Democracy House at Middlesex County College Wins National Award

Democracy House students at work (Photo courtesy of Middlesex County College)

Democracy House students at work (Photo courtesy of Middlesex County College)

EDISON — Democracy House, the Center for Civic Engagement at Middlesex County College, was named to the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. The award was presented by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

“Congratulations to Middlesex County College, its faculty and students for its commitment to service, both in and out of the classroom,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of CNCS. “Through its work, institutions of higher education are helping improve their local communities and create a new generation of leaders by challenging students to go beyond the traditional college experience and solve local challenges.”

Inspired by the thousands of college students who traveled across the country to support relief efforts along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, CNCS has administered the award since 2006 and manages the program in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as the American Council on Education and Campus Compact. It is the highest federal recognition a school can achieve for its commitment to service learning and civic engagement. Honorees for the award were chosen based on a series of selection factors including scope and innovation 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.

“Communities are strengthened when we all come together, and we are encouraged that these institutions and their students have made service a priority,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Civic engagement should be a key component of every student’s educational experience. Through reaching out to meet the needs of their neighbors, these students are deepening their impact, strengthening our democracy and ultimately preparing themselves to be successful citizens.”

Democracy House began in 1995, and its direct service program brings together nearly 40 students per year who work to better the community. They serve food at area soup kitchens and community cafes, act as big brothers and sisters to children in after school programs, conduct days of service in response to community needs, and mentor Latino high school students in college preparation. The students each spend at least 300 hours per year working on community service projects.

They are not alone. On campuses across the country, millions of college students are engaged in innovative projects to meet local needs, often using the skills learned in classrooms.  In 2012, 3.1 million college students dedicated more than 118 million hours of service across the country — a contribution valued at $2.5 billion.

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