By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT —– During the 2008-09 school year, students at St. Ambrose University logged about 15,000 hours of community service in a seven-month period.
“This level of service is a testament to the type of students here at St. Ambrose,” said Tim Phillips, dean of students. “St. Ambrose is a community committed to enriching lives through peace, service and social justice initiatives. By giving back to the greater community, our students are truly living the university’s mission.”
The university does not require students to perform community service to graduate. But, he noted, some classes do require service as part of their curriculum. Some organizations on campus do community service as part of their mission.
Right off the bat, when students arrive on campus in the fall, they are introduced to volunteerism whether they are new, transfer or returning students.
Welcome Week kicks off volunteer service hours activities. Last year’s kickoff was titled “Urban Plunge” in which 56 first-year students volunteered 224 hours of community service that first week.
And in the first weeks of school “Bee the Difference Day” puts St. Ambrose students in the Ambrose neighborhood helping their neighbors with house or yard work. “We want to reach out to our neighbors,” Phillips said. Last year, 200 Ambrosians provided 800 hours of community service in one day, he noted.
Groups such as Ambrosians for Peace and Justice have been involved in community service for years. Last school year 10 students went to Cedar Rapids to help with flood cleanup. Sixteen traveled to Kentucky to work at an alternative high school. Seven went to Chicago and distributed food to the homeless while seven went to St. Louis to work at a homeless shelter.
“Social justice is an emphasis at our institution,” Phillips said. “It’s a part of our mission.”
Dennis Flaherty, business manager at St. Anthony Parish in Davenport, said the Ambrose athletes who help with food basket deliveries are strong, respectful and easy to work with.
Even with students leaving town for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter holidays, Ray Shovlain, the university’s athletic director and men’s head basketball coach, gets a large group of players to help with holiday basket distribution, Flaherty said.
The students arrive early to help with set-up in the parish parking lot, unload food baskets from the semi-trailer, load vehicles for deliveries by volunteers and also take a St. Ambrose van to deliver baskets. “I don’t know how we would do it without them. They are class-act kids.”
Flaherty sees Shovlain as a mentor to the students. “He walks the walk when talking about volunteerism.”
An expansion in the service-learning office and campus ministry has increased awareness about community service on campus, Phillips said. St. Ambrose President Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, also is a big encourager of community service.
“St. Ambrose is all about service,” Phillips said.