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Washington and Lee Named to the 2014 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll

Washington and Lee University has been named to President Barack Obama’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, one of 120 schools in the nation to receive this designation. This is the third year in a row that the University has attained this status.

During the 2013–14 academic year, W&L students tallied approximately 64,080 hours of service. The University’s mission statement emphasizes preparing students for lifelong service to others by engaging them through the classroom, student service groups and fraternities and sororities.

The honor roll recognizes colleges and universities that support exemplary community service programs and raise the visibility of effective practices in campus-community partnership. It is the highest federal recognition an institution can receive for its commitment to community, service learning and civic engagement.

This year’s recognition of W&L focused on the Law School’s Black Lung Clinic, Greek organizations’ service, and the Campus Kitchen Backpack after-school lunch program.

“The honor is especially gratifying, given all the work going into community engagement and service learning on our campus,” said Marc Conner, W&L’s associate provost. “Service is a crucial component of a Washington and Lee education, and the University has invested heavily in financial and human resources supporting that objective.

“Our local community is an extended classroom for our students and faculty,” he added. “Whether they volunteer their time and talents with local agencies or supplement their classroom education through individual and community service, W&L students make a difference locally, nationally and around the world.”

The foundation for much of the service work is W&L’s Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability, which provides rigorous academic preparation for students who spend summers interning with agencies serving impoverished people and communities. Under the Shepherd Program umbrella are a number of student service groups, including the Nabors Service League, Bonner Leaders and Campus Kitchen. Those organizations have helped the region in various ways, such as teaching dance classes, developing ACT and SAT study sessions and supplying disadvantaged schoolchildren with weekend backpacks filled with nutritious food.

W&L also offers student service awards and fellowships, such as the Sarah G. Ball Teaching Award and the John and Mimi Elrod Fellowship for careers in the public sector. And student interns in the Teacher Education Program recruit and train volunteers to work in local public schools.

Washington and Lee’s School of Law requires every student to participate in extensive service learning. The cornerstone of its third-year curriculum is six legal clinics that serve low-income clients: the Black Lung, Tax, Immigrant Rights and Criminal Justice clinics, Community Legal Practice and Virginia Capital Clearinghouse.

Conner noted that students in fraternities and sororities support philanthropies associated with their national organizations, but also contribute additional time and skills through W&L’s Greek co-ed day to local organizations such as Boxerwood Nature Center, Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee, Mayflower assisted living facility, Rockbridge Area Relief Association and Hoofbeats Therapeutic Riding Center. A number of students also took part in the Woods Creek and roadside trash pick-up.

W&L’s Community Grants Committee makes annual grants totaling $50,000 to non-profit organizations in Lexington and Rockbridge County. This year’s recipients included the Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center, Rockbridge Area Occupational Center and Natural Bridge/Glasgow Food Pantry, to name a few.

“I’m immensely proud of the work our University is engaged in,” said Conner. “It is a benefit to the entire Lexington and Rockbridge community, and it really shows the dedication of our students, faculty and staff. The idea of service with a purpose is one we value highly at W&L and one that will always be one of our institution’s highest priorities.”

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has administered the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll since 2006 in collaboration with the U.S. Departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development, as well as the American Council on Education, Campus Compact and the Interfaith Youth Core. Established in 1993, CNCS is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through its core programs—Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and the Social Innovation Fund—and leads President Obama’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve.