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Press Release: Center for Civic Engagement receives $471,000 Learn and Serve America Grant

Center for Civic Engagement receives $471,000 Learn and Serve America Grant

Project will engage 1,500 students from all UMass campuses in statewide community service designed to also enhances their learning

Author:  John Hoey
Date:  August 5, 2009
Department:   News & Public Information
UMass Dartmouth's Center for Civic Engagement has won a $471,000 Learn and Serve America grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service. The grant, one of 36 awarded around the country, will support a statewide UMass effort entitled, "Building on the Promise: Strengthening Our University/Community Ties," that will engage 1,500 students from all five UMass campuses in community service projects that are embedded in their college courses.

U.S. Senators John F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy announced the grant today along with grants to Tufts University/Campus Compact and the Massachusetts Department of Education. It is anticipated that the  UMass project will attract more than $1.4 million in federal funding over the next three years.

"With this grant, we will be able to introduce more students to service-learning, a proven education method that promotes community service while enhancing students' academic and civic skills," said UMass President Jack M. Wilson. "Service learning helps students get involved in their communities at a young age, setting them on a path toward active citizenship as adults."

UMass Dartmouth's recently established School of Education, Public Policy, and Civic Engagement led the grant writing effort and will administer the project. Sub-grants will engage the Amherst, Boston, Lowell, and Worcester campuses in the project, making this project the most far-reaching higher education-based community service effort ever undertaken in Massachusetts.

"Community engagement is part of UMass Dartmouth's DNA so we are very excited to be leading this project and working with our colleagues throughout UMass to have a transformative impact on the lives of communities and citizens all across the Commonwealth,'' said UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack. Chancellor MacCormack is the co-chair of the Massachusetts Campus Compact, which works to engage higher education students, staff and faculty in community service, and recently moderated Governor Deval Patrick's online forum on civic engagement.

Dr. Matthew Roy (see photo), Director of UMass Dartmouth's Center For Civic Engagement, said the project will be a model for universities and colleges all across America. "We are going to connect 1,500 UMass students and 20 community organizations with people and neighborhoods from the SouthCoast to the Merrimack Valley, and from Boston to Worcester to the Pioneer Valley,'' Roy said. "We are excited to see the positive impact our students are going to have on the Commonwealth through these experiences and equally excited to witness the value these experiences will bring to the students' education."

John Reiff, the Director of the Office of Community Service Learning at UMass Amherst, said, "Each of the five UMass campuses has developed particular strengths in different areas of service-learning and civic engagement.  I look forward to our campus benefiting from access to the strengths of the other four, just as I look forward to sharing with the other campuses the models for student leadership in service-learning that we have been able to develop through Commonwealth College and Honors CSL courses."

Joan Arches, Professor of Sociology and Social Work at UMass Boston, said, "In these tough economic times, we must make sure that our state universities are doing everything we can to strengthen education and prepare students for the future.  This grant is designed to assist the entire UMass system in preparing students to be strong contributors to the Commonwealth."

Linda Silka, Director of the Center for Family, Work and Community, said, "Over the last two years, the five UMass campuses have come together and looked for ways to work together that will make a difference for our students and for the Commonwealth.  The awarding of this grant reflects the national leadership the UMass system is showing in how to work together."

"This initiative, Building on the Promise, captures the commitment each of our campuses has to serving residents of the Commonwealth through excellence in education and leadership," said  Suzanne Cashman, Professor and Director of Community Health, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, UMass Medical School. "While UMass Worcester's health professions students have long contributed to improving the health of Worcester residents, this grant initiative will help us learn from our sister campuses additional ways of incorporating service and service-learning into our curricula."

The grant will support the expansion of activities such as:

* Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) where UMass business students assist low income community members with filing taxes. This past year, New Bedford residents were the beneficiary of more than $1 million in earned income tax credits due to VITA.  

* The Workers Education Program, which is designed to educate and re-tool citizens to compete for  21st century jobs.  UMass students, acting as tutors, will help expand these educational opportunities.

* LEADS,  a Commonwealth Corp program that teaches leadership to middle school children through community service projects.  The program was piloted in the Fall River and New Bedford middle schools this past year.  This grant allows for the expansion of that program to middle schools throughout the state.

The 5-campus, 60,000-student, 400,000-alumni University of Massachusetts is the nation's only system of public higher education in which every campus has earned the prestigious Carnegie Community Engagement Classification.  Dr. Roy noted the strength of this statewide collaboration.  "Most state university systems haven't found effective ways to have individual campuses work together.  This grant shows that the UMass system is ahead of the curve and will become a model throughout the U.S. for ways to collaborate and build bridges between community and university."

Competition for Learn and Serve America grants is extremely challenging. The review process is multi-layered and thorough, resulting in only 1 in 10 applicants being funded.  The success of the "Building on the Promise" project will be measured by three key indicators: a civic engagement index, which measures university student interests in and aptitude for community involvement; educational improvement levels among our grade schools;  and employment figures in our inner cities.  Process measures will include stakeholder surveys, interviews with key informants, and focus groups. In addition, the number of hours served and dollars saved through certain programs will be calculated.

Learn and Serve America is the federal program that supports service-learning in schools, higher education institutions, and community-based organizations across the country. Learn and Serve America is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that also oversees Senior Corps and AmeriCorps. For more information, visit http://www.nationalservice.gov.






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