La Sierra University

La Sierra University, Riverside, CA
Special Focus: Promise Neighborhoods Model Presidential Award

Seattle UniversityLa Sierra University takes a “cradle to career to college” approach to help local children reach their full potential. Using the Promise Neighborhoods model, La Sierra students applied their minds, talents, and increasing professional skills to provide children with coordinated education, family, social service, and community programs.

La Sierra’s partnership with community organizations to address local needs pushed the school to the top in the Promise Neighborhood category. For instance, senior business students in a community service seminar analyzed the Alvord Unified School District to determine which materials and resources would be necessary to secure grants. They raised over $2,000 plus in-kind donations, enabling the school system to leverage their work to earn $71,000 in grants.

La Sierra’s 12-year Arlanza Collaborative is another example of its integrated partnership with the Alvord Unified School District. Students provided tutoring, mentoring, and project-based activities to a district where about half the students are learning English as a new language and come from low-income families. Children cheer as La Sierra chemistry students demonstrate science experiments at elementary schools; music students bring instruments to students who might not be able to afford music lessons.

The communications and biology departments teamed up with the Norco School District and parents to inject new life into La Sierra’s World Museum of Natural History. The museum had excellent specimens, but few visitors. University students evaluated available resources and needs, and then planned an interactive but inexpensive museum program for elementary students. More than 50 students and their parents learned to identify animal specimens and were encouraged to come back often.

Creativity despite budget cuts added up to more than 500 service hours for anti-bullying activities, one of the university’s priorities. State cuts affected character education at the Riverside schools; meanwhile, nationwide, more than 160,000 students miss school each day because of fear of attack or intimidation. To stem the tide in their community, La Sierra’s Center for Conflict Resolution designed a curriculum to build a culture of respect in the local elementary schools.

From a freshman day of service to a community service seminar required of all seniors, La Sierra is dedicated to its motto: “To seek, to know, to serve.” With students saying they’ve been taught to be “life-long learners” when it comes to service, this practice is likely to continue well beyond graduation.

*The estimated dollar value of volunteer time for 2010 is $21.36 per hour according to the Independent Sector.

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