UMass Dartmouth wins national community service innovation challenge

by Auditi Guha, South Coast Today

DARTMOUTH Ñ UMass Dartmouth is one of three institutions nationwide, and the only public university, to win the Higher Education Innovation Challenge grant. The purpose of the challenge was to find the most innovative ideas that integrated service into the higher education experience. Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, said she is impressed with the commitment of the staff and students to service learning and community involvement that won UMass Dartmouth the prestigious award. It “says to the nation that this university places a priority on civic engagement and service learning, that giving back to the community is very important, and it is a great learning opportunity,” she said. The winners, including Drake University and Miami Dade College, were chosen by the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute, the National Conference on Citizenship and the Corporation for National and Community Service, according to a news release. The $30,000 grant will help fund a community health initiative designed by the Leduc Center for Civic Engagement and the College of Nursing. The plan is to create the Community Health Worker Advocate! Navigate! Educate! (CHW-ANE) service year and involve five students starting in the fall. Caitlin Stover in the College of NursingÕs Department of Community Health played a lead role in designing the initiative. “It’s pretty exciting because it was an opportunity to be as creative as you wanted to be,” she said. “We want to increase the number of community health workers in the SouthCoast region so we are going to recruit College Now students in UMass Dartmouth, provide them with in-class training and have them spend 12 months doing 1,000 hours of service in the community.” Students in the College Now program, which helps students transition from high school to college, will be trained as community health workers to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of care. Five students will participate in the first year and receive academic credit for their service and tuition waivers, the release stated. “Our Community Health Worker service year program is designed to empower students from our community to improve the health and well-being of our community by working with populations that need assistance in understanding healthy life choices or navigating the health care system. It will be transformational for students and community alike,” said Matthew Roy, assistant vice chancellor for civic engagement, in the release.