Stetson Honored for Community Service
Stetson University student Tumas Williams chased around 30 children behind the Chisholm Community Center in DeLand, helping them burn off energy before they started on their homework.
Williams volunteers two days a week at the after-school program at the Chisholm Center and three days a week for the Boys and Girls Club in the Spring Hill section of DeLand, one of the poorest areas in Volusia County.
Stetson students performed more than 130,000 hours of community service in 2014-2015, helping Stetson earn national recognition recently on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
More than 800 colleges and universities apply for the Honor Roll each year and Stetson is the only one in the country to receive the recognition “with distinction” in all four categories two years in a row, said Savannah-Jane Griffin, director of Community Engagement and Inclusive Excellence at Stetson’s Center for Community Engagement.
“We are really excited to be recognized for the work we’re doing,” she said. “Community engagement is embedded in Stetson’s mission and values.”
In applying for the President’s Honor Roll, Stetson highlighted the Bonner Scholar Program, part of a national program that awards scholarships to students who can’t otherwise afford college in exchange for them performing 10 hours of community service a week.
Williams, a sophomore from Nashville, Tennessee, is a Bonner Scholar and does his 10 hours of community service each week at the Chisholm Center. In his own time, he volunteers three more days a week for the Boys and Girls Club.
“I just love helping kids and helping with homework and hanging out and playing with them,” said Williams, a sports business major who’d like to work for the Orlando City Soccer Club after graduation. “It’s really cool to just be involved in the community and it’s really good for the kids because they get to hang around good role models.”
Stetson senior Patrick Ball of DeLand has volunteered at Chisholm as a Bonner Scholar for three years and enjoys teaching the kids about health and wellness.
“The thing that surprised me is I’ve been able to learn a lot more from the kids than the other way around – life lessons, you could say – things like persistence, resilience and problem-solving,” said Ball, a biology major.
Stetson has a long tradition of encouraging students to volunteer in the community. The college, for example, organizes 10 days of community service for students each academic year, including on national Make a Difference Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Its accounting majors and other students offer free tax assistance to low-income families each spring. And its education majors and faculty provide hundreds of volunteer hours in local schools.
Former Stetson President H. Doug Lee made community service a top priority and opened the Center for Community Engagement in 2007. He also started the Bonner Scholar Program that same year, starting with 15 students and growing to 70 students next fall, Griffin said. Current Stetson President Wendy B. Libby, Ph.D., has built on those efforts and dedicated even more resources to them.
The Center for Community Engagement has applied for the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll every year since 2007, she said. Stetson has been honored every year, and honored “with distinction” for the past two years in all four categories: General Community Service, Interfaith Community Service, Economic Opportunity, and Education.
“It basically shows we are living our values and we practice what we preach,” she said. “I think higher education institutions have a responsibility to use the resources we have on campus to solve complex problems locally and globally.”