For the third consecutive year Fresno State has been named to the 2009 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, and it’s the first year the school has been recognized with distinction.
The award was given to the university for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement. Fresno State is one of just 16 colleges and universities in California to be selected to the honor roll with distinction. A total of 115 schools nationwide were recognized.
The volunteer service of students is coordinated by The Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning at Fresno State. Director, Chris Fiorentio said there are five community service programs that are reported on through his department, and more than 13,000 students logged more than 923,000 hours in the 2008-2009 academic year.
“This is an opportunity for students to get involved in something that allows them to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply it out in the community,” Fiorentio said. “It helps meet a need in the community, but it also betters their own development.”
Fiorentio said the local community economic impact is estimated at $20 million, based on national philanthropic standards.
In a press release regarding the university’s achievement, President John Welty praised those responsible.
“I applaud the volunteer work of our students, faculty and staff that has allowed the university to gain this national recognition for the third straight year,” Welty said. “It has long been our goal to be one of the leading engaged institutions in the nation, where our teaching, research and service is aligned with the needs of the community. This honor demonstrates that Fresno State is an institution committed to our region.”
One popular program among students, Fiorentio said, is the Radin Community Service Scholarship Program.
About 80 students every year participate in this program and each of them has a chance at earning a $1,500 scholarship. Fiorentio said his students logged about 150 hours of community service through this program in the 2008-2009 academic year. Students participated in all types of activities, from hosting blood drives to working with kids in juvenile halls.
Another program Fiorentio mentioned was the Jumpstart program. This involved students tutoring pre-kindergarten children about what to expect before entering grammar school.
Fiorentio said the experience gained through these programs is something that cannot be learned by just sitting in a classroom.
“Research shows one of the best ways for students to get a good education is to get them involved in services outside of the classroom,” Fiorentio said.
He said the award is a credit to everyone involved with the university, not just those in his department.
“It is really a university wide effort and so the recognition is something we can all take pride in,” Fiorentio said. “For us to be part of the presidential awards for three years in a row is no small deal.”
Fiorentio has been pleased every year at the amount of students who continue to get involved in bettering the community, but said there is always room for more.
“Just come on down to the Richter Center and ask about our programs,” he said. “We can always use more volunteers.”