A CSUN student has organized over eight projects within the past six months that have benefited a segment of the campus community, and he hopes to reach out to more people in search of his specific message.
Joe Gurney, a senior majoring in recreation and tourism management, is the CSUN chapter president of Colleges Against Cancer, an organization in partnership with the American Cancer Society.
“We have an event at least once a month,” said Gurney. “I’ve been able to touch hundreds of people through Colleges Against Cancer.”
The work of Gurney and other campus volunteers has lead to the recognition of CSUN by the White House on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Beatriz Trejo, activities coordinator for the Matador Involvement Center, works with student clubs, organizations and individuals interested in becoming involved in community service.
CSUN’s strong commitment to community involvement has also lead to honors like the President’s Volunteer Service Award, granted in October ’06.
Trejo said many clubs and organizations work with her and the involvement center to find community service projects that will enrich their experiences.
There are also opportunities for individual students to receive scholarships through participation in community service activities.
“Through the AmeriCorps-Students in Service program, students can participate in community service in exchange for an educational stipend,” said Trejo. “For that you must complete between 300 and 900 hours of service.”
Faculty and staff at CSUN are also participating in community service efforts.
Merri Whitelock, managing director of community engagement, often works in partnership with Trejo and the involvement center to expand the scope of community service on campus.
Whitelock works with faculty to organize programs and activities that lead to a well-rounded college community.
“We work with faculty to provide them with the tools to engage their students with community service learning,” said Whitelock. “We develop the pedagogy of service learning.”
Bringing the message of service to the classroom is one way that faculty promotes the importance of getting involved. They also serve through individualized programs that allow for specific needs to be met within the community.
Whitelock said that programs like the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which provides tax return assistance to low-income individuals, allows different departments to get involved, as the Accounting Department has with VITA.
There are ongoing efforts to “support faculty in their community engagements,” said Whitelock.
Whitelock said she hopes that the presidential awards will motivate CSUN to participate in community service on a larger scale, as the prestigious Special Achievement Award is grated to the institution known for “outstanding service,” given this year to CSU Fresno.
For large-scale community service participation to happen at CSUN, more awareness of specific organizations is needed.
“What frustrates me is that we have a wonderful organization here, and so many people who have cancer still don’t know about it,” said Gurney.