Jennifer Sexton '15 spends Friday afternoons at the Kenney Community Center helping neighborhood kids with reading and arts and crafts projects. As a coordinator of the Empty Bowls project, the biochemistry major also assists local food programs.
In all, she spends more than 10 hours a week on volunteer activities, which doesn't include time as an instructor for Learn to Skate lessons at Messa Rink or as the co -philanthropy chair for Alpha delta lambda (ADL).
"It's important for me to give something back," said Sexton. "I've been very lucky in my life and given many opportunities. Many of the kids I work with don't get that. I want to be a positive role model. It's such a small investment on our part, but we can make a big difference in their lives."
Sexton's commitment to community service is just one reason Union again landed a spot on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for exemplary service to the local community.
This marks the fourth time in the past five years the College has earned this honor, the highest federal recognition a school can achieve for its commitment to service learning and civic engagement. Honorees were chosen based on a series of factors, including scope and innovation of service projects, percentage of student participation, incentives for service and the extent to which the school offers academic service-learning courses.
The awards were announced earlier this week at the American Council on Education annual conference in Washington, D.C.
“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.”
In 2011-12, 1,268 Union students participated in a range of community service projects, representing more than 27,000 hours of service. Students tutored schoolchildren through such programs as STEP and ABC (Arts, Books and Crafts); provided food pantries with goods harvested from Octopus’ Garden; and helped local residents secure tax refunds through the state Volunteer Income Tax Assistant Program (VITA), to name a few.
There were also a number of interfaith volunteer programs through the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), which provided more avenues for meaningful service.
"It's so gratifying to see more and more of our students volunteering," said Angela Tatem, director of the Kenney Center. "We have so many opportunities to get involved, whether it centers around food, the environment, economics or is faith-based. There truly is something for everyone."
To learn more about the Kenney Center’s programs, click here.