Cayuga Community College student Earl J. Heath has spent his life in the Finger Lakes Region and has developed a deep appreciation for the area’s natural resources. Through a unique service-learning project, Heath is spending his summer protecting the region’s waterways as a steward at the Finger Lakes Institute. He is helping prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species by screening boats that enter and exit the water for “aquatic hitchikers.” If he finds anything unusual, he bags and tags the organism and sends it to the institute for further study.
Heath is one of 33 Cayuga students who are participating in the New York Campus Compact’s Education Award Program for Americorps. In exchange for 300 hours of community service, the students receive a $1,175 award that they can use to help cover their education expenses, including tuition or books. The program fosters civic engagement among college students and encourages positive relationships between campuses and communities.
Of the 33 student participants, 20 of them are nursing students who volunteer at Auburn Community Hospital, Upstate University Hospital, and area health care agencies. The 13 other students volunteer at community organizations ranging from local volunteer fire departments to elementary schools to Head Start programs.
“We’re so happy to be part of this Americorps program because it engages our students in hands-on projects that address a meaningful community need and foster their sense of civic responsibility,” said Professor Sheila Myers, coordinator of experiential learning at Cayuga. “The program also provides the students with a stipend to support their educational goals and gives them an outlet to test their classroom knowledge in a practical setting.”
For Heath, he said the experience has surpassed his expectations.
“I plan to get a degree in aquatics and fisheries, and I feel this internship is a keystone in my educational goals,” he said. “It has provided me with experiences in the field on current issues, not possible in a conventional classroom. I have also had the opportunity to meet key professionals in the local area doing related work. I have been invited and attended various meetings held by local organizations, and have worked special events addressing current issues.
“I am ecstatic that I applied for both the AmeriCorps and the FLI programs,” he said. “It has provided me with much needed financial aid, and experiences I never thought possible at this point in my educational career.”
For more information about the program, to apply for an internship, or to host an Americorps intern at your organization, contact Sheila Myers at Sheila.firstname.lastname@example.org or 315-255-1743, ext. 2122.