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Democracy House Wins National Award for Service

Democracy House, an organization of students at Middlesex County College that performs thousands of hours of community service each year, was named to the 2008 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction. The award was presented by the Corporation for National and Community Service at the American Council on Education's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. on February 9.

There were three levels of awards. Six schools received the top honors, 83 were on the Honor Roll with Distinction and 546 were named to the Honor Roll. Middlesex was the only college in New Jersey named to the Honor Roll with Distinction. The full list is available at www.nationalservice.gov/honorroll.

"In this time of economic distress, we need volunteers more than ever," said Stephen Goldsmith, vice chair of the Board of Directors of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees the Honor Roll. "College students represent an enormous pool of idealism and energy to help tackle some of our toughest challenges. We salute Middlesex County College for making community service a campus priority, and thank the millions of college students who are helping to renew America through service to others."

Launched in 2006, the Community Service Honor Roll is the highest federal recognition a school can achieve for its commitment to service-learning and civic engagement. Honorees for the award were chosen based on a series of selection factors including scope and innovation of service projects, percentage of student participation in service activities, incentives for service, and the extent to which the school offers academic service-learning courses.

Democracy House began in 1995, and brings together 40 students per year who work to better the community. They serve food at Elijah's Promise in New Brunswick; read to young children and teach reading to older kids; act as big brothers and sisters to children in after school programs; tutor college students; and help clean the environment. Several

Democracy House members traveled to New Orleans and Mississippi in January to help rebuild houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The students each spend at least 300 hours per year working on community service projects.

The award was accepted by Steven Barnhart, chair of the Department of History and Social Science; Maria De La Cruz, coordinator of Democracy House; and students Rebecca Shield and Michael Lubin.

College President Joann La Perla-Morales lauded Democracy House and its participants.

"These are students who are out to make a difference in the lives of people in their community," she said. "I am always so impressed by the magnitude of their work and the lives they have touched. They are the leaders of tomorrow and their leadership will be enhanced by the work they have done here."

Recent studies have underlined the importance of service-learning and volunteering by college students. In 2006, 2.8 million college students gave more than 297 million hours of volunteer service, according to the Corporation's Volunteering in America 2007 study. Expanding campus incentives for service is part of a larger push to spur higher levels of volunteering by America's college students. The Corporation is working with a coalition of federal agencies, higher education and student associations, and nonprofit organizations to achieve this goal.