About CUNY Service Corps
The Service Corps launched in September 2013 and is unique both in its scale and scope. Preliminary research undertaken to start the planning process indicated that, while many U.S. higher education institutions offer service-learning opportunities, the size of the CUNY program is unprecedented. Not only that, but the program's dual goals of promoting civic responsibility among CUNY students, while also preparing them for educational and career success, distinguish it from those college and university programs focused primarily on service-learning or specialized volunteer placement.
The Service Corps' goals for students are in two areas:
Students will identify as stewards of CUNY and their communities and practice service as a component of active citizenship, community engagement, and social responsibility.
Educational & career success
Students will demonstrate awareness of the connection between their academic learning at CUNY and real-life experiences and gain workplace skills that will improve their employment prospects after graduation.
Service Corps Members & Student Training
The approximately 800 Service Corps members in the program's 2014-2015 year come from eight different CUNY colleges, including Borough of Manhattan Community College, the College of Staten Island, John Jay College of Criminal Justice (in Manhattan), Kingsborough Community College (in Brooklyn), Lehman College (in the Bronx), Medgar Evers College (in Crown Heights, Brooklyn), New York City College of Technology (in downtown Brooklyn), and Queens College.
Over 1,900 students applied to participate in the Service Corps program during each of the program's first two years. Students are required to be full-time, with a GPA of at least 2.5 and at least 24 college credits earned. The selection process was rigorous and competitive, involving an online application with short essays and a reference, and participation in a group interview. The student body in the Service Corps is tremendously diverse and representative of the overall CUNY student body, i.e. diverse racially and ethnically, over 40% first-generation college students, almost 40% non-native English speakers, and half from low-income households.
Corps members are required to participate in a pre-service training prior to the start of service placements, as well as a Training and Development Series throughout the academic year. The pre-service training and Training and Development Series curricula integrate a civic engagement and workplace strand, such that students can begin to connect the two and identify civic engagement as the opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills needed to make a difference in the community.
Community Partners & Service Placements
Corps members work 12 hours per week for 24 weeks throughout the academic year at their placement sites. Service Corps projects are focused on meeting the city's most pressing needs in four thematic areas: community and public health, the city's built and green infrastructures, education of children and adults, and economic development.
The Service Corps selected 111 organizations to serve as community partners/placement sites during the program's second year, out of over 160 that applied. The range of organizations includes after-school programs, arts organizations and museums, government agencies, criminal justice/prisoner re-entry organizations, economic empowerment organizations, groups serving older adults, environmental organizations, hospitals and other medical facilities, immigrant-serving programs, libraries, public health organizations, K-12 schools, and parks/wildlife organizations.
Anecdotally, many partners have indicated that Service Corps members are serving crucial roles at their placement sites and have meaningfully increased capacity for their organizations. Arif Ullah, Director of Programs at the Citizens Committee for New York City, noted the Service Corps members assigned to the organization "are intelligent, responsible, thoughtful, and diligent, allowing [the organization]—a small nonprofit—to increase [its] capacity and be a more effective organization."
In addition, the Service Corps is also working with 15 faculty members from five CUNY colleges across all academic disciplines on faculty-led service projects. Faculty members were given the flexibility to design service-oriented projects that fall within the program's four thematic areas. Through these faculty projects, Corps members are able to connect their academic coursework to their service experiences and obtain academic credit.