SRU recognizing civic engagement with three annual President’s Awards
Slippery Rock University will recognize three recipients of the 2022 President’s Awards for Civic Engagement, April 5, at the University’s Celebration of Achievement. The honors include the President's Student Civic Leadership Award, President's Civic Engagement Ambassador Award and the President's Community Partner Award.
April 4, 2022
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Even though civic engagement at a college or university involves contributions from and benefits to large groups from communities, recognizing these efforts requires calling out individuals. That's why Slippery Rock University annually highlights students, employees and community partners for their civic engagement. The 2022 President's Awards for Civic Engagement include three citations, the President's Student Civic Leadership Award, President's Civic Engagement Ambassador Award and the President's Community Partner Award, which will be presented at the University's Celebration of Achievement ceremony, 5-7 p.m., April 5, at the Smith Student Center Ballroom A.
"Civic engagement is important because it's not just affecting or influencing individuals, but communities and potentially society at-large," said Cassandra Eisenreich, assistant professor of music. "A lot of people have the opportunity to participate and benefit from these experiences and SRU has a lot of them."
Eisenreich is the 2022 recipient of the President's Civic Engagement Ambassador Award for her work leading SRU's Early Childhood and Elementary Music Community Engagement Initiative. Through this initiative, SRU faculty and students facilitate a variety of developmentally appropriate music activities for children in the community, including online classes offered for pre-K students at the Slippery Rock Student Government Association Preschool and Early Learning Connections in Butler, which serves Butler and surrounding counties with its Head Start Program.
Approximately 20 SRU students help offer weekly online music education classes that have reached nearly 250 children in 14 classes, and there are plans to resume in-person instruction next fall.
"This reaches children who do not have access to music education, and we do it with a very interactive program," Eisenreich said. "It's been thrilling to do this, and we've had such great partners who want to continue through the pandemic (after we've had to switch to online). We've gotten so much great feedback from their teachers who are incorporating music lessons and we're supporting students developmentally with language and movement and all the things you can do through music."
Austin Shaffer, a graduate student majoring in occupational therapy from Erie, is the recipient of the Student Civic Leadership Award. Shaffer, who has worked as a graduate assistant in SRU's Office for Community-Engaged Learning since January 2021, was recognized for helping implement RockServe, SRU's digital community-engagement platform where students looking to volunteer are connected with community partners, faculty and student organizations.
Shaffer helped onboard more than 20 community organizations and 10 SRU departments within RockServe, where they post volunteer opportunities and service events. As a result, the number of SRU students volunteering and participating in service events increased by 40% and the total hours and community-engaged experiences by 55% in the fall 2021 semester. There's been more than 11,000 volunteer hours logged by SRU students since RockServe was launched.
"(Receiving this award) was a pleasant surprise because what I do is a lot of behind-the-scenes work," Shaffer said. "It's organizing the online platform and making sure there are volunteer opportunities available to students, and I don't always get to see the events come to fruition by attending them, so it is fulfilling in a sense to be recognized."
Slippery Rock Middle School received the Community Partner Award for facilitating a program where SRU students in a Practical Computer Security class help SRMS sixth graders learn about cybersecurity and how they can protect themselves online. SRU students, under the direction of Stephen Larson, associate professor of health care administration and information systems, present each year on the topic to the entire sixth grade class.
"This is a fantastic partnership," said Jacob Jefferis, SRMS principal. "It's really cool to see the relationship between our kids and how they listened to the (SRU) students about the pitfalls and dangers of the cyber environment. They really heeded the warnings and it's great to have someone delivering them the most up-to-date information. The SRU students get to solidify what they've learned by presenting the information, and they get to see that what they're doing has a purpose."
Jefferis spoke on behalf of the entire school while recognizing that many teachers are involved in maintaining its relationships with SRU.
"It's quite an honor because I know our teachers have worked very hard to integrate SRU and the great resources that (the University has) into our school on a yearly basis," Jefferis said. "It doesn't end with just Dr. Larson's class; we regularly have professors from SRU coming over here to present to our kids."
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