For its commitment to improving the quality of life for residents in the communities it serves, particularly those with lower incomes, California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) was honored on Dec. 8 with the 2014 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll’s highest honor, the Presidential Award. The university is one of only four universities across the nation to receive the prestigious award.
CSUDH received its Presidential Award in the General Community Service category.
The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll is a national program developed by the Corporation for National and Community Service. It recognizes the efforts of universities to engage students in meaningful service within the communities they serve.
“We are truly honored by this recognition. At CSU Dominguez Hills, we don’t only see serving our community as our responsibility, but as a genuine privilege,” said CSUDH President Willie J. Hagan. “Our faculty and staff take this responsibility very seriously. They exemplify our core values and employ them to empower our students as they engage our communities in socially innovative ways that help tackle important issues and challenges. Whether it is through our service learning programs, student organizations, or on their own, our students represent the next generation of civic leaders who will positively impact our region, and beyond, for decades to come.”
CSU Dominguez Hills’ commitment to community engagement is infused in academics, with more than 300 classes having a service component. During the past year, 9,554 students logged over 150,000 hours of community service through campus organizations and their classes, which has created a positive economic impact of approximately $3.3 million.
Sixty-five percent of CSUDH students engage in service learning, both through the formal curriculum and the university’s service learning hub, the Center for Service Learning, Internships, and Civic Engagement (SLICE). As freshmen, all students who elect a “First Year Experience” with a service component participate in courses with defined community service elements throughout their collegiate careers.
“This award affirms the important work we are doing at Dominguez Hills and how much we value our communities,” said Cheryl McKnight, director of SLICE. “Hopefully, this award will inspire others to value community service as an important teaching practice as well as for the transformational qualities it provides our students.”
CSU Dominguez Hills was named to the President’s Honor Roll “with Distinction” list in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and last year was a finalist for the Presidential Award.
SLICE also houses the JusticeCorps program, the Volunteer Center, and the AmeriCorps Jumpstart program, where students mentor Compton preschoolers for reading, math and language acquisition. Communities surrounding the university have one of the lowest high school graduation rates in California; however nearly 200 Dominguez Hills students have answered the call by enrolling in Jumpstart.
Other community service activities CSUDH students have participated in or continue to work on include collecting hygiene and first aid supplies and preparing ready to eat meals for the homeless in Long Beach and on Los Angeles’ skid row; restoration of a native habitat for the Palos Verdes blue butterfly; collecting cellphones for military personnel, and eyeglasses for the Lions Club; teaching conflict resolution to local school children; and providing theater performances at local schools to educate children about cultural and environmental issues.
Sergio Pineda, Jumpstart’s coordinator and a CSUDH alumnus, founded the program on campus in 2010. As a student, he was very involved with SLICE and community service. He believes service learning and volunteering not only motivates CSUDH students to succeed, but move on to jobs within the communities they serve after graduation.
“Community service provides meaningful opportunities that help foster a network of citizens interested in the well-being of our communities in need, and increases the self-efficacy of students participating in service,” said Pineda. “Having a direct connection to the community that emphasizes observational learning enables students to trust in their ability to make a difference in the world.”
CSUDH student Xavier Pineda, a criminal justice major, works as a student ambassador in SLICE assisting students, overseeing the center’s operations, and organizing special events. As a student, he has participated in various community service events, including working with children, joining community clean ups, and helping distribute food at a local food bank. He has also worked for Jumpstart and has served the community as a Latino Student Business Association team member.
“I enjoy helping the community because it is a very rewarding feeling knowing that I can help those who need it the most,” said Xavier. “By giving back to my community, I believe I am part of a progressive movement that can help better our society. Being part of such a great team and helping the less fortunate is not only an amazing experience, but also gratifying.”
Sergio’s involvement in community service began at a time when he was searching for more direction in his life.
“When I first came to the Center for Service Learning as a human services student looking for an internship, I instantaneously knew that I found my place at the university, but at the time I didn’t know why,” he said. “As I started to get more involved, I developed a sense of awareness that I had only read about in my textbooks. Before I became involved with community service, I was going through an identity crisis, but my direct connection to the community allowed me to examine my character, my understanding of the world, and ultimately shape my self-identity.”
Click here for video, fact sheet and more community service information.