UofL COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT EFFORTS COME FULL CIRCLE
WHEN ANOA ZAKEE sets foot on the University of Louisville campus this fall, she’ll already have a long list of accomplishments to her name: 4.4 high school GPA, valedictorian of her senior class at The Academy @ Shawnee, Woodford R. Porter scholarship winner.
Her hard work and determination propelled her forward, but a UofL community engagement program called GO College helped her along the way.
GO College, a federally funded initiative, helps track high school students’ progression and enrollment into college. For Zakee, the program meant tutoring, exposure to college and regular meetings with college coaches, so she could stay on track to accomplish her goal of becoming a pediatrician. It worked — she enrolled at UofL for fall 2015 as a pre-med major.
“Without GO College, I wouldn’t have the opportunities I have now,” Zakee said. “They gave me the tools to develop myself as a person.”
Zakee’s story reflects the positive results made possible by the university’s steadfast commitment to community engagement. In particular, the university focuses on four pillars of service — educational opportunities, social services, health care and economic growth — to enhance quality of life in Louisville and beyond.
In 2013–14, the university recorded more than 16,000 student, 1,500 staff, and 1,700 faculty instances of engagement in teaching, research and service projects.
“As an institution that was established more than 200 years ago to serve the community, UofL has been engaged significantly with our community since its birth,” said Dan Hall, vice president for the Office of Community Engagement at UofL. “Now, our modern day understanding of engagement focuses not only on the local community, but also the global community.”
Community engagement projects cover the spectrum from health education and wellness to arts and culture. UofL’s presence stretches throughout Kentucky, into neighboring states and internationally.
But many of the most vital programs supported take place just beyond campus in UofL’s Signature Partnership area. The Signature Partnership Initiative enhances the quality of life and economic opportunities for residents and families of west Louisville.
Of the 889 community partnerships in 2013–14, 105 impacted the Signature Partnership area by boosting educational opportunities, health care, social services and economic growth. UofL groups work with organizations like Neighborhood House, a nearly 120-year old non-profit community center in the Portland neighborhood that offers health care and social services programs, including food banks, senior services and health screenings, and primary schools like the J.B. Atkinson Academy for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, where UofL education and social work students are working in the classrooms and mentoring teachers.
“UofL, working with its many community partners, is creating more pathways for residents of west Louisville to achieve educational success and economic stability,” Hall said.
CONTINUING THE CAUSE
The university constantly expands its efforts in community engagement, even including it in curriculum. Currently, 1,236 courses require students to be engaged in the community through internships, field placement, practicums, and clinical or service learning, according to Henry Cunningham, community engagement director.
“Engagement is not just a one-way street benefitting community,” Hall said. “Engagement also benefits the university by offering rich learning experiences for our students and robust teaching and research opportunities for faculty.”
Faculty and staff may take one day off each year to participate in individual community service. This spring, the university began a pilot program called “UofL Day of Service” where staff members could join an organized effort to volunteer at three neighborhood locations — California Community and Park, Victory Park and YMCA Safe Place. The university also joins in on the national MLK Day of Service initiative each January. In recent years, UofL students have volunteered to clean up Shelby Park and work with students at Maupin Elementary.
Each year the UofL Community Engagement Awards honor students, faculty and staff members, along with a community partner. The 2015 award winners will be honored this fall. By the time those winners are announced, Zakee, the pre-med major, will be well into her first semester as a college student.
“I really want to get involved with a lot of volunteering,” she said. “I want to join a lot of clubs and be really involved.”
As a product of UofL’s community engagement efforts, Zakee is eager to get started on campus and pay forward what she’s experienced with others.
“What UofL has done for my high school is amazing,” she said. “Going to UofL, it feels like I’m joining another family after leaving my high school family. It feels like I’m going into a community that cares.”