March 12, 2013

SIU earns national honor for community service

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- For the sixth consecutive year, SIU Carbondale earned a spot on the Corporation for National and Community Service’s (CNCS) President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

The award honors SIU students, faculty and staff for their commitment to community service, service learning and civic engagement.

“This is wonderful recognition for the many members of the SIU community who are making such a positive difference on the campus and in our communities,” Chancellor Rita Cheng said.  “Last year’s establishment of the Center for Serving Learning and Volunteerism further enhances our efforts to prepare students to become aware and engaged citizens.”

The center coordinates a wide assortment of volunteer and service-learning activities including Saluki Volunteer Corps, Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps and academic-based service learning.  Roudy Hildreth and Mythili Rundblad serve as co-directors of the center.

“Earning a spot on the Honor Roll is recognition of the efforts and time our students, faculty and staff contribute in making a real difference in our community and region,” Rundblad said.  “I especially enjoy helping students see community, grassroots issues through the lens of their academic disciplines.” 

“This award speaks to the outstanding spirit of service and civic engagement among SIU students,” Hildreth added.  “I also think that the University has done a great job creating opportunities for students to become engaged.  It is really exciting to be part of SIU’s work to expand volunteerism, service-learning and civic engagement.” 

The Honor Roll recognition is for the 12-month period from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012. 

During that timespan, 3,330 Salukis donated 30,550 hours of service through Saluki Volunteer Corps.  They also raised $63,818 for 15 non-profit local, state and national groups.  All told, about 60 non-profit organizations benefitted, including local organizations such as Green Earth, Keep Carbondale Beautiful, Gum Drops and the Good Samaritan House, and such national organizations as Unite for Sight, Special Olympics, the American Heart Association and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

SIU is home to the first AmeriCorps program in Illinois, founded in 1995.  From mid-2001 to mid-2012, the University’s nine Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps members contributed more than 7,000 hours tutoring, mentoring and help to hundreds of children in grades K-8 in three area school districts, the Carbondale Boys and Girls Club, the Science Center and the Illinois Masonic Children’s Home.   Rundblad said that research indicates that 92 percent of the children helped by the SIU students increased homework submissions, 87 percent demonstrated positive behavioral changes and 100 percent improved their reading scores and academic skills. 

In addition, about 1,350 students logged in excess of 14,000 service hours in conjunction with 80 courses that incorporated a service-learning component.  One of the largest community service efforts took place after a tornado struck the Harrisburg area in 2012.  The campus community donated more than 65 boxes of non-perishable food, toiletry and household items.  Meanwhile, during a three-week period, about 120 students and a dozen faculty members contributed more than 1,000 hours to the tornado relief and recovery efforts.

The work continued for some time afterward as architecture faculty and students provided structural consultations and sustainable design assistance to 23 families who had suffered substantial damage or destruction to their homes.