SUNY Oswego achieves national distinction for community service

SUNY Oswego, named each time to the U.S. President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll since the list’s inception in 2006, has now earned the designation “with Distinction.”

Katrina relief on the outskirts of New Orleans.The Corporation for National and Community Service bestowed the “with Distinction” designation on 114 institutions around the country for their performance during the 2009-10 academic year. Among schools cited with Oswego for the national distinction are the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, Oberlin and Middlebury colleges and three others in SUNY. The entire honor roll includes 511 colleges.

“I think this is a great honor for SUNY Oswego and demonstrates the increasing scope and breadth of the community service efforts of students, faculty and staff,” said Dr. James Scharfenberger, associate vice president and dean of student affairs.

He acknowledged that achieving the “with Distinction” designation resets the bar for SUNY Oswego’s extensive efforts to engage with and assist communities of need in Oswego County, across the nation and around the globe.

Service highlights

The honor roll recognizes higher education institutions for “exemplary community service” and “meaningful outcomes in their communities.”

In its application for the 2009-10 honor roll, SUNY Oswego highlighted three of its many programs: Adopt-a-Grandparent, with six weekly programs at seven Oswego area nursing homes as well as the annual Senior Ball; Mentor Oswego, where students tutor and mentor 150 local youths through partnerships with nine Oswego area schools and the Salvation Army; and Alternative Break, with 10 student and adviser trips in the spring of 2009-10—and more during winter break—for projects ranging from Head Start in New Jersey to the Volunteer in Jamaica Opportunity Program in impoverished areas of the Caribbean nation.

“I think it (the new designation) shows and recognizes the work students have done, not only in increasing participation in programs that have existed for years, but in increasing the kinds of programs—strong new programs,” said Alyssa Amyotte, coordinator of the college’s Center for Service Learning and Community Service.

Amyotte and Dr. Paul Roodin, director of experience-based education, Christy Huynh, associate director of the Compass student success center, and Dr. Mehran Nojan, director of institutional research and assessment, did much of the work to apply for the honor, just as they were on the team that successfully applied for Oswego’s prestigious Community Engagement Classification by the Carnegie Foundation.

Faces of need

The newly released SUNY Report Card calls the Carnegie classification and the President’s Honor Roll “the gold standard in recognizing effective community service” and pledged that more State University campuses would join Oswego in achieving such recognition.

These honors, Amyotte said, assist the college’s efforts to recruit service-minded students and help make Oswego’s graduates more competitive in the workplace, where strength of character can be a deciding factor in hiring decisions.

But Amyotte said she and student volunteers always comes back to the faces, names and places of people in need, from Oswego County seniors sharing memories and joys with SUNY Oswego students, to survivors of hurricane-ravaged communities in and around New Orleans.

Scott Ball, an Oswego graduate working toward his master’s degree in adolescence education, agreed. Ball has made numerous alternative-break trips, including one in 2009-10 to an impoverished community in Florence, Ala., to build homes for Habitat for Humanity.

“I think it (the honor roll with distinction) shows just how great and compassionate this school and its student body are,” said Ball, who will leave June 18 for his second flood-relief project in New Orleans in the past year.

PHOTO CAPTION: Katrina assistance—SUNY Oswego students Amy Wolff, center, and Raymundo Lopez, right, work alongside Alyssa Amyotte, coordinator of the college’s Center for Service Learning and Community Service, to plant trees in January on the outskirts of New Orleans as an additional barrier against hurricane-force winds. Such community-service Alternative Breaks are among the SUNY Oswego projects that helped the college earn a place on the latest U.S. President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, with Distinction.

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(Posted: May 18, 2011)

Tags: suny oswego, service, president's higher education community service honor roll, mentor oswego, habitat for humanity, engagement, community service, center for service learning and community service, alternative break, adopt-a-grandparent