September 6, 2007

Kunerth on Public Service

This piece was authored by our good friend Bill F. Kunerth of Belle Fourche. Originally published March 12, 2007, it's a timely topic worth re-visiting.

I recently attended a presentation by Rep. Stephanie Herseth at Black Hills State University in which she did an excellent job of outlining the current political situation and offering her well-thought-out positions on significant issues. Included was a plea for greater participation in civic activities by our youth.

As a retired educator with 35 years under my belt, I could not agree with her more.I tossed out a suggestion to her and the audience, an idea that I think should be more fully exploited in our educational system, especially in high schools, colleges and universities.It involves the formal incorporation of community and public service components into the curricula of secondary schools and higher education institutions. I realize that students at every college and university, and most high schools are involved in such activities, often as a part of their course work. Black Hills State is proposing a major community service effort for the coming school year to the South Dakota Board of Regents.

However, what I am suggesting is that such activity be required of all students.Most of us, at some point in our lives, become involved in community service, but too often it is later in life when our families are well along and we are somewhat secure financially. In fact, the sooner we become involved in such work, the more we realize its self and public benefits. And after our first venture, we tend to continue and increase these activities.

Although such programs can be, and are established locally, there is a national organization, Campus Compact, which for more than 20 years has worked with institutions of higher education - from community colleges to major research universities - in helping them implement community service initiatives. Campus Compact is "committed to educating students for responsible citizenship in ways that both deepen their learning and improve the quality of community life."Students involved in these programs work in such areas as health, literacy, hunger, homelessness, care of the elderly, voting, and the environment.Only one South Dakota university, the School of Mines, is a member of Campus Compact. There are two colleges in Nebraska, three in North Dakota, 15 in Montana, 17 in Iowa, and 47 in Minnesota that are members. Its dues are based on enrollment and are easily affordable for most schools.

I think it's worth looking into for the administrators, faculty and students of South Dakota's private and public institutions of higher education. If it hasn't already, the South Dakota Board of Regents should consider this approach.A comprehensive and compelling package of information is available by typing in "Campus Compact" on your browser.

Thanks, Bill, for allowing me to include this piece at Black Hills Monitor. By the way, Bill Kunerth is an Iowa State University Emeritus Professor of Journalism. He retired in 1988. Absent his photograph, I've posted a shot of the ISU campanile, something of a landmark at the Ames university.

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