Heidelberg University has been named to the 2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest honor a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service learning and civic engagement.
Heidelberg has a history of service learning. Students are involved in service projects from the moment they step onto campus through BergServe.
Throughout the academic year, there are numerous opportunities for students to participate in service. One student organization, Alpha Phi Omega, is dedicated entirely to providing service to the campus and the community. Students enrolled in the Honors Program complete a service learning component and all students who are members of Greek organizations also commit to service as a core value.
One program gaining popularity at Heidelberg is the Alternate Spring Break program.
Groups of students dedicate a week of their spring break to service projects in urban and rural settings across the U.S.
"Students are working for justice, sharing in reflection, building community with their peers, and learning skills for leadership," the Rev. Paul Stark campus minister and director of campus ministry said.
The trips are student-coordinated which began in the spring of 2012. Students applied to be student coordinators and then begin putting together their teams. Recently, student teams returned from service projects in Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi, working with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and the Back Bay Mission.
"Students do not receive anything in return for the trip. They do not receive credit for classes. The only thing they receive is the satisfaction of serving" Stark said.
Amanda Barger, of Republic, traveled with six other students to Nashville, Tenn. There, Barger worked with Habitat for Humanity to build a house.
"The first two days were construction days," Barger said. "We worked on a house, caulking the entire house, putting in installation, and putting in baffles."
Barger is attending Heidleberg University studying Middle School Education and is planning on graduating in 2015.
On campus, Barger is involved in many organizations including Alpha Phi Omega, Catholic Newman Club, RyRy's Autisim Avengers, Collegiate Middle Level Association and a member of the Education Honorary Kappa Delta Pi.
"I didn't have any plans for spring break and I thought 'why not?' It sounded like fun and I have always wanted to visit there," Barger said. "I am also involved in the community service organization on campus, APO, so volunteering is just something I enjoy doing."
"This trip was a memory I shall never forget. I made new friends, met some really nice southern people, and got to help someone less fortunate by building their home," Barger said. "I have always enjoyed helping people which is why I joined APO to start with and why I really wanted to go on this trip."
After graduating Barger hopes to find a teaching job somewhere in the U.S. and to go for her master's degree.
"I liked Nashville so much I wouldn't mind teaching there," Barger said. "My ideal classroom would be teaching fourth graders."
"Many students will tell me their Alternative Spring Break trip was life changing. I understand, I made similar trips when I was in college and each trip I take my life is transformed again in new ways," Stark said. "I am impressed to see the leadership and capabilities of the students. The program continues to grow each year and we hope to offer more trips to international destinations as well as domestic destinations."
The Corporation for National & Community Service has administered the President's Honor Roll for Community Service since its inception in 2006.
CNCS was inspired by the thousands of college students who traveled across the country to support relief efforts along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. Collaborating agencies include the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as the American Council on Education and Campus Compact.
"Seven years ago, Heidelberg was coordinating one alternative spring break trip. In 2011 we sponsored two. In 2012 we sponsored 3. In 2013 we sponsored 4," Stark said. "As we develop more student coordinators as leaders we hope to see our numbers expand. I would also add we continue to develop a spiritual component on the trips. Students lead devotionals each day and they share a part of their faith or spirituality with the group and how it inspires them to serve."