Calvin placed on Presidential Honor Roll for Service-Learning

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Last year, 2,200 Calvin students contributed more than 55,000 hours of community service to the Calvin community. This participation, as well as a high emphasis on service-learning throughout Calvin’s curriculum and student life, garnered Calvin College a place on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the 2012-2013 school year.

“Receiving this award is another reminder, to ourselves, our partners and the larger society, of what Calvin College values,” said Jeff Bouman, director of Calvin’s service-learning center.

The Community Service Honor Roll began in 2006 to honor higher education institutions that found ways of integrating service throughout both the curriculum and the college experience.

Five colleges each year are awarded a Presidential Award for their community service involvement, and a few hundred other colleges are placed on an accompanying Honor Roll. Calvin was one of fifteen colleges from Michigan who received a place on the list.

The recognition highlights how central service-learning is to an education at Calvin. The Service-Learning Center gives students a chance to get connected with any of 213 local agency partners, volunteering their time doing everything from English as a second language tutoring to environmental research.

Service-learning has even been integrated into freshman orientation, culminating in “Streetfest,” where students partner with local agencies for a day.

But service-learning is not just extra-curricular; it also impacts the classroom experience. “Service-learning, for nearly 50 years now has been an engine that enables theory to touch practice,” said Bouman.

Indeed, service-learning offers students experience in practical ways with placements like classroom aiding or language tutoring. In fact, 153 classes require some form of service-learning. This may look like a biology class identifying and removing an invasive species in a nearby ecosystem, or a Spanish student improving her language abilities by volunteering at a bilingual school.

“I hear stories every day about how Calvin College students’ learning has been enhanced through service-learning opportunities,” said Bouman. “Their language learning; their nursing practice; their teaching skills; their ability to critically comprehend complex issues like immigration, wage theft, illiteracy, community development and organizing for change — all of these and many more are practical and theoretical skills that service-learning placements enable and encourage.”

Being placed on the Honor Roll, then, is an encouraging reminder of what Calvin does well. “Recognition like this award encourages us to continue creatively and effectively engaging with community partners,” Bouman concludes.

Through service-learning, Calvin students are giving back to their community and preparing for their futures at the same time. Calvin’s place on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll is only one recognition of the program’s effectiveness. If you ask students who have participated in service-learning, they could probably give you about 55,000 more.