Nazareth College, Rochester, NY
Special Focus: Early Childhood Education Presidential Award
For the past 21 years, fall orientation at Nazareth College has kicked off with a day of service. The school manages liability for service placements, provides or coordinates transportation to most sites, and formally considers service in the admissions process.
“Service is ingrained into Nazareth’s culture,” says Nuala Boyle. Boyle heads Nazareth’s Center for Civic Engagement, which helps the college integrate civic engagement into its curricula through partnerships with organizations like Discovery Charter School (DCS), a newly opened school serving high-needs elementary students.
Last year, 25 DCS students participated in a summer program called “Horizons at Nazareth.” These students gained skills in literacy, the arts, socialization, and science, technology, engineering, and math. According to literacy assessments, DCS summer students made academic gains. Anecdotal evidence and family surveys point to gains in self-confidence, social skills, and interest in learning, too.
In a city where only 46 percent of youth graduate from high school, Nazareth students are helping elementary students prepare for college. As part of the college’s 20 years of collaboration with Partners for Learning (PFL), 40 Nazareth graduate students taught math and reading skills and hosted a campus tour that exposed young participants to college classes, majors, facilities, and future employment opportunities. DCS teacher assessments report that PFL is meeting needs and increasing academic success rates.
Another program with DCS—Literacy Assessment, Program Planning, and Assistive Technology for Diverse Learners—gave Nazareth graduate students the opportunity to see research-based instruction play out into meaningful growth in the classroom. Forty Nazareth graduate students evaluated the methodologies that impact K-6 learners, then designed and taught lessons using techniques tailored to strengthen the literacy skills of individual DCS students.
What does the future hold for service and experiential learning at Nazareth? A new core curriculum requires all students to complete at least one experiential learning opportunity—and these opportunities are continually expanding. At the beginning of each school year, 500 students go out into the community to make connections with local organizations like Mary’s Place, an outreach center where Nazareth students provide tutoring and other services to human rights refugees, who arrive in Rochester at a rate of 800 per month.
You don’t really have to ask to get people involved in service learning, experiential learning, or scholarship of engagement at Nazareth, says Adam Lewandowski, Nazareth’s director of community service. “People get it.”