Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA
General Community Service Presidential Award
With a service-learning program dating back to 1991, Gettysburg College prepares its graduates to be “active leaders and participants in a changing world.” Students don’t have to go far to see firsthand this changing world—or be a positive force in it.
With rising unemployment and housing costs, the youth of Adams County are at risk of poor community attachment, depression, and violence. With representatives on task forces communicating regularly with social service agencies, Gettysburg provides the kind of support its community needs and asks for.
For example, one in every four families is food insecure. Through the Food Justice in Adams County initiative, Gettysburg students distributed more than 12,000 pounds of food, coordinated donations with local organizations, and took shopping trips with families. They’ve also published a student-conducted assessment of the Healthy Options voucher program in a peer-reviewed journal.
Gettysburg students also support Adams County’s migrant farmworkers. For over 25 years, students have provided one-on-one after-school tutoring and ESL lessons and coordinated a soccer league, swimming lessons, and fall festivals that celebrate the harvest. “It’s not the traditional notion of helping those who are less fortunate,” says Kim Davidson, Interim Director of the Center for Public Service. “It’s more of a partnership.”
For instance, in photography classes taught by Gettysburg students, migrant workers photographed their lives and exhibited their works in a show, “Retratos/Portraits,” that has traveled across Adams County. "We are telling the truth with these pictures," Oscar Lopez, a migrant worker whose work was highlighted, told The Evening Sun, a local newspaper that covered the show. "The truth is that we are hard workers. We are the people who bring food to the table.”
Another area in which Gettysburg has a longtime commitment is the education of local elementary and high school students. Today, more than 370 Gettysburg students provide mentoring and tutoring services to young learners, 70 percent of whom are living in poverty. It’s an experience these Gettysburg students will carry on to their future careers: Eighty-five percent are involved in K-12 education programs.
At Gettysburg College, 72 percent of students engage in community service—and the students themselves are a big part of the reason why. During the school year, 22 students each work nine hours a week to connect their peers with projects developed through engagement with community organizations and faculty who are using service learning in the classroom.
“Students are the energy, and they’re the ones who make it all happen,” says Kim Davidson.