La Sierra University lands nation’s top service award

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By Darla Martin Tucker
March 4, 2013
La Sierra University President Randal Wisbey, center, photographed earlier today with Corporation for National and Community Service CEO Wendy Spencer and Jonathan Greenblatt, special assistant to President Barack Obama.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( Today, during a ceremony in Washington D.C., La Sierra University, along with four other educational institutions, was named a Presidential Awardee in the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. This distinction is the highest honor a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement. 

La Sierra University President Randal Wisbey received the 2013 Presidential Award from the Corporation for National and Community Service during the annual meeting of the American Council on Education. Jonathan Greenblatt, special assistant to President Barack Obama, and Wendy Spencer, chief executive officer of CNCS presented the awards. Greenblatt is also director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in the Domestic Policy Council.

The recognition commends La Sierra’s achievements in a special focus area, Promise Neighborhoods, which also aligns with President Obama’s education and innovation priorities. La Sierra was cited for its efforts during the 2011-12 school year to aid the region’s residents through various outreach programs including Service-Learning classes, Enactus team activities in economic empowerment, and other civic involvement. Total service hours, including these categories as well as campus service experiences and student missions activities culminated in 1,888 students fulfilling 84,771 hours. For academic Service-Learning classes alone, 899 La Sierra students provided 14,106 hours of service.

“Our university family was delighted to learn we had received this award. Service to others is a key part of La Sierra’s mission and indicative of the Christian ethos that drives our work as a learning community,” said Wisbey. “I am humbled by the way in which students, faculty, and staff daily live out this value through formal and informal outreach efforts to help people in local and global communities. It is wonderful to be recognized for this work, even as we are encouraged to continue to give our very best.”

“Service-Learning at La Sierra University is much more than the simple act of giving back to our community,” commented university Provost Steve Pawluk. “It also aims to help students internalize our university’s conviction that a university education is not only for one’s personal benefit, but to equip each of us to contribute to the greater good.”

La Sierra’s Presidential Award was given for its efforts to improve educational and developmental outcomes for children in distressed areas. Projects undertaken by La Sierra students and faculty included the following: tutoring and mentoring elementary students and fund raising for afterschool programs in the Alvord Unified School District; interactive learning experiences created by biology and communication students in the university’s World Museum of Natural History for Corona-Norco Unified School District students and their parents; murals painted by art students in rehabilitation housing for women and children.

Approximately 50 Corona-Norco Unified School District students and their parents crowded into La Sierra’s World Museum of Natural History on June 9, 2012 to participate in an interactive learning project.“Service Learning between the students at La Sierra University and the elementary or middle school students in Alvord’s After School Programs has been a mutually beneficial and powerful experience for all,” said Carmen Phillips, Alvord’s After School Programs coordinator. “The college students assist, encourage and promote learning, sharing or giving to the younger students in the nearby community.  The younger students look up to and enjoy their time with the college students. They feel important because someone, unrelated to them, is learning about them, willing to assist them, and cares that they succeed.”

“What a huge blessing La Sierra University has been to the women and children in the homes of Sylvia’s Serenity. These students have shown us what a community can do when they come together and what our next generation should be like,” commented Sylvia Hernandez, director of Sylvia's Serenity Sober Living Homes Inc. in Riverside.

“Congratulations to La Sierra University, its faculty and students for its commitment to service, both in and out of the classroom,” said CNCS’s Spencer.  “Through its work, La Sierra is helping to improve the local Riverside community and create a new generation of leaders by challenging students to go beyond the traditional college experience and solve local challenges.”

The other 2013 Presidential Award winners are:  Georgia Perimeter College, Dunwoody, Ga.; Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pa.; and the University of Connecticut, Storrs-Mansfield, Conn.; as well as Nazareth College, Rochester, N.Y., for its Early Childhood Education model. In addition to these schools, a total of 690 higher education institutions were named to the 2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.  Of this number, 113 institutions earned the recognition of Honor Roll with Distinction.

Inspired by the thousands of college students who traveled across the country to support relief efforts along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, CNCS has administered the award since 2006 and manages the program in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as the American Council on Education and Campus Compact.

La Sierra University students assist Corona-Norco Unified School District students in an interactive learning project at La Sierra’s World Museum of Natural History on June 9, 2012.The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll presents the awards annually to colleges and universities around the country. The program is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service in Washington D.C., an independent federal agency. The corporation also administers Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, the Social Innovation Fund and other volunteer programs, and leads President Obama’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve. All together, the corporation’s volunteer programs and initiatives engage more than 4 million Americans in service.

The President’s honor roll program also recognizes colleges and universities in the Honor Roll with Distinction and the Honor Roll categories. La Sierra University has been included in the honor roll program awards each year since an initial award in 2008, most years landing on the Honor Roll with Distinction. This is the first year the university has received the top Presidential Award.

“We wait on pins and needles for months each year after we submit the application to see if we are included among the honored institutions,” said Director of Service-Learning Susan Patt, an art professor at the university. “To now be included in this top tier is the fantastic testimony to how deeply committed our campus community is to service on all levels, from volunteerism to long-term student mission experiences.”

  • Last update on  March 04, 2013