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COLLEGE SEARCH | Community Service | June 2012

Best Schools for College Community Service

By Taylor Cotter | StudentAdvisor.com Staff

Most high schools require you to do a certain amount of community service hours before you graduate. I know quite a few people in high school that fell in love with their service projects, and ended up pursuing community service in college, then later in their careers. If you love helping others, picking a college with great community service can be a great investment in your future. Are you thinking that college community service could be a part of your future? Check out these seven colleges with great community service programs! 

Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham,Ala.

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“There are all types of service experiences available at BSC, from one-off efforts to more intensive experiences,” says Kristin Harper, director of service-learning. “Often, students will progress from ‘thin’ to ‘thicker’ service experiences during their time here.” ‘Thicker’ experiences might include the “alternative spring break” programs, or the month-long service-learning projects offered during the January “exploration term.” These projects place teams in communities around the world, and are backed by fundraising and designated scholarships to ensure equal access for all interested students.

Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla.

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The Edible Peace Patch nonprofit at Eckered College is the brainchild of Kent “Kip” Curtis, assistant professor of environmental studies, whose involvement at local Lakewood Elementary inspired him (and Eckerd students) to build a 13-bed organic food garden there. Now, Eckerd students help students around St. Petersburg grow their own collard greens, eggplants, garbanzo beans and carrots. They teach about healthy cooking in the school kitchens, and have developed a science curriculum around organic farming.

The results have been transformative in many ways, says Curtis: “when Lakewood Elementary had a PTA meeting, we’d get two or three parents showing up,” he recalls. “Now, we had an end-of-the-year harvest festival and 300 parents showed up.”

Hope College in Holland, Mich

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Hope College’s greatest service achievements have all been on the backs of student enthusiasm and geared unswervingly toward very real results. “Time to Serve,” a voluntary day of service for new students every September, boasted around 100 participants in its inaugural year. Now, 11 years later, that number has ballooned to almost 400. Similarly, the annual “Dance Marathon,” a student-run fundraiser for the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich., just surpassed the $1 million marker in its 13th year. That’s an average of $77,200 a year, and an extraordinary feat for a school of Hope’s size.

Lebanon Valley College in Annvile, Pa.

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Students’ commitment to service runs deep at LVC, with campus clubs, athletic teams, residence halls, and Greek organizations helping out in the community and on campus. The school, in turn, provides additional incentive for students’ participation in service projects. “We integrated volunteering information with Blackboard, enrolling every student in a community service ‘class," explains Paul Fullmer, LVC’s director of community service and volunteerism.

“Students can then see how many hours they’ve logged, where they were served and how they were earned. They get real-time reporting on their efforts.” As students accumulate hours, they move toward receiving bronze, silver and gold awards that show up on their campus résumés. “In other words,” says Fullmer, “volunteering can help them gain employment.”

Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa.

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Service inspires empathy, and empathy inspires further service. Students returning from Misericordia’s long-running Guyana orphanage program established pajama and underwear drives for the children upon their arrival home. Others returning from a trip to serve undocumented workers in Laredo, Texas, subsequently participated in a conference on immigration in D.C. Students who had begun a service relationship to nearby Noxen Township turned out in droves to help with flood relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. Misericordia also offers more than 50 service-learning courses in nearly every discipline, from English and sociology to physics and nursing.

Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio

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Otterbein students get involved in nearly every kind of service-oriented work imaginable, creating their own programs where they identify needs in the community. A music student, for instance, developed “The B.E.A.T. for Music,” an organization dedicated to both music education outreach and public advocacy for music programs. Both of these aspects are equally important during a time when school budgetary cuts often put the arts at a disadvantage.

Otterbein's dedication to community service has been consistently recognized by the White House. 2012 is the sixth year Otterbein has won the Award with Distinction on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

Sewanee: The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn.

This intellectual and spiritual seriousness at Sewanee: The University of the South finds expression in unique service opportunities such as the Lilly Summer Discernment Institute, which offers students a $2,400 stipend to take on an unpaid internship in the field of their choosing. Critically, the six weeks are flanked by two “weeks of discernment” on Sewanee’s campus, designed for students to consider whether a life of service is right for them. “We want them to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses,” says Wilson, “not just what they’re doing but why they’re doing it.”

Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa.

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SU SERVE takes place every year during the month of April and finds Susquehanna students, alumni, faculty, staff, parents and friends pledging their time to volunteering around the world. Some engage in specific efforts organized by alumni both in Selinsgrove and throughout the United States, and still others offer up volunteer hours of their own choosing. What’s the secret to their impressive results? According to Becky Deitrick, director of alumni relations, it’s this: Susquehannans are already active in service anyway. Long-running efforts such as SU SERVE, along with a host of local and global service-learning programs, have earned Susquehanna consistent national recognition for its dedication to community service, including from four of the past five U.S. presidents.

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