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Graduates Told Life of Community Service Brings Personal and Professional Rewards

holland.jpgBOONE–Going to college must become more than just earning a degree that leads to a successful career. Students should connect their college experience with community service activities, which will bring even greater rewards in their personal and professional lives, says Barbara Holland, director of the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse.

Speaking to graduates of Appalachian State University’s College of Arts and Sciences on Sunday, May 11, Holland said that an overemphasis on education’s vocational role has led to an under emphasis on the development of the social and civic responsibilities of future generations.

“In a nation founded on the Jeffersonian view that democracy depends on an educated citizenry, we have failed to link education to the development of individual social and civic responsibilities,” she said.

Holland said that as a result, attendance at local governments’ public meetings had declined, fewer people were willing to run for public office, and the number of people serving as volunteers to civic causes had dropped.

“Commuting time, converging career demands in multi-career families, television, technology, all these and other forces have combined to make our lives isolated and very self-oriented,” she said. “We are too busy to talk with our neighbors, understand public issues, visit public spaces or volunteer to help with a community concern. We are too busy to engage in the good works, citizenship action and public discourse that are the hallmarks of a democratic society.”

Holland said time given to service and active citizenship can enhance a person’s professional skills, strengthen family interactions, promote continued learning, empower citizens, and even make a person a better alumnus.

By incorporating strategies such as community service, service learning and community-based learning into the college curriculum, universities can help students develop the civic responsibility to be engaged through life as active citizens, Holland said.

“No matter your profession or your interests or your dreams, service and citizenship are not luxuries driven by the availability of time. They are strategies that align your own ambition to build a great career and a great life with the personal dimension we all need for our future success and happiness,” Holland said. “We need great home communities to live in and we need a great nation, that while forever imperfect, can through collective action, do much more to create a sustained or truly participatory democratic society for all.”

Some 1,500 students received degrees during May commencement at Appalachian. Each of the university’s degree granting colleges and schools hold individual ceremonies in the spring.

The Cratis Williams Graduate School and the Walker College of Business also held commencement exercises on Sunday.

Students in the Reich College of Education, Hayes School of Music, and College of Fine and Applied Arts graduated on May 10.

The California-based National Service-Learning Clearinghouse is the federal resource for the support of the nation’s main volunteer service and service-learning programs such as Americorps, Senior Corps, Vista and Learn and Serve America.

Holland joined the organization in April 2002.

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Picture Caption: Dr. Barbara Holland, director of the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, talks about the value of community service and service-learning activities. Holland spoke during graduation ceremonies for Appalachian State University’s College of Arts and Sciences. (Appalachian Photo by University Photographer Mike Rominger)