Just in time for the new academic year at The Ohio State University (OSU), Community Connection is now available.
Community Connection is an Internet-based service that will connect and match OSU faculty and students with neighborhood schools and community service organizations. This web tool makes the most of today's technology to answer the national call to increase community service. Free-Net, an outreach project of OSU and OSC (Ohio Supercomputer Center), developed the database and web interfaces that run this new service.
"This is the first system that will link volunteers, agencies, and faculty as well as provide a tracking mechanism that allows agencies and faculty to retrieve reports, and students to develop a transcript of their community service activities," said Steve Gordon, Free-Net Director.
Community Connection (http://communityconnection.osu.edu) allows community organizations to post volunteer opportunities on a database where faculty and students can search for, and sign up for, service opportunities. Student organizations can focus on one or more community projects, and students can track their cumulative hours into a service "transcript" for potential use upon graduation. Faculty can also use the website to support their service learning courses using a variety of searching and reporting tools.
Supporting partners that have worked on this project since Spring 2001 include Ohio State's Service Learning Initiative, an organization that integrates service-learning in college curricula; Project Community, a volunteer referral center on campus; and P-12 Project, a program that connects OSU's resources with Ohio schools, especially those in lower socio-economic districts.
"Neighborhood schools' number one priority is to bring more qualified OSU students into the schools to tutor and mentor K-12 students," said Christine Murakami, coordinator of the web-based program and representative of the P-12 Project. "This database will help increase student enrollment as well as provide them with training on how to be a better volunteer."
The website is fully equipped to handle the long list of students who volunteer each year, and will keep an accurate account of the opportunities available at the various community-based organizations in the university district.
"Faculty can use the website to facilitate and manage the service-learning component in their courses," said Golden Jackson-Mergler, professor in human ecology. "They can search for community partners and receive a report of how many hours students worked."
Nearly 70 percent of OSU's 2002 graduates have volunteered in some way, creating a service culture at OSU that increases the effectiveness of student education and serves community needs. The Community Connection is a tool to help streamline the matching and tracking process to help build this culture of service and improve the neighboring community.