Courier News: RVCC students make a difference in the community through service

Monday, February 11, 2019
andrew arce at animal shelter

Lori Moog, Raritan Valley Community College
Published 9:00 a.m. ET Jan. 8, 2019

Editor's note: The Branchburg-based Raritan Valley Community College celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. An ongoing monthly series of stories will highlight different aspects of the college and its role in the life of the Central Jersey community.

Every year, hundreds of college students make a difference in the community through Raritan Valley Community College’s (RVCC) Service Learning Program. RVCC’s nationally recognized program enables students to use community service as part of the classroom experience and receive academic credit for their service. Students serve many different kinds of organizations—from non-profits, to public schools, to government agencies.

Annually, students contribute the economic equivalent of over $1 million in service to more than 250 community partners. In a five-year period, students have contributed the economic equivalent of over $5 million to the community, making the College widely regarded as an important and reliable community partner.

“Service learning students from RVCC have proven to be an asset through their years of volunteering at the center. The volunteers are great role models and raise the spirit of each child as they assist with homework or any other classroom activity. The center staff would not have been able to give individualized attention to each child if it were not for the service learning students from RVCC,” said Rajni Chopra, executive director of the Martin Luther King Youth Center in Bridgewater.

Other examples of community organizations assisted by RVCC service learning students include preK-12 schools, environmental centers, nursing homes and adult day care centers, courthouses, foodbanks, and homeless, domestic violence and animal shelters. Students learn about important community issues while helping diverse populations that include low-income residents, immigrants, disabled, homeless, elderly, animals, at-risk children and youth.

The advantages to the community organization are numerous. Students provide assistance without financial cost, helping the organization improve services to its clients and the community while lessening the staff’s workload.

“The members and staff of the Adult Day Center have benefited in so many ways from our RVCC service learning students. Not only do they lend extra hands for our daily programs, they also bring a fresh perspective and a desire to learn from and help others in their community. It truly is a wonderful partnership from which everyone gains,” said Diann Robinson, executive director of the Adult Day Care Center of Somerset County.

RVCC’s efforts to improve the quality of life for its neighbors have been recognized beyond the local community. Since 1998, the College has received national recognition for its leadership role in advancing service learning. Most recently, the Service Learning Program students received the 2018 Governor’s Jefferson Award for outstanding service to the community. Since 2006, the College has been named to the President’s Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction for the development of quality service learning opportunities for students and collaborative contributions to the community. The collaborative efforts with non-profits, government agencies and public schools were further recognized with the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. RVCC was one of nine community colleges nationwide—and the only community college in New Jersey—to receive the Carnegie honor.

Several RVCC service learning students also have received the Newman Civic Fellowship. The national award recognizes and supports community-committed students who are change-makers and public problem-solvers at Campus Compact member institutions. Newman Civic Fellows are provided with training and resources that nurture their assets and passions, helping them develop strategies for social change.

Students who participate in the College’s Service Leaning Program benefit in a number of ways. The program is an extension of the students’ classroom experience, teaching students how to become active, caring citizens. It validates the positive ways students can contribute to their communities by becoming leaders in solving public problems with community partners.

“No matter how busy my schedule is during the semester, finding time to volunteer at the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter is something I can always turn to in times of stress,” said service learning student Camryn Fedeli of Ringoes. “Service learning lets you take a moment to stop worrying about yourself and focus on the good feeling that comes from helping others in need, whether it’s people or animals.”