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News Release

For immediate use

March 7, 2007

More than 1,000 participants join
Carolina’s Public Service Scholars

CHAPEL HILL – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Public Service Scholars program enrolled its 1,000th active participant this year, marking a more than tenfold increase since the program’s inception.

Launched in 2003 through the Carolina Center for Public Service, the Public Service Scholars program provides guidance and instruction to students who want to combine service and education.

Collectively, scholars have logged more than 165,000 total service hours, and participation has climbed from 78 individuals in 2003 to 1,117 this year.

Scholars have volunteered with organizations such as the Orange Country Rape Crisis Center in Chapel Hill and El Centro Latino in Carrboro. One student who graduated last spring was an intern at a charitable hospital in India. As it continues to expand, the Public Service Scholars program offers a place to connect students, guide them through effective training and build a framework for service.

“I don’t think I’d be nearly as effective without Public Service Scholars,” said Adam Szymanowski, a junior biology and Spanish major from Raleigh who enrolled in the program last year. Szymanowski is chairman of a campus-based English as a Second Language (ESL) program that meets three times each week, and he has participated in environmental advocacy. He expects to have logged 250 service hours by the end of the spring semester.

To graduate as a Public Service Scholar, students must have a minimum 2.5 grade-point average, complete at least 300 hours of service, take one service-learning course and attend skills-training workshops. They receive a certificate, commendation on their transcripts and a blue-and-white cord to wear at commencement. 

As a group, scholars have exceeded select program requirements every year since the first class graduated in 2005. Those first 15 graduates topped the grade-point requirement with averages of 3.0 or higher. Last year, scholars trumped requirements again, completing a combined 19,653 service hours. (The average of 491 hours per scholar beat the 300-hour requirement by almost 66 percent.)

“These numbers reflect that the program is working,” said coordinator Eileen Hannan. “While students may start off with the goal of just meeting the program’s minimum requirements, oftentimes they exceed their own expectations of how quickly service can become an integrated part of their Carolina experience.”

Recent scholars have participated in service activities with the UNC Dance Marathon, the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army and the Orange County Animal Protection Society — to name only a few. They have volunteered around the globe in countries such as Vietnam, Peru, Honduras, New Zealand and others. Visit www.unc.edu/cps/scholars for a complete listing of current and former scholar activities.

The program is open to all full-time undergraduate students who have at least four semesters remaining. Depending on when they enroll, scholars will spend anywhere from two to four hours per week completing service activities, sometimes in addition to part-time jobs and full-time course loads.

“It definitely takes a certain degree of time management and planning,” said Sarah Plastino, a senior public policy and international studies major from Wayne, Penn., who also works part-time. Since enrolling in the Public Service Scholars program last year, she has logged more than 300 service hours with organizations such as Teach for America, El Centro Hispano in Durham and the Foundation for Nutrition and Life in Mexico. 

The Public Service Scholars program usually does not coordinate service activities directly, but staff members at the Carolina Center for Public Service advise scholars and maintain a database of agencies and groups seeking volunteers on the program’s Web site.

Service-learning classes, an integral part of the program, require students to perform at least 30 hours of service (three to five hours per week) in addition to coursework during the semester. They are offered by a variety of departments for both major and elective credit. Many are presented through APPLES Service Learning Program, the University’s student-led initiative to engage students, faculty and community agencies in service-learning partnerships.

The Carolina Center for Public Service, created in 1997, engages and supports the faculty, students and staff of the University in meeting the needs of North Carolina. The center strengthens the University’s public service commitment by promoting scholarship and service that are responsive to the concerns of the state and contribute to the common good.

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CCPS contact: Eileen Hannan, (919) 843-6993, hannan@email.unc.edu
News Services contact: Lisa Katz, (919) 962-2093, lisa_katz@unc.edu