CU students are working to make their communities a better place, said Peter Simons, director of CU’s Institute for Ethical and Civic Engagement.
In the 2007-2008 academic year, over 13,000 CU students involved in academic programs, co-curricular programs and student organizations were actively engaged in community service, Simons said.
“Students are working hand-in-hand with the community and addressing the needs that the community identifies,” Simons said.
He estimates that in the most recent 2007 count, there were about 125 to 150 CU classes that included some type of service learning component. However, Simons said he thinks that in the last two years, the number of classes involving civic engagement has continued to grow. He said there is a steadily growing number of faculty members, CU administration, individual colleges and residential academic programs that have started to support and advocate for students’ involvement in their community by requiring they take service learning classes.
While Simons said that service learning classes help provide students with a “strong skill set for their resumes and looking for jobs,” he also noted the importance of students’ ability to take what they are learning in class and apply it as they give back to their community.
“Our position is that it’s the responsibility of everyone who is a citizen to be engaged in one way or another,” Simons said.
Freshman psychology major Jamie Rivera said she agrees with Simons about the importance of students’ involvement in giving back to their own community.
“If we don’t give back to our community, it’s going to fall apart,” Rivera said. “We’re all a part of the community and we all have to make an effort to help it.”
Rivera, who is currently taking the Nutrition, Health and Performance class through the Farrand Residential Academic Program, volunteers at Growing Gardens to fill her service learning component. Growing Gardens is located in northern Boulder, and Rivera is one of many students who volunteer to help harvest the organic gardens in order to supply fruits and vegetables for homeless shelters and community members in need.
Like Rivera, freshman psychology major Janelle De Gree volunteers at Growing Gardens. However, Degree said she is not sure that requiring students to participate in service learning classes motivates them to take part in community service projects in their futures.
“I think it is important to take service learning-oriented classes but it should be an option and not something that is required; it’s not fun if it’s forced,” Degree said.
Simons said he doesn’t think CU has ever conducted any type of post-graduation survey to see if service learning-based classes encouraged students to participate in civic engagement after college. However, he said many CU alumni keep in touch with the service-oriented programs they were involved in during college and inform them of the work they do in order to better their communities.
If there is one thing Simons said he hopes students learn through these classes, it is that they understand the importance of civic engagement.
“We all have a responsibility in one way or another to help out our community, and the more involved our citizens are, the healthier and stronger our democracy and local and global communities are as a whole,” Simmons said.
For more information on CU’s academic programs and other groups that promote civic engagement, visit the Institute for Ethic and Civic Engagement’s Web site.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Mindy Rappoport at Mindy.firstname.lastname@example.org.