LAFAYETTE — For the second year, University of Louisiana at Lafayette students have been recognized for tens of thousands of hours of community service, a feat worthy of placement on a presidential honor roll.
In the 2011-12 academic year, ULL students racked up more than 163,000 hours in a variety of community chores, such as helping Habitat for Humanity build homes in impoverished Lafayette neighborhoods or helping underprivileged pupils in school, said David Yarbrough, ULL dean of community service.
ULL and other Louisiana colleges and universities were named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the academic year that ended in May. ULL also received the award for the 2010-11 academic year, ULL spokesman Charlie Bier said.
The students earn college credit hours for the community service and as well as a bit of money for the work, Yarbrough said.
“This isn’t volunteer work,” he said. “This is classroom activity where you enhance the theoretical underpinnings of a class by working specifically in the community where a university or college is.”
Damion Ross, a 22-year-old sports management major from Houma, is a member of the ULL AmeriCorps program.
Ross said his aunt needed help after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and he never forgot the volunteers and what they did for his family.
“I love giving back,” said Ross, who on Thursday was helping build a Habitat for Humanity house at Sterling and 12th streets in Lafayette.
Ross is one of 45 ULL students in AmeriCorps, a group that tallies the most community service hours per student, said Judd Jeansonne, AmeriCorps program director at ULL.
Jeansonne said the 45 AmeriCorps students accounted for about 20,000 hours of the 163,000 hours all ULL students and faculty spent doing service in the 2011-12 academic year.
Jeansonne also said his program gets 200 to 250 applicants every year vying for 45 slots.
“We’ve had to turn away some very good people,” he said. “There’s a real renewal of interest in service. … I think it has to do with people being affected by the storms in ’05.”
Many of the students gained experience while in high school, he said.
“They’re coming to us polished,” Jeansonne said. “They’re coming to us as service pros.”
The students do make some money, but it’s just a little more than $3 an hour.
Three students in the ULL AmeriCorps chapter said the rewards they receive from tutoring pupils is hard to explain.
“It’s cool when they run up to you and squeeze you,” said Samantha Roy, a 19-year-old sophomore from Carencro.
Roy, a sports management major who also helps Habitat for Humanity build houses, said she never got the chance in high school to perform community service.
“I was always busy,” she said.
Shanece Solomon, a 20-year-old junior in speech pathology, tutors elementary school kids at J.W. Faulk Elementary School.
She likes the reciprocity, she said: she feels good and the kids appreciate her.
Elisabeth Dunn, a 23-year-old advertising senior, helps build houses and also tutors J.W. Faulk Elementary School students.
“I love letting them know how important education is,” she said.
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