White House honors college for community service

President Obama's Corporation for National & Community Service has named Merrimack to its 2014 Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, recognizing all the community service work done by its students.

It’s the fourth straight year Merrimack has been recognized by the award, which was created in 2006.

“Service and higher education go hand-in-hand,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “These schools are inspiring young leaders to roll up their sleeves and work alongside community members to solve problems.

School officials learned in mid-May that the volunteer work was being recognized.

Merrimack offers a multitude of community service programs and projects, such as individual student and faculty volunteer activities and the Athletics Department’s Team IMPACT partnerships with children suffering life-altering illness. But perhaps the largest institutional project is service learning.

More than 500 Merrimack students took part in service learning during the past academic year, said Mary McHugh, executive director of the Stevens Service Learning Center. Their contributions included work at the Lawrence Math & Science Partnership, Lazarus House Ministries, and Bread & Roses on Newbury Street in Lawrence, Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, and Atria Marland Place in Andover; as well as public schools in North Andover and Andover. Additionally, students took part in Alternative Winter Break and Alternative Spring Break.

“It’s very rewarding,” McHugh said. “I watch them come in the office very wary about what they are about to do and they come back excited about what they have done or seen.”

McHugh’s office coordinates service projects for students and faculty members with the area organizations.

Community service gives students opportunities to earn field experiences in potential careers such as teaching, social work or government sector to learn whether it’s something they want to pursue, McHugh said.

The CNCS gives the award in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, along with the American Council on Education, Campus Compact, and the Interfaith Youth Core.

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