Advancing Civic Engagement through a Service Year in Virginia

On October 6-7 higher education leaders across Virginia convened at Averett University for the Governor’s Summit on Advancing Engagement in the Commonwealth. The summit was hosted by Averett University and the Virginia Department of Social Services in collaboration with the Governor’s Advisory Board on Service and Volunteerism, VA Engage network, and Service Year Alliance.

The summit continued the conversations from previous summits hosted by College of William & Mary and James Madison University, as well as the signing of the Compact on National Service in Richmond earlier this year.

The summit afforded presidents, chief engagement officers, community partners, and others to learn about and discuss opportunities for enhancing civic and community engagement at institutions and throughout the Commonwealth. Averett University is a leader in advancing service year opportunities for their students, including becoming the first higher education institution to become an Employer of National Service and connecting service year opportunities to academic credit.

During the gathering First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe addressed attendees, including nearly 20 new AmeriCorps members and swore them into their year of service. Dr. Andrew Seligsohn, President of Campus Compact, delivered the keynote address, discussing how colleges can prepare students for life-long engaged citizenship.

First Lady of Virginia, Dorothy McAuliffe swears in 20 AmeriCorps members to start their service year.

First Lady of Virginia, Dorothy McAuliffe swears in 20 AmeriCorps members to start their service year. Photo Credit: Averett University

Service Year Alliance had the opportunity to join Dr. Alexis Ehrhardt, Executive Director for the Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness at Averett University and Joy Pugh, Director of Virginia College Advising Corps, on a panel to discuss challenges and solutions of incorporating a service year program into higher education. Throughout the Commonwealth, colleges and universities are already playing a major role in providing engagement opportunities for their students and addressing unmet needs in their communities. A year of service takes these offerings to the next level, while fostering the development of both soft skills and professional skills while also providing sustained service to local communities.

As part of the Service Year + Higher Education Innovation Challenge, Dr. Seligsohn and Service Year Alliance presented Blue Ridge Community College with the award for an innovative community college model that connects a service year to academic credit.

Service Year Alliance & Campus Compact present Blue Ridge Community College with an award as part of the Service Year + Higher Education Innovation Challenge.

Service Year Alliance & Campus Compact present Blue Ridge Community College with an award as part of the Service Year + Higher Education Innovation Challenge. Photo Credit: Averett University

This award is made possible by the Lumina Foundation and in partnership with Campus Compact and the Corporation for National and Community. Blue Ridge was awarded $30,000 for their Trailblazers program which will allow five second year students the opportunity to mentor at-risk local high school students, model successful life skills, and help prepare them for college. Students will serve 20 hours/week for nine months and receive four elective or internship credits for their service year.

Service Year Alliance is proud to continue to work with our partners in Virginia and believe that this is an exciting time for engagement in the Commonwealth.

About Jenna Dell
| civic engagement + national service advocate. | @serviceyear higher ed, @katespadeny muse, @AmericanGap board, @RWB member. | Tweets are mine. |
#HigherEd leaders across Virginia joined @AverettU1859 & @FirstLadyVA to discuss civic engagement through a #serviceyear
Advancing Civic Engagement through a Service Year in Virginia
Together we have the potential to make a #serviceyear a common expectation and opportunity for all