Weber State University is currently in the spotlight for receiving two national service awards.
The Corporation for National and Community Service has named WSU to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for exemplary service for the sixth consecutive year.
Also, WSU junior Patricia Erdman will receive the Newman Civic Fellows Award Monday.
These distinctions came as no surprise to Brenda Kowalewski, director of WSU’s Community Involvement Center. She attributes the large amount of community service to the number of ways WSU promotes and encourages civic involvement.
“Weber’s mission lends itself to service,” Kowalewski said. “Higher education runs the gamut. Some schools are entirely devoted to research or other things, but at Weber, our mission is to prepare people to be involved, active members of their communities.”
According to information gathered by the CIC, 75 percent of WSU students who were required to do community service for a class said that they were very likely to volunteer again, and some students just keep on volunteering once they’ve started.
Kowalewski shared how Erdman began the service project she will be honored for.
Erdman lived in a low-income neighborhood where many families didn’t have enough to eat. Three years ago, when Erdman had to do community service for her COMM 2110 class, she mobilized a group of students with the goal of getting food for those in her neighborhood who were in need.
Erdman spearheaded the effort, working out an arrangement with Smith’s Foods. Then, every day for the rest of the semester, Erdman and members of her group picked up carloads of baked goods from Smith’s Foods stores and distributed them among the needy.
When the semester was over, Patricia could have assumed the service was over, too, Kowalewski said. Instead, she continued her food security project and operations increased to the point where she was delivering whole pallets of frozen foods to apartment buildings, enough to feed the residents for three weeks. On Monday, Patricia will receive the Newman Civic Fellows Award for her ongoing efforts.
Erdman’s project has now served over 5,000 low-income families, according to her profile for the award.
While Erdman’s commitment is exemplary and far from the norm, Kowalewski said other WSU students who volunteer for just a few days experience the same fulfillment.
“The lessons taught are priceless,” Kowalewski said. “It’s learning that benefits the entire community . . . The best way to learn is through application, and application through service is the way to learn things that you will never forget.”
WSU student Brandon Moss is one of 7,077 other WSU students who volunteered in community service projects during the 2010-2011 academic year, according to the CIC.
“Ever since I served a mission for my church, I’ve gone after service opportunities,” Moss said. “There’s just something about the feeling you get helping someone that you can’t get any other way.”
Kowalewski said WSU faculty and administration also serve as role models of civic engagement for students.
“Administration is wonderful at building structures that facilitate that work,” Kowalewski said. “Establishing the Community Involvement Center was a deliberate, voluntary effort our administration undertook to make it even easier for students to be involved.”
Weber State partners with over 90 non-profit organizations to provide service to the community. Students can learn more about civic engagement and community service at WSU at http://www.weber.edu/communityinvolvement.