University of Connecticut
University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
General Community Service Presidential Award
Responding to disparities in economics, educational achievement, and access to health care, UConn faces a “challenge” other institutions envy: “Student interest exceeds our capacity, at least for now,” says Matt Farley, UConn’s associate director for community outreach. “It’s a good problem to have.”
In 2011-12, UConn’s Community Outreach saw increases of 278 percent in student participation and 540 percent in service hours compared to the rate in 2003. Today, 20 percent of UConn’s Academic Plan focuses on public engagement. Other sections consider service learning, community service, and community-based research as priority areas. UConn’s exemplary model attracts students to participate in diverse projects that benefit surrounding communities, impacting all 169 of Connecticut’s municipalities. But the true reach of UConn’s service commitment extends much further.
One story illustrates UConn’s connection to the community. Recently, five children in Congo were reunited with their mother, who fled the country in an effort to save her own life. The reunion was engineered by two students participating in UConn’s School of Law Asylum and Human Rights Clinic. Each year, 20 students spend at least 30 hours per week working on high-stakes cases involving clients who have fled political, religious or other persecution by another country. They include victims of torture, threats, and sexual and gender-based violence. In 2012, students helped secure asylum for 13 individuals from various parts of the world.
Closer to home, UConn’s Husky Sport program has been a game changer for elementary-age youth and teens in Hartford’s North End for nearly 10 years. During and after school, on weekends and over the summer, Husky Sport volunteers and staff lead several positive, sports-based youth development experiences. Hartford youth are exposed not only to the benefits of friendly competition, but also to healthy nutrition choices, valuable life skills, and academic support. In fact, HS’s Read & Raise initiative inspired area students to read 10,000 books.
High school youth, meanwhile, take steps toward prosperous futures through Husky Outreach for Leadership Development, Understanding and Pride (HOLDUP!). UConn volunteers present HOLDUP! workshops twice a week focusing on study skills, communication, anger management, healthy relationships, and life after graduation. Participating high school students come from low-income households, have academic or behavioral concerns, and are potential first-generation college students. Last year, 20 UConn student leaders accrued 880 hours of service helping 140 high school students. The program is helping to narrow Connecticut’s education achievement gap.
Looking forward, UConn remains focused on expanding its service offerings to accommodate student demand and fulfill its mission to “cultivate leadership, integrity and engaged citizenship in our students, faculty, staff and alumni.”