President Baker hands out awards for community service

President Baker spoke to students, faculty and community members about Cal Poly and the link it has to the community Friday afternoon. Photo by John McCullough- Mustang Daily

Faculty, students and community members convened at University House on campus for the 24th annual Community Service Awards Thursday afternoon. Individuals and groups were awarded for their “contributions to the quality of life” in San Luis Obispo and their “spirit of civic engagement.”

The event began with speeches from faculty involved in various programs devoted to community service, including Ken Barclay, the director of Student Life and Leadership, President Warren Baker and representatives of AmeriCorps.

Barclay introduced the event and the people involved. He discussed why it’s so important for Cal Poly to provide students with an outlet for community service.

“President Baker and I both came to this school around the same time,” he said. “We both saw the need for students to be able to give back to their community. Much of students’ educations come from things they learn outside the classroom.”

Baker followed with the presidential address. This will be his last award ceremony as he announced his retirement in December.

“What students do outside of the classroom is as important as what they do inside,” Baker said. “Many of the students here have said that about half of what they learned at Cal Poly comes from those extracurriculars. We want to make sure we can provide a way for students to give back to the community.”

Many of these out-of-the-classroom activities involve some sort of giving back to the community, and that deserves to be recognized, he said.

“Even in a time like this, it’s important for us to realize what we have and to give back,” Baker said.

Sema Alptekin, faculty liaison for service learning at Cal Poly, said through service learning, students are able to gain knowledge about their community and the groups they volunteer with.

Alptekin is also a member of the President’s Community Service panel. The choices for award recipients are based on how the individual or group recognizes a need and finds a way to meet it, she said.

“Service learning links course content to the community through organized service activities, which enhance the academic experience and encourage participation in the community,” she said.

Alptekin said all of the recipients work very hard for their community and recognize their ability to serve those less fortunate. She asked Baker to designate a bigger portion of Cal Poly’s budget to service learning. The crowd laughed; according to Cal Poly’s website, university officials are still trying to deal with the state’s $24 billion shortfall.

The awards were given out in four different categories with multiple recipients in each. Each category is designed to highlight specific achievements in service. The awards are competitive and selected on the basis of the written nominations submitted by faculty, staff and students.

The award for Significant Contribution highlights excellence in identifying a need, creating awareness, providing a new service or having a lasting impact on a broad community population through volunteer service, according to a pamphlet provided at the event. The award was given to Hunter Francis, Cassidy Nicholls, Lauren Herrera and the Cal Poly Lion Dance Team.

Computer engineering sophomore Devin Tang was one of the students accepting the award on the dance group’s behalf. The Lion Dancers perform for different events and groups around San Luis Obispo to spread awareness of traditional Chinese culture, Tang said.

“We didn’t even know about the awards before this,” Tang said. “It feels good to be appreciated for something we like doing.”

The award for Service Learning is given to any faculty, staff or interdisciplinary team that demonstrates an innovative approach to engaging the community through curriculum-related service, while simultaneously meeting a community need. Winners in the Service Learning category included Lynne Slivorsky, Aydin Nazmi, Grace Yeh, David Gillette and Thomas Fowler.

Winners of the President’s Community Service Award for Greek Community Contribution included Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Epsilon and Alpha Omicron Pi. This category focuses on awarding fraternities and sororities who have contributed outstanding volunteer service, aside from philanthropic activities, to the community of San Luis Obispo County.

The award for Outstanding Community Partner goes to organizations throughout the city of San Luis Obispo who have provided Cal Poly students with an outlet to serve their community and make a “lasting impact on a broad community population through their volunteer services.” This award was given to the Boys and Girls Club of North San Luis Obispo County and the United Way Youth Board of San Luis Obispo County.

Lauren Cross, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, has been working closely with Cal Poly students for the past two years. She constantly communicates with students via e-mail and organizes events where students volunteer.

Cal Poly students have volunteered more than 600 hours of service with the club, she said.

“Nonprofits are often in competition with each other for funding, so it’s nice to be able to work with Cal Poly,” Cross said. “We have a great give-and-take relationship with Cal Poly; everyone wins.”

Students at Cal Poly who want to volunteer their services have an outlet to donate their time and services, and the Boys and Girls Club gets the help it needs, Cross said.