As a university, Portland State is committed to community outreach and engagement. Student Leaders for Service (SLS) enables students to fulfill this commitment by providing service opportunities that address issues of the surrounding community. While students are helping communities in need, they are also cultivating leadership skills and forming an understanding of their roles as active citizens. The mission of Student Leaders for Service is to cultivate a body of engaged student leaders who foster meaningful connections between the university and community. This manifests the greater university motto of “Let Knowledge Serve the City.”
Student Leaders for Service is housed in the Center for Academic Excellence at Portland State University. Students receive support from a program coordinator and are advised by PSU’s Assistant Director of Community-University Partnerships. These resources help students establish relationships with partner organizations, recruit and support other PSU students to work with their partner organizations, and independently lead committees to implement campus and community-wide service projects that connect members of the PSU community with the broader Portland region. Members of SLS take on a leading role in fostering leadership in service at PSU. Their efforts stress the importance of diversity, civic engagement and community-based learning in creating a well-rounded, informed and empathetic body of student citizens.
One of the main functions of the student leaders of this program is their work as volunteer coordinators for Portland-area nonprofit and community organizations. By making information about service projects available to PSU students, SLS coordinators help link students to organizations, expanding their choice of service projects specific to the skills they wish to learn. Through this program, 25 students make a commitment to serve 10 hours a week during the academic year at a local organization where they provide direct service to address community needs. As part of the program’s service-learning initiative, service projects of Student Leaders for Service enable participants to explore theoretical and practical approaches to service, democratic citizenship and community building; engage in critically self-reflective placements with local organizations; and develop effective communication skills, as well as teamwork, leadership, and diversity awareness skills.
When informed about receiving the MacJannet Award, President Wim Wiewel said, “This award is an acknowledgement of how Portland State University is intentionally building global citizenship in our students.” SLS has aided in developing global citizens by extending service activities beyond the borders of Portland. In recent years, SLS has been replicated at the American University in Cairo and the University of Science in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Students are now able to engage in an even more diverse collection of projects.
SLS has been very successful in providing students with opportunities to make a difference in their communities. Since 1999, over 6,000 SLS volunteers have provided 82,000 hours of service to 88 projects in the Portland community. The initiative has been adopted campus-wide, as over 125 faculty and staff have also participated in SLS programming. As university students continue to make a commitment to helping in the local and global communities, Portland State University is able to fulfill its commitment to “Let Knowledge Serve the City.” Visit the SLS website>>