Section [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 ]   

<< >>

Columbia and the Community

Columbia Volunteers

Location, location, location. As detailed in this report, the University benefits in countless ways from its good fortune in being located in New York City. It is fitting that we should reciprocate. We especially believe that enhancing life and opening opportunity in Upper Manhattan is the responsibility of all its residents, including the students, faculty, and staff of Columbia.

Today we see a renewed commitment to volunteerism on the part of our alumni and current students alike. An important new program of alumni volunteerism is being developed under the leadership of Bernard Sunshine '46C, an active member of the Harlem School of the Arts board of directors and president of the Columbia University Alumni Federation. We anticipate that this initiative will extend the well-established tradition of involvement by alumni volunteers at Columbia.

One effort already under way is the Minority Engineering Conference and Multicultural Career Fair, sponsored last year by the Center for Career Services. It enlisted the efforts of alumni to serve as career mentors for African-American, Latino, and Asian students with whom they share similar backgrounds. The Center also sponsored a series of alumni panels, including one highlighting career opportunities for minorities in the Internet and new media.

Many volunteer programs on campus are devoted to mentoring secondary school students. The oldest and best-known of these is the Double Discovery Center (DDC), which is also the nation's largest Upward Bound program. Originally the brainstorm of two Columbia College students, Steve Weinberg '66C '68ARCH '90HON and Roger Lehecka '67C, currently the director of alumni programs for the College, Double Discovery was launched with the aid of James Shenton '49C '50GSAS '54GSAS, now professor emeritus of history, alumnus Arnold Saltzman '36C, and the late Representative Adam Clayton Powell. Under the guidance of director Olger Twyner III '90B, DDC volunteers help younger students in a range of areas, from learning about colleges and careers, to improving their academic work through year-round classes and tutoring, to participating in personal development workshops.

Columbia's Emergency Medical Service (CAVA), a student-run Basic Life Support Volunteer Ambulance Corps, provides emergency medical care service for Columbia and the surrounding community.

Despite the obstacles posed by poverty and inner city schooling, 97 percent of DDC students finish high school and 95 percent go on to college; in all, some two-thirds of DDC alumni finish college in four years.

Columbia volunteers participate in many other mentoring programs, including the Community Advocates for Educational Excellence, which works to improve education in Harlem through projects involving college students and public school parents, and programs in our Business and Law Schools that pair student volunteer tutors with junior high students in East Harlem.

A large number of programs operate under the umbrella of Community Impact (CI), the largest volunteer organization on campus, directed by Sonia Reese. Each semester CI recruits, trains, and supervises more than 900 students, faculty, staff, and neighborhood volunteers. Last year the volunteers provided some 71,000 hours of service to 16,000 low-income people in Harlem, Washington Heights, and Morningside Heights. They ran a homeless shelter and a soup kitchen, distributed clothing, tutored young people, and cared for the elderly.

Among CI-administered mentoring programs are:

  • The Mentor High School Extension program, matching high school students with mentors who share similar academic and personal interests.
  • Big Brother and Big Sister, matching students with children from single-parent families for extended periods.
  • Best Buddies, providing companions for people with moderate mental disabilities.
  • Student help for the aging, with volunteers assisting homebound seniors.
  • Jobs and Education Empowerment Project (JEEP), assisted by a W. K. Kellogg grant, utilizing 200 Columbia volunteers to run computer workshops, General Education Development (GED) classes, counseling to improve resumes and interview skills, and assistance in placing clients in Harlem, Morningside Heights, and Washington Heights, in higher education programs or advanced job training.
  • Peace Games, conducted last year by 135 Columbia and Barnard volunteers, teaching 1,600 fourth and fifth graders methods of nonviolent conflict resolution. Most of the students, who responded enthusiastically to the program, attended the annual Peace Games Festival at Riverbank State Park in Harlem.

Among Community Impact's other neighborhood programs are:

  • Student Health Outreach Project (SHOUT): 200 children in health insurance programs is the immediate goal of this Children's Defense Fund pilot program.
  • Community Lunch Program: 5,000 adults and children were fed hot, nutritious meals last year.
  • Food Pantry and Clothes Closet: 500 people each month—families, the elderly, and HIV patients—received emergency food and clothing.
  • Immigrant Family Development: 25 immigrants prepared for the citizenship process through classes in U.S. history and citizens' rights and responsibilities.
  • Advocacy Coalition: 3,600 inquiries from low-income individuals at three soup kitchens were handled by this comprehensive information and advocacy program.
  • Job Road: 200 homeless and low-income people seeking food and shelter were linked up with programs to obtain further, education, employment, and child care.
  • America Reads Challenge: as part of the national campaign, CI conducted an intensive five-day-a-week tutoring program at the Graham-Windham Beacon Center in West Harlem for 150 young people, resulting in increased reading scores and improved grades.

On our Health Sciences campus, the America Reads program each Saturday brought medical, dental, and therapy students together with fifty-two children from P.S. 128 for tutoring in reading and science. Another initiative, Partners as Leaders, used Health Sciences volunteers as one-on-one mentors for elementary school children, while a third program, run by the pediatrics department of P&S, used teenage patients to tutor children with chronic kidney diseases. As part of the Dental School's STEP (Science and Technology Entry Program), a group of Columbia's minority student mentors worked with ninety-five public school students each weekend and during the summer, teaching math, science, English, and computer technology.

High school students from New York City schools attend workshops on academic achievement during National Trio Day 2000, an event sponsored by the Double Discovery Center.

Students in the School of General Studies' postbaccalaureate program volunteered at hospitals and medical centers around the city, and SIPA volunteers held fund-raising events for homeless families and battered women's shelters.

In the immediate vicinity of the Morningside campus, Columbia and Barnard students provided emergency medical attention with their around-the-clock ambulance service, Columbia Area Volunteer Ambulance (CAVA), while volunteer student clean-up crews helped to make Morningside Park a safer, cleaner, more useable, and more beautiful facility, and SIPA students cosponsored with New York Care the clean-up of Riverside Park and the painting of grammar schools.

Helping to draw attention to the important work that goes on all year round, many Columbia volunteers took part last year in special one-day events. Student-athletes participated in a day-long program to teach sports skills to local youngsters, in the process highlighting the regular community programs run by their coaches. The annual community service day in April 2000 was the culmination of the student-organized Columbia Community Outreach week, during which 1,000 Columbians completed forty projects in Harlem, Morningside Heights, and the South Bronx—painting classrooms, cleaning parks, and performing other labor-intensive projects. And at the end of a day of fasting by participating students, Columbia-Barnard Dining Services donated $1,000, the equivalent of meals not eaten by those students, to United Against Hunger.

The year's Columbia Community Service fund drive raised more than $217,000—a 23 percent increase over the previous year—from faculty and staff of Columbia, Barnard, Teachers College, and Harlem Hospital. The funds were distributed to ninety community groups, including soup kitchens, job skills training programs, and agencies serving the elderly. A parallel effort, the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center Neighborhood Fund campaign, raised $70,000 for nonprofit groups in the Washington Heights and Inwood neighborhoods that provide day care, after-school programs, and cleanup projects.

Through all of these programs, large and small, the services provided by Columbia's volunteers strengthen our institutional mission, contributing to the health and vitality of our neighbors. At the same time, they enhance the lives of the volunteers, expanding the boundaries of their experience and the circle of their concern.

<< >>

Section [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 ]