NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College was one of only seven Kansas colleges, and one of only two private liberal arts institutions in the state, to be recognized recently as part of the first-ever President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
This new recognition program is designed to increase public awareness of the contributions that college students make within their local communities and across the country through volunteer service.
Besides Bethel, Butler Community College, Fort Hays State University, Independence Community College, Johnson County Community College, the University of Kansas and the University of Saint Mary also made the list. A total of 492 colleges and universities in the United States were recognized.
A year ago, the Corporation for National and Community Service (an independent federal agency charged with fostering an ethic of volunteerism and service in America) and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the creation of the Universities Rebuilding America Partnership. As a result, the Honor Roll program in its first year emphasized the recognition of service activities in response to the Gulf Coast hurricanes of 2005. The Honor Roll is also meant to identify and promote community service model programs and practices in higher education.
Bethel College students, faculty and staff raised more than $11,000 and contributed more than 750 service hours in direct relief for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, in addition to scores of hours of local community service through activities such as the Christmas Angel Tree project, leaf-raking by members of the Bethel Service Corps, participation in Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the annual campus-wide Service Day in April.
“Higher education is a powerful engine of civic engagement and is central to achieving [President Bush’s] vision of active citizens and connected communities,” said Stephen Goldsmith, chair of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “We applaud America’s college students and the universities they attend for stepping up to help people in need.”
The co-sponsors of the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, along with the Corporation, are the Department of Education, HUD, USA Freedom Corps and the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, with support from the Case Foundation.
“The extraordinary response to the President’s Honor Roll is another sign that universities are embracing their civic mission in new and creative ways,” said Corporation CEO David Eisner. “More and more we see colleges working to improve their communities and encouraging an ethic of service by their students. These efforts are fueling a growing movement of college student service that will benefit our nation for many years to come.”
The awards were presented in conjunction with the release of the Corporation’s comprehensive report “College Students Helping America,” which shows college student civic engagement rising significantly in recent years.
The study, which used data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed that student volunteering increased approximately 20 percent from 2002 to 2005 and that 3.3 million college students serve their communities and nation. The study showed that college students between ages 16 to 24 are more likely to volunteer than similar groups in that age category who are not enrolled in college. The full report may be viewed online.
Observers have attributed the growth in student service to several causes: the proliferation of high-school and college service-learning classes; an increase in the number of campus offices linking students to volunteer opportunities; and the lingering impact of the September 11, 2001, and 2005 hurricane disasters.
The Corporation for National and Community Service is working with other federal agencies, higher education and student associations and nonprofit organizations to encourage even greater levels of service and civic engagement by college students, with a goal of increasing the number of college student participating in volunteer service to 5 million college students annually by 2010.
Community service programs and activities conducted by Honor Roll schools include mentorship programs for foster children, literacy tutoring for preschool children in underserved communities, medical and other professional services, homebuilding through Habitat for Humanity and neighborhood cleanup programs. Universities reported that college students provided nearly 2.3 million service hours volunteering in Hurricane Katrina relief. As one example, tens of thousands of college students – including 15 from Bethel College – substituted work for fun during their winter and spring breaks by traveling to the Gulf Coast to gut homes, clear debris, repair roofs and paint buildings.
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.