Andra Wilkinson is one of 13,397 reasons the University of Colorado at Boulder is one of only three colleges and universities in the United States to receive a Presidential Award for General Community Service.
More than 530 universities and colleges competed in the 2007 awards program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a government agency in Washington, D.C. A total of 127 other schools received a "with distinction" designation and 391 were named to the honor roll, the agency announced today.
An estimated 13,397 CU-Boulder students participate in some form of community service and 3,512 are engaged in academic service-learning, a teaching strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction.
"The University of Colorado at Boulder is honored by this award," said CU-Boulder Chancellor G.P. "Bud" Peterson. "We have a commitment to civic and ethical engagement that goes back more than four decades, when CU-Boulder students answered President John F. Kennedy's call to service by joining the Peace Corps in record numbers. Today, through efforts such as those marshaled by our Institute for Ethical and Civic Engagement, we continue in that tradition, challenging our students to transform themselves, their communities and the world."
The Presidential Award for General Community Service was given to CU-Boulder, the University of Pennsylvania and Otterbein College in Columbus, Ohio.
The award was presented to Peterson at the 90th annual meeting of the American Council on Education in San Diego, held Feb. 9-12, and includes a certificate signed by President Bush. Attending the award ceremony with Peterson were Michael Grant, associate vice chancellor for undergraduate education, and CU-Boulder student Wilkinson, a 20-year-old junior and graduate of Lakewood High School, who is a stellar example of what the award is all about, according to Peter Simons, director of the CU-Boulder Institute for Ethical and Civic Engagement.
"Andra exemplifies the passion that many of our students have for the importance of being socially responsible and civically engaged citizens," Simons said. "I'd also like to add that this award is a testament to the many faculty, staff and students at CU-Boulder who dedicate their time and expertise to helping our communities and to making ethical and civic engagement a defining characteristic of our educational community."
The purpose of the IECE, founded in 2005, is to encourage and nurture ethical and civic education at CU-Boulder, to prepare students for a lifetime of service to society as thoughtful, ethical and engaged citizens. It oversees seven programs and offers financial support to faculty members who integrate civic engagement into their coursework and academic projects. To date, IECE has funded the development and implementation of 21 civic engagement courses and projects.
Wilkinson volunteers at a health clinic primarily for Spanish-speaking patients, serves as a tri-chair of the Women's Resource Center advisory board and founded a campus discussion group for men to actively oppose sexual assault and rape. She is also an honors student, member of the President's Leadership Class and an El Pomar Scholar.
Some of her previous volunteer activities include working at a Minnesota camp for youth impacted by HIV/AIDS; shaving her head in support of and to raise money for pediatric oncology patients; working with others to build a house for an indigent family in Juarez, Mexico; participating in the Global Leadership Program with students from all over the world in Prague, Czech Republic; and tutoring Spanish-speaking elementary, middle and high school students at the Family Learning Center in Boulder.
"My outside work relates to what I'm passionate about, so what I'm studying is going to relate to what I'm pursuing outside of the classroom." she said. "It's not just giving, it's absolutely a mutual benefit. You can't overstate the power of an experience."
In addition to finding a passion, an important second step is to act on it, she said. This is "the idea of being accountable for what you're passionate about. A lot of students are passionate but think that the problems will get solved by someone else."
Wilkinson is a Puksta Scholar, a program in which CU-Boulder undergraduates develop and implement an intensive yearlong civic engagement project. One of Wilkinson's passions is women's health care in developing countries. When she learned that another Puksta Scholar was working on providing clean water in developing countries, she thought, "That's going to help my work."
"We get energy from each other's pursuits and you get this beautiful interconnecting of ideas and issues that we are working on," Wilkinson said. "It's like oooh -- what are you doing? I want to be a part of that! And it's contagious."
Wilkinson is majoring in integrative physiology with a minor in women and gender studies and the equivalent of a minor in leadership. After graduating in May 2009, she plans to work on women's health in developing countries for two years, then hopes to attend Harvard Medical School's M.D./Ph.D. program with a focus on medical anthropology and women's health.
The CU-Boulder student programs honored by the award from the Corporation for National and Community Service include:
o The Volunteer Clearing House -- One of the first organizations of its kind in the nation, the student-sponsored VCH has worked to fill community needs since 1965. Currently 5,272 students have been linked with volunteer opportunities that best fit their individual interests and have contributed an estimated 211,146 hours of community service.
o Institute for Ethical And Civic Engagement -- Founded in 2005, the IECE's purpose is to nurture and encourage ethical and civic education at CU-Boulder, to prepare students for a lifetime of service to society as thoughtful, ethical and engaged citizens. It oversees seven key programs and has funded the development and implementation of 21 civic engagement courses and projects.
o Engineers Without Borders -- CU-Boulder is home to the founding chapter of EWB-USA, which is dedicated to helping disadvantaged communities worldwide improve their quality of life by building environmentally and economically sustainable engineering projects. Students have worked on projects from Peru to Rwanda to Nepal during the academic year, on breaks and in the summer.
o Puksta Scholars Program -- This nonacademic program provides substantial scholarships and support to approximately 20 students per year who develop and implement intensive yearlong civic engagement projects. Many students report that Puksta has been the most important experience of their college careers. Projects have ranged from developing rooftop gardens to mentoring Muslim high school youth.
Other campus programs recognized by the award include INVST Community Studies; Simply the Best!, an after-school science and technology program for African-American and Latina middle-school girls in Denver's Five Points community and the Peace Corps Recruitment Program. CU-Boulder is ranked third in the nation for the number of alumni currently serving as volunteers.
The Corporation for National and Community Service recognizes institutions of higher education that support innovative, effective and exemplary community service programs. Honorees for the various award levels, including the Presidential Award, are selected based on several factors including the scope and innovativeness of service projects, percentage of student participation in service activities, incentives for service, and the extent to which the school offers academic service-learning courses.
In addition to the schools receiving the Presidential Award for General Community Service, three other schools received a Presidential Award for Service to Youth from Disadvantaged Circumstances. This award was given to Chaminade University of Honolulu, Hawaii; Syracuse University of Syracuse, N.Y.; and the University of Redlands of Redlands, Calif.
The award program is jointly sponsored by the corporation, the Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development, USA Freedom Corps and the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation.
In addition to her other volunteer work, Wilkinson co-founded a women's journal, created innovative advertising for student volunteering, worked to train high school students as peer educators on sexual health and AIDS awareness, and served as co-president of a CU student association for pre-health professionals.
"A quote that really drives me is 'If not you, who? If not now, when?" she said.
To hear an interview with Wilkinson about her community service experiences, go to www.colorado.edu/news/podcasts/. For more information on the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Presidential Award visit www.nationalservice.gov/honorroll.