Tuesday, February 10, 2009

UIS receives national honor for service-learning and civic engagement

The University of Illinois at Springfield has been placed on the 2008 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for exemplary service efforts to the local community. The honor was announced Monday by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

“This high honor is evidence that UIS is succeeding in its efforts to make community service a priority,” said UIS Chancellor Richard Ringeisen. “We at UIS believe that our students gain a greater sense of responsibility when they serve the community as part of their education.”

Launched in 2006, the Community Service Honor Roll is the highest federal recognition a school can achieve for its commitment to service-learning and civic engagement. UIS was selected because of the scope and innovation of its service projects, percentage of student participation in service activities, incentives for service, and academic service-learning courses.

UIS student service projects include the Girl to Girl DreamSpeakers Program in which UIS female athletes serve as mentors to about 120 female students in grades 8 through 10 in the Springfield public schools. A mentoring program with Jefferson Middle School matches 20 UIS students with about 30 middle school students, and a service project that involves storm drain stenciling raises environmental awareness of what not to dump in storm drains.

“We don’t just pay lip service to community service, we strongly encourage service to others,” said Kelly Thompson, director of UIS’ Center for Volunteer and Civic Engagement. “Right here on campus we have a unique housing arrangement called the living-learning community in Lincoln Residence Hall. During 2008, those students who live on that wing served our local community through about 950 hours of service,” she said.

Thompson also noted that 2,400 hours of service were carried out in the community last year by UIS students involved in the Midwest Campus Compact Citizen-Scholar Fellows AmeriCorps Program. UIS is one of only seven universities in the state that participates in the AmeriCorps Education Award Program.

Other projects are the annual UIS Cares day during which students volunteer their time to bettering the community. Last year, students and several staff members spent time at Jefferson Middle School pulling weeds, planting flowers and taking part in other beautification efforts. UIS also sponsors the annual campus-wide Holiday Stars Project during which students, faculty, staff and community members donated several thousand pounds of canned goods to the Central Illinois Food Bank last year.

UIS also offers service-learning courses that combine academic learning and community service at the undergraduate level. Students earn college credit while providing community service to local non-profit agencies.

The Honor Roll is a program of the Corporation, in collaboration with the Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation.

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