SUNY Oswego repeats national distinction for community service

For the second straight year, SUNY Oswego appeared among the select group of schools named to the U.S. President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction.

Students working on Adopt-A-School project.The Corporation for National and Community Service bestowed the “with Distinction” designation on 110 colleges around the country for 2010-11. The overall honor roll includes 513 colleges this year. Oswego has made the overall list every year since its inception in 2006.

Alyssa Amyotte, coordinator of the college’s Center for Service Learning and Community Service, said the breadth and depth of involvement in initiatives—from President Deborah F. Stanley and other administrators to professors to student organizations—proved key to repeating on the prestigious list.

“We see so much support, in the number of administrators, faculty members and students,” Amyotte said. “The interest among students here is amazing, much of it from positive word of mouth.”

Between service learning courses, volunteering and other community involvement, more than 4,000 SUNY Oswego students contributed more than 430,000 hours of service last year, according to the honor roll application.

Oswego highlights engagement in its strategic plan, striving to “build new and more collaborative ties with neighbors and neighboring institutions to advance the quality of life for all citizens” by becoming “deeply engaged in community service, democracy-building projects … and other significant ways to grow vital communities and economies at the local, regional and state levels.”

The institution-wide commitment and long-standing tradition in service also resulted in Oswego receiving a sought-after Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching last year.

Diverse projects

The application emphasized three programs among many: alternative breaks, the Adopt-A-School initiative and the book drive for Sudan.

Alternative breaks, where students and staff spend an academic break helping areas in need, have a track record of success at Oswego, Amyotte said. A total of 108 students and seven staff members took part in nine winter and spring break placements so far this year, including Habitat for Humanity home building in Florence, Ala., and Waterloo, Iowa; continuing hurricane relief efforts along the Gulf Coast; and international projects in the Dominican Republic and El Salvador.

Sophomore childhood education major Lexie Avery, who has twice traveled to New Orleans for alternative breaks and is active in Mentor Oswego, considers helping people a prime motivation for getting involved.

“When you see the joy on a family’s face or a child’s face, it puts everything into perspective,” Avery said. “Becoming involved in these projects has really changed my life and even inspired me to change what I want to do with my life to focus more on helping others.”

In this year’s Adopt-A-School project, the college’s School of Communication, Media and the Arts worked with Oswego Middle School students to set up a record company where eighth-graders could write, perform and market their own compositions. Creating Buc Records provides lessons on creativity, teamwork and business—while helping students aspire to pursue college and careers.

The project started as a way to support public schools and their students amidst art and music program and budget cuts, said Julie Pretzat, associate dean of the school. “It turned out we received as much as we were giving,” she said, as students and visiting faculty members enjoyed the opportunity to help middle-school students discover their talents.

SUNY Oswego biology professor Kamal Mohamed spearheaded the John Garang University book drive to help South Sudan’s educational infrastructure ravaged by decades of civil war. Oswego partnered with Le Moyne College, Syracuse University and other non-profits to collect more than 18,000 books and monetary donations to help fill the Sudanese institution’s library.

“When we heard about the books that we needed to ship to Bor, we were very excited about it, because this will be the first time in history that there are a lot of books shipped to southern Sudan,” Abraham Achiek, a 2009 SUNY Oswego graduate and former “Lost Boy” of Sudan, told a YNN TV reporter at the time.

PHOTO CAPTION: In tune with service—SUNY Oswego senior music major Greg Horning (right) works on a recording session for Oswego Middle School students, including Jacob Johnson (foreground) on drums, as part of the Adopt-A-School project, one of many community-service initiatives that earned the college repeat recognition on the U.S. President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction.

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(Posted: Mar 28, 2012)