U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The U.S. Air Force Academy was placed on the 2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll March 4 in recognition of its community support.
One of several institutions honored by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Academy was cited for its achievements in general community service or in one of two special focus areas that align with the president's education and innovation priorities.
The Community Service Honor Roll is the highest federal recognition a college 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.
During the 2011-2012 academic year, cadets collectively volunteered 38,025 hours of community service on hundreds of different projects and events, as part of the Cadet Service Learning Program, said Lt. Col. Chuck Rinkevich, the assistant director of integration and outreach at the Academy's Center for Character and Leadership Development, which oversees the Cadet Service Learning program.
"Community Service and the concept of service learning are part of the Academy's efforts to offer cadet character development programs which emphasize one of the Academy's central core values, service before self," Rinkevich said. "The Cadet Service Learning program attempts to take this core value from the theoretical concepts of the classroom to actual experiences with the goal of a lifelong internalized volunteer ethic and understanding of the value of serving others, particularly in the area of community service."
Some of those efforts were small, with just a few cadets helping out at an elementary school or public event. Some, however, were massive in scale, such as the Academy's first community outreach day.
For the community outreach day, 1,535 cadets took part in 28 different projects throughout Colorado Springs, resulting in more than 6,000 hours of community service.
Another project targeted the continuing aftermath of the Waldo Canyon Fire. In September, just weeks after the fire scorched more than 18,000 acres in and along the western edge of Colorado Springs, cadets and faculty members provided help with cleanup and erosion control efforts. Academy personnel plan to return to Blodgett Peak for more fire mitigation in May.
"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. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "Civic engagement should be a key component of every student's education 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."
The cadets' community service efforts continue later this month with the Academy's Alternative Spring Break program, as approximately 60 cadets will spend their spring break building homes for needy families in Des Moines, Iowa; Oklahoma City; Phoenix; Santa Fe, N.M.; and Houston, as part of several Habitat for Humanity projects.
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