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Miami service programs bring top national honor

03/11/2012

Amy Lewin and Bonnie Moore work together as part of the Opening MInds through Art Program.
Miami University received the 2012 Presidential Award for service in the area of early childhood education, one of only five recipients in the nation to receive a Presidential Award.

From July 2010-June 2011, Miami estimates 12,920 Miami students performed 387,600 hours of service in a variety of ways.

Quick facts:
  • 2,920 students engaged in academic service learning
  • 10,000 additional students who engaged in forms of community service outside service learning.
  • 4,000 students engaged in at least 20 hours of any kind of community service per academic term.
  • 387,600 total community service hours were contributed by Miami's students.

Below are some of the programs Miami described in its application to the 2012 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

  • Nineteen hundred students gave 9,000 hours and 75 faculty gave 750 hours in the Talawanda-Miami Partnership. Representatives of Talawanda Schools, the local district in which Miami's Oxford campus resides, and the university forged a partnership agreement 10 years ago. The Talawanda-Miami Task Force, constituted by an equal number of members representing the school district and the university, is the governing body of the partnership that is charged with democratically fostering community renewal and supporting partnership activities that are beneficial to both institutions. One major partnership activity is tutoring/mentoring.

    Through Adopt A School (AAS), America Reads and America Counts, last year more than 1,400 Miami students tutored or mentored K-12 youth in the district either as volunteers, service Iearners or work-study students. Miami student tutoring is estimated to have saved TSD more than $1.2 million (using the independent sector's value of a volunteer hour).

    One hundred percent of Talawanda teachers either strongly agreed or agreed that Miami tutors had a positive impact on their students academically, socially, emotionally and developmentally. In addition to tutoring, there are more than 80 examples of Talawanda-Miami partnerships spanning every division at the university and every school in the district. The Talawanda-Miami Partnership boasts the following evidence of its effectiveness: more than $100,000 being re-granted to district teachers to support collaborative projects with Miami personnel; almost $400,000 worth of training and materials through the MU Partnership to Enhance Teaching Grant; nearly 1,100 Talawanda students participating in Science Week, a hands-on experience hosted by more than 60 Miami faculty and graduate students in Miami's laboratories; and over 10,000 free admissions donated to Talawanda students through Miami's Performing Arts Series.

  • Opening Minds Through Art (OMA) engaged 126 students in working 7,080 hours one-on-one with 147 seniors with dementia in an art-based program that promoted the elders' social engagement, autonomy, and dignity while broadening students’ views of elders. OMA's mission is to build bridges across age and cognitive barriers through art. Students work with the same elder throughout the semester.

    Students' journals are replete with reports of the satisfaction they derived from their experiences. As one student wrote, “OMA has given me the invaluable opportunity to help spark creativity in these elders and it’s very gratifying. At the end of the day, I feel that I’ve given back to my community.” The result of this study can be found in the Journal of Applied Gerontology (2011).

    The impact of the program on the elders’ well-being is currently being analyzed using video data. A group of two faculty members, three graduate and six undergraduate students is analyzing 168 hours of tape. Initial findings suggest that during OMA, people with dementia experience a high degree of well-being as indicated by engagement, social interest, and pleasurable facial expressions.

  • The Urban Teaching Cohort (UTC) is a community-based approach to teacher education. Miami faculty and 217 UTC students with 4,292 hours, collaborate with high-need schools and community-based organizations (CBOs) in the communities of those high-need schools to: prepare teachers who are grounded in the life of the community; positively impact public school student achievement; and work with community members to advance community life. See video.

    Beginning in their sophomore year, UTC students are immersed in CBOs, such as the Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, the Contact Center, Peaslee Neighborhood Center and the Drop Inn Center, working to propel the mission of each organization. These experiences move them to redefine their perspectives of urban life. During the summer of their junior year, UTC students participate in a three-week residential program in which they work half a day in a CBO and the other half in an internship with the community resource coordinator in one of the high-need schools. Finally, many UTC students choose to live and student-teach in the urban community in which they have been deeply immersed for three years.

    For community residents and CBOs, UTC students provide sustained support. Parents and UTC students interact in a variety of settings during which trust is built that is often absent in many high-need schools. UTC students witness the systemic causes of economic struggle and racism, and they become part of the solution.

    It’s estimated 4,184 students and community members were served last year through the UTC.

  • For Miami Connections, an alternative school program located at Miami University, 130 students put in 1,500 hours assisting 30 local ninth and 10th graders in their transition to high school. The program provides relevant service-learning placements for future teachers and other Miami students interested in volunteering their time to tutor academically challenged high schoolers.

    Local high school students identified as needing help transitioning to high school, based on grades, attendance, and behavior spent half of each school day on our campus, and the other half at the home high school. Each semester Miami’s approximately 100 academic tutors and 30 one-on-one mentors provide intervention for the 30 students. Tutors are primarily first- or second-year education majors. Mentors come from a variety of academic backgrounds and are supported by a one credit hour service-learning class. Undergraduate and graduate students assist with both program coordination and with the evaluation process. Participating ninth graders had average GPAs of 2.2 compared to similar non-participants’ GPAs of 1.3. At the end of the program, 85 percent of participating 9th graders qualified to advance as sophomores compared to 20 percent among non-participants.

  • The Butler County Success Program is a holistic case management program with a network of 15 school-community liaisons, based in more than 40 schools across seven school districts. Twenty-three Miami students provided 4,000 hours and two faculty gave 528 hours to the program which aims to remove non-cognitive barriers to learning by building bridges between home, school and community to improve school success and self reliance (Le., through needs assessments and referrals/connections to appropriate services). Although the program is through the Butler County Educational Services Center through various county, state and federal grants, each school-community liaison is assigned to work in a particular school or set of schools and is based out of an office in one of more of the schools.

    The liaisons spend a substantial amount of time in the community working with families at their home and local community agencies/organizations with or on behalf of students/families. The network of 15 school-community liaisons have a supervisor through the Butler County Educational Service Center, and have regular supervisory, organizational and training meetings. The program receives referrals from a variety of sources including self, teachers and other school faculty/staff members. Families must meet the criteria for eligibility for Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TAN F) to be eligible for the program. Miami faculty and students assist liaisons in their work with children and families and in the gathering and analysis of data to evaluate the program.

    Parents indicated these success measures: 286 parents said their parenting skills improved; 426 parents said their youngsters’ learning improved, and 536 parents reported increased access to healthy foods for their families.

  • ShareFest is a service and environmental effort to collect and reuse items donated by Miami University students at the end of the academic year. Collected items benefit residents in need and social service agencies throughout the region. Many students leave Oxford during the summer and cannot take everything with them, during move-out week they are encouraged to designate unwanted but useful items. ShareFest was founded in 2005 to collect such items and has experienced tremendous growth since then. In 2005, 65 families were served, followed by 270 in 2006 and more than 600 families in 2009 and 2010.

    In some cases, families were able to fill entire homes with items such as couches, dressers, desks and kitchen tables. In addition, many teenagers received high-quality clothing items. Items are distributed by organizations in Oxford and nearby cities. ShareFest volunteers now pick up donations from over 200 off-campus housing locations and from 36 residence halls. Some of the donated items are re-sold at a low price, with proceeds going toward emergency assistance for low-income residents in the Talawanda School District.

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