Students Partner with Community Organizations Through Scholars in Service Program

by Neree Aron-Sando

In the best of all possible worlds, money would be available to students to help fund their education while empowering them to assist nonprofit organizations in the community that need help.

Welcome to Montgomery County Community College and the AmeriCorps program, Scholars in Service to Pennsylvania.

Montgomery County Community College’s four Scholars in Service, Dani Kennel, Alysa Murray, Kirstie Todisco, and Nicole Weising, will earn

Scholars in Service to Pennsylvania grants, enabling them to enroll as part-time AmeriCorps members and helping them to fund their expenses at the College.

The award can be used to pay for any legitimate educational expense at the College, to pay for future educational expenses or to repay student loans. The students’ service work includes projects on campus as well as weekly hours spent at an external site in the community.

Kennel, 27, and Weising, 24, work for Ministries on Main Street in Pottstown. On campus, Kennel co-chairs Relay for Life and is working to expand the College’s participation in World AIDS Day. Weising is the President of Doug’s Corner, the community service club at the West Campus.

Murray, 17, works for Pottstown Memorial Medical Center and, on campus, is working on projects that include Alternative Spring Break, co-chairing Relay for Life, and the first ever College Community Service Fair. Todisco, 21, works on campus as assistant to Jenna Klaus, assistant Director of Civic & Community Engagement, where one of her projects is helping to plan the Alternative Spring Break.

“I know that 300 hours [of community service work] seems a bit intimidating at first, but it’s really not that hard to accomplish,” Murray said. “If you are serious about wanting to help your community, this is the best way to do it.”

The College began its participation in the AmeriCorps Scholars in Service to Pennsylvania with a single scholar in 2010, but has a long history of civic engagement and community service. Alternative Spring Break enables students to forgo the usual weeklong party in favor of hard work on Habitat for Humanity service projects, for example.

“Montgomery County Community College’s commitment to providing volunteer opportunities for leadership development and growth in a student’s field of study is an example of the College instilling the importance of giving back to the community where most of our students will live and work,” Klaus said. “Through the Scholars in Service program, four students are being given the opportunity to do just that by partnering with local organizations to make an impact in the community and build real-life work experience for their future careers.”

Civic engagement and community service earned the College a place on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the past four years. The Corporation for National and Community Service’s honor roll is the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement.

2011-2012 Scholars in Service (from left) Dani Kennel, Alysa Murray, Kirstie Todisco and Nicole Weising. Photo by Jenna Klaus

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