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We CU Community Engaged Scholars program recognizes nearly 22,000 student service hours in its first year

5/26/2021 4:03:49 PM

On Monday, May 24, the We CU Community Engaged Scholars program hosted a recognition ceremony to celebrate and commemorate the students who volunteered with We CU during the summer, fall, and spring semesters. Students were recognized for their community-based work in a variety of project themes: social and racial justice, addressing COVID-19, combatting isolation, outreach and education, and translating materials.

“We are so grateful to the We CU scholars and community partners who gave their time and expertise to these projects,” said We CU Co-Director Emily Stone. “We hope that our students gained new skills and perspectives that will help them as they progress in their careers, and that our community partners were able to benefit from these students to even better meet needs of community members.”

In the inaugural year of the We CU program, 867 students from 13 colleges across campus worked with more than 100 community partners to complete 21,907 hours of service. Seventy-eight of these students received the We CU Community Engaged Scholar distinction for completing 40 hours during the summer, or 20 hours during the fall or spring semester.

During the ceremony, reflections from some of the scholars highlighted the positive community impact of the work they completed this year. Below are some examples of the community projects scholars completed for each theme. These projects represent a small fraction of the students’ work and the range of community partners participating in the program.

  • Social Justice: For the Alliance for Inclusion and Respect, volunteers shared and created content focused on challenging stigma and discrimination, raising awareness of access, disability, and diversity, and identifying venues for all members of our community to participate fully.
  • Racial Justice: For Unity in Action Magazine, volunteers worked to improve social and economic concerns affecting the community from African American community by managing social media and writing grants and articles.
  • COVID-19: For the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, volunteers contributed to sewing efforts in constructing gowns and masks for healthcare workers.
  • Combatting Isolation: For Hope Meadows, volunteers helped elderly residents accustomed to frequent social interaction before COVID-19 adapt and utilize virtual means to communicate.
  • Community Outreach and Education: For the Champaign County Climate Coalition, volunteers shared and created content to empower individuals and groups in the community to take responsive action to counter climate change.
  • Translation: For Urbana Arts and Culture, volunteers helped translate marketing and web materials into French, Mandarin, and Spanish and communicate COVID-19 information in those languages.

The presenters took a few moments during the ceremony to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, to honor his life, and to recognize that there is still much work to do as a society to abolish racism. Attendees were asked to share in one word what they are doing to abolish racism, and their answers can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

The We CU team is committed to empowering University of Illinois students to dismantle racist systems with service, training & reflection opportunities. New social and racial justice opportunities will be offered for the summer 2021 session.  

“During this challenging past year, a bright spot has been the chance to see just how much people want to help,” said We CU Co-Director Katie Shumway. “Community partners rapidly and drastically pivoted in innovative ways to continue providing tremendously valuable resources to the populations they serve. Amid so many changes, they created space and opportunities for students to give back. In the same vein, after their worlds had been turned upside down, students still found the courage to boldly stand up, sign up, and say, ‘I want to help, show me where I’m needed.’”

The recording of the ceremony and list of volunteers and scholars by college are now available and posted on the We CU website.  

We CU will continue for summer, fall, and spring 2021-2022. For more information about joining We CU, visit wecu.illinois.edu/join-we-cu.