Student Council launches redesigned Service Scholar Program

New website part of rebranding

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Student Council launched the reformed Service Scholar Program at an event in Newcomb Hall's South Meeting Room Thursday evening.

Lauren Hornsby | Cavalier Daily

Student Council launched the reformed Service Scholar Program at an event in Newcomb Hall’s South Meeting Room Thursday evening. The event included a design-thinking workshop and presentation, followed by an informal question and answer session with members of the Community Service Committee.

The Service Scholar Program was founded by former Student Council President and fourth-year Batten student Emily Lodge during her second year at the University. The program started as a prototype for the students in the Class of 2017. However, after its success, it was expanded to encompass the entire student body.

According to its website, the purpose of the program is to recognize University students “who have dedicated their college experience to the service of others.” Students have the opportunity to log the number of hours of community service in which they’ve participated and reach different levels of achievement.

“This year we’ve worked to essentially revitalize the program, taking it from the conceptualization Emily had and the kind of prototype she designed to a new redesigned program,” said Marlina Mejia, a second-year College student and leader of the Service Scholar Team. “We’re trying to rebrand it and push it back out into the student body.”

Part of this rebranding comes in the form of a new website, which was designed by fourth-year College student Alan Wei. Wei is the co-founder of the company, Totem, which has partnered with the Service Scholar Team and seeks to give students better access to volunteer opportunities in the Charlottesville community.

“[Last year] we had a website, but it broke within the first week,” Lodge said. “We weren’t expecting so many people to use it … so this past year the Community Service Committee has done a phenomenal job taking the program and really coming up with new ways to make it more efficient and more streamlined.”

The new website has been the most significant change to the program. However, the Community Service Committee has also made some minor regulatory changes as well. These involve several membership pathways, with varying degrees of distinction and recognition.

Students can be recognized on an annual basis by accumulating 25 or more community service hours, or they can be recognized at graduation by completing an average of 75 hours of service per year during their time at the University. Yearly recognition is categorized into bronze, silver and gold distinctions, which require students to fulfill at least 25, 50 or 75 hours of service, respectively.

However, there are a few exceptions to the rules. Transfer students will not be required to have a 75 hour average of service over their four years of study to receive graduation recognition, and will only need to meet that average for the time they are at the University. In addition, current students who want to receive graduation recognition are exempt from recording hours for the 2016-17 school year.

“So we will take certain hours, which are qualified hours and those are essentially hours that you do in perhaps a CIO dedicated to service on grounds,” Mejia said. “But there are several limiting factors.”

Currently, service hours that are performed outside of Charlottesville cannot count toward a student’s yearly or graduation recognition. Court-ordered community service and service required for a class, internship or job will not be accepted as well.

The previous version of the program required students to submit service hours for review within two weeks of completion, but the committee has decided to rescind this rule in favor of no time constraint.

“The number of hours that go through, it blows my mind every time I look at it,” Wei said. “I’m really happy to see [the website] finally turn into something where we can finally showcase the fact that part of being at U.Va. means being conscious about what you’re giving your time to.”

To encourage people to submit more hours and add a component of friendly competition, the website has a leaderboard which will display the individuals with the most service hours. There are also leaderboards for fraternities, sororities, CIOs and other University organizations.

“I hope the Service Scholar Program is long-lasting, and will continue to recognize members of this community for their selfless dedication to the betterment of the lives of others,” Lodge said. “I am excited to see [the Community Service Committee’s] year’s worth of hard work pay off.”

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