Nasjai Smith reviews her Get Connected profile in Eagle Landing. Photo by Dominique Dulin.

Campus grapples with community service requirements amid ongoing pandemic

October 1, 2021

The coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down in more ways than one.

Life at N.C. Central University is no exception, especially for students struggling to earn their required community service hours. The problems began when NCCU shut down in March 2020.

“Not only were students not able to serve or volunteer. But also our partners had to shut down. Many of them closed, many of them don’t even exist anymore,” NCCU Community Engagement Director Calleen Herbert said.

At the end of Spring 2020 NCCU Community Engagement reviewed their data and agreed to waive the required hours for full-time and part-time students for that semester.

The waived credit is still applied and credited towards the students. But it is not counted toward NCCU’s impact on the community. But some students don’t even know that the hours have been waived.

“You don’t see it in Get Connected where students expect to see it,” said Herbert, who added that students were notified.

But the waiver hasn’t applied to the 2020-21 academic year creating a host of headaches for students.

Social work student Teresa Kimbrough shared her experience.

“The whole semester has changed and everything from campus life to getting community service hours have been difficult to cope with,” said Kimbrough.

But the coronavirus has resulted in many community services partners either closing or going virtual.

But Kimbrough did manage to earn her required community service hours from Carter Community Charter School and NCCU Eagle Sisters.

In 1996, NCCU was the first college in North Carolina to begin a community service requirement for all undergraduate students. Students are required to earn 15 community service hours per semester. Student can earn their community service hours either working with over 170 community partners, as did Kimbrough, or with military service, or by taking service-learning courses. NCCU provides over 125 service-learning courses. In all, 36 organizations are providing virtual opportunities and another 36 organizations provide outdoor opportunities where students can earn their community service hours.

Taylor Moore, mass communications junior, also managed to earn her community.

“I had to stay six feet apart and wear my mask. There also couldn’t be more than 10 people in the room at a time,” said Moore, who worked at NCCU Student Government Association.

Mass communication senior Nasjai Smith wasn’t so fortunate.

“I did not receive hours last year,” Smith explained, adding that she is from out of state and had difficulties with the required paperwork to verify her service hours.

“Students have always been able to volunteer out of state. They’ve always been able to, that has not changed. The process is you identify, and then ask in advance, get approval, and volunteer,” Herbert said.

Herbert explained that students doing volunteer work unconnected to NCCU have to have the organization vetted by Community Engagement.

As students come back to campus the concern on if it will shut back down is still unpredictable. Herbert said that if the campus was to shut back down, they will continue to review data and make accommodations for community engagement.

“Think of all the stuff that has happened and what COVID has amplified for us, it ought to make young folk want to be able to go do something to make a difference,” Herbert said.

To get in contact with NCCU Campus Engagement, you can reach out via email: [email protected] or Telephone Number: (919)530-7079. Community Engagement advises you to schedule an appointment via Zoom or in-Person.

Story by Dominique Dulin

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