The State University of New York at Fredonia has been named to the 2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for its commitment to bettering the surrounding area. Being named to the honor roll is the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement.
The university was named in recognition of the activities and accomplishments of students in cooperation with the SUNY Fredonia's Volunteer and Community Services program, administered by Coordinator Joyce Smith.
"Through the Volunteer and Community Services Program here at SUNY Fredonia, our student volunteers have made a significant impact in the local community," Smith said. "They have contributed to over 14,000 hours of volunteer service during the past academic year. These volunteers have helped to enhance and improve the quality of life for so many residents in the local community, particularly impoverished individuals and families. There has been an increasing range of volunteer services and greater support for the region's economic and educational development."
More than 1,700 SUNY Fredonia students provided service in various forms of volunteer activities. Some of the activities cited in the honor roll application include:
For 30-plus years, accounting students from SUNY Fredonia have been preparing federal and New York State income tax returns through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) for low income families. In spring 2012, 29 student volunteers and one faculty sponsor spent 365 volunteer hours preparing and e-filing 135 Federal and State Income tax returns. These returns yielded approximately $182,000 federal and $46,000 state refund dollars for local taxpayers. Student volunteers assisted regional sites including the United Way of Northern Chautauqua County, where the administration assistant is the regional site administrator. Student volunteers collaborated closely with the United Way in the planning and delivery of services.
SUNY Fredonia's Academic Community Engagement (FACE) Center, in coordination with volunteer services, joined with three different community groups to lead cleanups at four different locations in Dunkirk: Point Gratiot, Main Street Beach, Cedar Beach, and Crooked Brook. More than 75 volunteers, including SUNY Fredonia students, Cub Scouts, local elementary students, rugby players, and members of Great Lake FX and Earth Works, collected 448.6 pounds of debris from four sites. Some of the volunteer participants worked in teams with faculty members to take water samples, measure long shore currents, and perform other beach health assessments in Lake Erie. Information collected by the teams was entered into an online database, which is used to educate the public, inform local beach authorities and improve local beaches. The event benefited hundreds of local beach users and people who get their drinking water from Lake Erie and various non- profit agencies that monitor the health of the Great Lakes.
Some of the other volunteer service projects mentioned were Operation Breakfast Rescue, which provided breakfast food items (more than 400 pounds of food) to impoverished families in the area, and the Community Blood Bank supporting local hospitals. One hundred and twenty units of blood were donated by SUNY Fredonia student volunteers, faculty and staff. Other student organized projects included the Relay for Life held during the academic year at SUNY Fredonia, which raised over $30,000 for the American Cancer Society, and the Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention, which raised more than $5,000.
This year, 690 colleges and university nationwide were named to the honor roll.
"Communities are strengthened when we all come together, and we are encouraged that these institutions and their students have made service a priority," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "Civic engagement should be a key component of every student's education experience. Through reaching out to meet the needs of their neighbors, these students are deepening their impact, strengthening our democracy and ultimately preparing themselves to be successful citizens."
College students make a significant contribution to their communities through volunteering and service, according to the most recent "Volunteering and Civic Life in America" report. In 2012, 3.1 million college students dedicated more than 118 million hours of service across the country - a contribution valued at $2.5 billion.
"Across the nation, in the communities in which HUD works, I've seen many students who have committed themselves to assisting individuals and strengthening neighborhoods," said U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. "HUD congratulates these institutions and is honored to be part of this effort that recognizes colleges and their students for putting the common good before personal gain."
Inspired by the thousands of college students who traveled across the country to support relief efforts along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, the Corporation for National and Community Service has administered the award since 2006 and manages the program in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as the American Council on Education and Campus Compact.