Central College was named to the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).
The Honor Roll recognizes higher education institutions that reflect the values of exemplary community service and achieve meaningful outcomes in their communities. Only two other Iowa schools were recognized on the Honor Roll with Distinction; 690 schools were named to the Honor Roll, but only 100 schools were awarded Distinction.
“It’s such an honor to be recognized on this list of distinction,” said Cheri Doane, director of the Center for Community-Based Learning. “Service is a great way to connect Central College with our community partners.” And the honor roll is the way colleges are recognized for their efforts.
The Center for Community-Based Learning (CCBL)—one example of the institutional support for service at Central College—listens to the needs of the community partners, as well as the academic goals of students, when setting up the long-term partnerships. More than 40 courses in 15 departments include a component of sustained, semester-long service. In addition, all seven semester-long Central College Abroad programs offer service opportunities.
During the 2011-12 school year, more than 400 students participated in service-learning with community partners, non-profit organizations in central Iowa that serve at-risk populations or promote the arts, sustainability or other important causes. The students completed 73,602 hours of community service. Based on United Way’s estimate of the value of an hour of community service, these hours amount to $1,572,138.70 of work.
Through work with 25 community partners who aim to improve educational and developmental outcomes for young children on Des Moines’s north side, Central College students serve at-risk youth through tutoring for preschool through sixth-grade students. Many children received weekly English language learning support. Central students also participated in nutrition programs to address food security for children.
Homeless youth continues to be a focus for Central. Community dialogues establish that thousands of youth from Iowa are in crisis, including more than 6,000 children who are homeless. Central students serve this population in a variety of ways, including tutoring, street outreach, providing childcare so teen parents can attend career preparation classes and offering support to students in alternative high schools. As a direct result of Central’s involvement, community partners reported improved grades and social behaviors for students in Pella High School’s At-Risk Program, youth received job readiness training and youth were provided housing and employment support.
“A distinguishing feature of education at Central College is community-based learning,” said community partner Carmen Lampe Zeitler, executive director of Children and Family Urban Ministries. “Connecting what students learn in the classroom to the web of assets and challenges in the community to their own inner web of assets and challenges takes learning to a level many in the society simply never experience. Central College is leaving a legacy of community-connected citizens that will make our world a better and richer place.”
Research demonstrates that students who engage in service, especially academic service-learning paired with classroom work, have a more positive sense of personal efficacy, personal identity and spiritual growth. In addition to reinforcing course competencies, service-learning builds leadership and communication skills and has a positive effect on social responsibility. Research also shows that service-learning can facilitate cultural and racial understanding.
“The Honor Roll with Distinction list recognizes the service ethos that is present across the entire institution,” Doane said. “We are pleased that students and the whole campus community benefit from expertise and energy invested by our community partners.”
The CNCS, which has administered the Honor Roll since 2006, awarded colleges and universities across the nation for their impact on issues from literacy and neighborhood revitalization to supporting at-risk youth. Campuses named to this year’s Honor Roll reported that nearly one million of their students engaged in service learning and more than 1.6 million participated in other forms of community service, serving a total of more than 105 million hours.