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July 20, 1995

Titusville expands its community service through student program

Titusville's tiny size and location in rural northwestern Pennsylvania means that everything Pitt's Titusville campus (UPT) does is highly visible to the community.

"We can't hide," says Jerry Lazzaro, a UPT faculty member and director of Public Affairs. "We are very visible, either as a positive or a negative influence." Caught in such a spotlight, the UPT administration several years ago decided to strive to present the campus in as positive a light as possible. Among the things it has been doing to aid the community since then are sponsoring, or co-sponsoring, public speakers, workshops, art exhibits and senior citizen dances.

Last fall, UPT also launched a community service program involving student groups. Initial projects have proven so beneficial to recipients and students alike that UPT plans to step up its efforts this year.

The projects include such things as clothing and canned food drives, highway clean-ups, and a paper recycling program. According to Ellen Beem, director of Student Activities, the projects have given first- and second-year students an opportunity to interact with the community, something they may not be able to do at larger institutions until they are juniors or seniors.

"What has been really exciting is seeing how some of the students have grown from the experience," says Beem. "I think our biggest accomplishment has been to give the students an awareness and appreciation for community service, and a desire to get more involved.

"It is an excellent way to gain experience and mature and learn outside of the classroom," she adds.

The idea for the community service program originated with an article, "Leadership in Higher Education: Confronting the Realities of the 1990s," that David Fried, vice president of UPT Student Affairs, read in the Journal of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators while doing research for his Ph.D. dissertation.

One way the article suggested developing community on a college campus was to foster a sense of service to others. Fried says a lot of colleges around the country have begun emphasizing community service and that some even have made it a requirement for graduation.

"We didn't feel like we had to go that far," Fried notes, "but we did feel it was important for us to have our students doing some type of service in the community." Fried and other UPT administrators thought one way of developing a sense of community would be to require student groups that receive funds from the student budget committee to take on at least one community service project per year.

Although a few students griped about the requirement, Fried says, complaints quickly died down and he thinks the plan "worked pretty well. In fact, I was surprised that in the first year they got as creative as they did." Along with the food and clothing drives, for example, the Commuter Student Association distributed fruit at local retirement homes; the yearbook staff took children and adults from Titusville Big Brothers/Big Sisters to the planetarium at Allegheny College; the Admissions Advisory Board collected children's books for Head Start, and the hockey club assisted the Titusville Recreation Center with children's snow games.

Local groups and residents who have benefited from the program have expressed their thanks with dozens of cards, notes and calls to the student organizations and the UPT Office of Student Affairs.

"Many of our organizations have done community service projects in the past, but this sort of formalized it and made it an expectation," says Fried.

"The program reminds students that service to country, community and fellow citizens is important."

–Mike Sajna

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