Fisher to Develop Community Service Preparatory Program, Thanks to Farash Grant

May 9, 2019

The Institute for Civic and Community Engagement at St. John Fisher College will create a new community engagement Orientation for first-year students thanks to a $15,000 grant from the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation.

A student paints an inspiration quote on the wall of a local school during Color the Roc 2019.

The new initiative, which will be tailored to students who are recipients of the First Generation and Service Scholars scholarship programs, will offer an in-depth orientation on civic and community engagement. It will educate students about the history of Rochester, foster a deeper understanding of the state of poverty and asset-based community development, and clearly define their role in contributing to large-scale social change driven by their service sites.

Both scholarship programs, which are renewable all four years at Fisher, include a significant community service component. First Generation Scholars participate in academic mentoring programs at schools throughout the Rochester area, while Service Scholars must complete 130 hours of service in their first year, and 200 hours of service each remaining year.

“Our goal is to find balance between honoring these established programs while infusing them with new elements that are student- and community-centered,” said Erin Barry, director of the Institute, who noted that in recent academic years, Fisher students spent a combined total of nearly 400,000 hours annually working as volunteers in a wide range of community service programs. “There is great pride—and with good reason—about the long history of service at Fisher. This initiative aims to evolve our thinking around the delivery of service, and provide more upfront training for our scholars before they go into the community.”

Barry and Elizabeth Rizzolo, Fisher’s assistant director of community service and scholars programs, convened five facilitated design sessions that included faculty representatives designated by the deans of College’s five schools; the academic directors of the two scholarship programs, Drs. DeJesus-Rueff and Swiencicki; a community partner advisory committee; and current scholars. The sessions sought to better understand how the program can be most beneficial to the students and community. With those learnings in hand, the Institute team will assess their findings from a pedagogical perspective to ensure the program is intentional and thoughtful in its delivery.

“We want to make sure that the Orientation will help students feel supported as they embark on their journey of civic and community engagement for four years,” Barry said. “To ensure that the service is rooted in true reciprocity—impactful for our partners and productive for all—each student needs to be prepared for the dynamic, often high-need, and diverse environments they will enter.”

Throughout the summer, the Institute will design the program, sourcing speakers from the College and wider community to deliver curriculum and creating learning modules. The goal is to roll out the new program when first-year students arrive this fall.  Barry said the new training marks the first time the College is purposefully tying academic and service Orientations together and it is the first time Fisher is more intentionally integrating students in the First Generation and Service Scholar programs together.

After a thorough assessment of the program, Barry will explore opportunities to roll out the Orientation to all students looking to engage in community engaged scholarship and volunteerism, and potentially even the full student body.