Rising to Challenge, CSI Wins NYC "Distinguished Award in Service" for More than 11,000 Hours of Volunteer Work

CSI has won New York City’s “Distinguished Award in Service,” in recognition of its impressive showing in New York City’s first College Challenge. The Challenge was a four-month event in which 18 NYC colleges and universities strove to amass as many volunteer hours of community service time as possible against their own pre-set goals.

With more than 500 students contributing more than 11,000 hours of volunteer service to a variety of projects, CSI was one of three winners overall, and was ranked first among CUNY participants.

Diahann Billings-Burford, appointed by Mayor Bloomberg last year as the first municipal Chief Service Officer, said that the Distinguished Award in Service was being given to CSI “for strong campus mobilization, an extensive network of community partnerships, and a willingness to make the Challenge a central part of the campus’ plan for service.”

“Our students were constantly telling us how good they felt giving back to our community, and they’re eager to do it again,” said Carol Brower, CSI’s Director of Student Life.

The Challenge, covering the period from January 1 though April 30 of this year, was a New York City initiative aimed at promoting service and volunteerism. Its dual purpose was “to make our city the easiest place in the world to volunteer and set a new standard for how college communities can tap the power of their people to tackle our community’s most pressing challenges.”

To qualify, service projects had to be located within the City’s five boroughs. CSI students chose diverse causes to which they devoted what Brower termed their “time, passion, skills, and willingness to help address the city’s most pressing needs and make a difference.”

Their projects included blood drives, a homeless count with the Department of Homeless Services, food pantry fills, fundraisers for U.S. troops overseas, Haiti relief efforts with thr American Red Cross, a Greenbelt music festival, reading to children in day care centers, participating in breast cancer walks for the American Cancer Society, and planning and Implementing CSI’s first Relay for Life fundraising walk for the American Cancer Society,

CSI students who volunteered the most hours were Zaheer Baber (641), Marybeth Melendez (428), Noor Daoud (370), and Karen Klingele (188).

Leading students were to receive such gifts as an iPod Nano, concert tickets, sweatshirts, tee shirts, portfolios, and tickets to the CFA’s “Night of New York Comedy.” The top ten students city-wide will have the opportunity to intern with the Mayor’s Office this summer.

Other institutions that participated with CSI included St. John’s University, Barnard College, New York School of Interor Design, Fordham University, Wagner College, Columbia University, The New School, Lehman College, Pratt Institute, Marymount College, Hunter College, New York University, Brooklyn College, Queens College, Bronx Community College, Pace University, and Berkeley College.

“The College Challenge gave us a vehicle to capture some of the great work being done,” Brower said. “We’re very proud of all our faculty, staff, and students who participated. We’ve learned a great deal about the hearts of our CSI community and are looking forward to the next round. We’d love to see more opportunities for our community to get involved, especially in collaborating with the other Higher Ed institutions on Staten Island, instead of being in competition against them.”

All CSI students, she added, “are proud of the school’s accomplishment, and are extremely excited about being the number-one CUNY school.”

Brower also noted that CSI would gladly participate in any future Challenge. “Our students feel it is not only fun to volunteer and give back, but that it’s their responsibility to do so.”

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