January 2006 to assist in hurricane relief, becoming the largest international group on the scene. St. Bonaventure SIFE members also teamed up with Olean-area firefighters to raise $45,000 for hurricane relief.
“I am a native Mississippian,” said Dr. Todd Palmer, associate professor of management sciences and one of the faculty leaders during the massive Katrina relief trip. “Watching our students help people who lost everything was one of the most moving things I ever witnessed.”
“It is a great honor and I think this shows the strength of the Bonaventure community’s caring,” said Dr. James Mahar, assistant professor of finance and the first SBU faculty member involved with Katrina relief trips. “From the Gulf Coast to the streets of Buffalo after the recent storm, from students to faculty members, to the alumni and the local community, the entire SBU community continues to inspire not only those that they help, but everyone involved.”
The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll is co-sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), USA Freedom Corps, and the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. The recognition is presented in cooperation with Campus Compact, a national coalition of nearly 1,000 college and university presidents, and supported by all the major national higher education associations.
“This presidential recognition will bolster our students’ resolve to continue to respond to critical needs through personal sacrifice and service,” said Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF. president of St. Bonaventure University. “What better way to prepare for citizenship in the 21st century.”
Student civic contributions increase
The award presentations came a day after the Corporation for National and Community Service released a comprehensive study showing college student civic engagement has risen significantly in recent years. The study, which used data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed that student volunteering increased approximately 20 percent from 2002 to 2005, and that 3.3 million college students serve their communities and nation. The study showed that college students between ages 16 to 24 are more likely to volunteer than cohorts in that age group who are not enrolled.
Observers have attributed the growth in student service to several causes: the proliferation of high-school and college service-learning classes; an increase in the number of campus offices that link students to volunteer opportunities; and the lingering impact of Sept. 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina catastrophes.
The Corporation for National and Community Service is working with other federal agencies, higher education and student associations, and nonprofit organizations to encourage even greater levels of service and civic engagement by college students. Their goal is to increase the number of college students participating in volunteer service to five million college students annually by 2010.
The Honor Roll provides more new evidence that the nation is beginning to move toward that level of student civic engagement. More than 1.1 million students from Honor Roll schools participated in local community service activities, and more than 219,000 Honor Roll students provided hurricane relief.
A total of 492 institutions — including private and public schools, four-year institutions, professional schools and community colleges — were named to the first Honor Roll. Those schools chronicled a broad variety of service programs and activities that have strengthened neighborhoods around them and in the Gulf region.
For their efforts, six schools received the highest awards on the President’s Honor Roll. Elon University of North Carolina; California State University, Monterey Bay; and Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) received top honors for community service. Louisiana State University, Tulane University, and Jackson State University were recognized for providing outstanding hurricane relief.
Universities reported that college students provided nearly 2.3 million service hours volunteering in Hurricane Katrina relief. The value of relief services provided by Honor Roll colleges and students was approximately $87 million.