Center for Civic Engagement at UMass Dartmouth Receives Service Learning Leader Award from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

UMass Dartmouth recognized for expansion of Service Learning in the region and LEADS program in Fall River and New Bedford public school systems

The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education recognized the outstanding efforts of the Center for Civic Engagement at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth at its' annual statewide conference on service learning on May 4 at the College of Holy Cross in Worchester.   

The Center for Civic Engagement is part of the University's School of Education, Public Policy, and Civic Engagement, which works to improve educational attainment levels in the region through teacher education, education policy changes, and civic engagement.

This award recognizes an outstanding institution of higher education whose representative's partner with public schools in order to promote service-learning, civic engagement and community improvement.  Kristen McKinnon, Service-Learning Specialist for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said, "It is clear that you provide leadership for K-12 students and faculty in your region to engage in high-quality service-learning. Your enthusiasm and dedication to this work serves as a model for others to follow."

Service learning is a way of teaching that involves students in "real life" projects that benefit the community. It is a teaching and learning approach that integrates community service with academic study to enrich learning, teaches civic responsibility, and strengthens communities. Dr. Matthew Roy, Director of the Center for Civic Engagement, said, "Service learning helps students get involved in their communities at a young age, setting them on a path toward active citizenship as adults."

The Center for Civic Engagement is involved in many service learning projects, including placing more than 250 University students in grade schools to assist with literacy issues in the America Reads program.  Quite possibly the biggest undertaking of the Center is to see that every University of Massachusetts Dartmouth student has the opportunity to be involved in a service learning class prior to graduation.  Projects mentioned during the ceremony included the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and the LEADS program.  

In the VITA project, UMass business students assist low income community members with filing taxes. This past year, New Bedford residents were the beneficiary of more than $1.4 million in earned income tax credits due to VITA.  

LEADS (Leadership for Educational Attainment Developed through Service) is a program designed and developed by Dr. Roy.  The program places University students in the Fall River and New Bedford Public school systems teaching leadership through community service projects.  Grade school children have done projects like starting a food pantry, having a hunger banquet, planting community gardens, and producing educational videos. 

"The award is great because it recognizes our hard work, but the real reward will be when some of these young people engaged by University students choose to stay in school, become productive adults, and give back to our community," Dr. Roy said.


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