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New campus org encourages students to become active

November 12, 2009

With its 2009-2010 motto, “Students, Service, and Success,” the Falcon Fellows is one of the newest organizations on campus that is striving to help students become active in their community.

“The program was first developed on the UWRF campus in 2005 and its purpose is to provide first generation and/or low income college students the opportunity to develop a peer network and provide support that enables students to serve as agents of civic change to respond effectively to local
community issues,” Gina Sevick, Falcon Fellows coordinator, said.

This program is a collaboration of non-profit services with the help of Student Support Services on campus.

“The Falcon Fellows Program is a partnership between the national program, AmeriCorps, Student Support Services (SSS) at UW-River Falls along with various non-profit organizations who serve elderly populations in River Falls/ St. Croix communities,” according to the Falcon Fellows brochure.

“AmeriCorps is the national service movement that engages Americans of all ages and backgrounds in service to address the most critical problems in our nation’s communities in the areas of education, public safety, the environment, and other human needs,” according to the Falcon Fellows Web site.

The 40 students that participate in the Falcon Fellows program include a group of freshman and sophomores that are guided by a small group of upperclassmen who act as mentors for the group.

The program is centered on the idea of community service, and that is one of the main requirements for those enrolling in the program. Each member must work with senior citizens for a minimum of 8-10 hours a week, and must have completed 300 hours of community service and training at the end of the year. If this goal is completed, students can receive a $1,000 AmeriCorps education award to put towards their tuition.

Students that are interested in the program have a certain list of requirements that they must complete before being enrolled in the program, including acceptance into the Student Support Services Program, maintaining a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0 and recruiting at least five additional volunteers from amongst peers to participate in one service activity, according to the brochure.

The program is enriching for the students that participate in it allowing students to grow as members of their community.

“Serving my community is a life changing experience. As a group we cheerfully serve our elderly community. It can be said that if you are not cheerfully volunteering, then one is not volunteering,” student mentor Hubert Brown, said.

These students work with three main non-profit organizations in the area: WALK ON Therapeutic Riding Program, the Lutheran Home Association, and Treasures from the Heart and the International Fire Relief Mission.

Each of these programs highlights a different aspect that the Falcon Fellows wish to touch on in their community.

“The program taught me how to give back to the community and how much it means to the community and myself. I’ve gained the power to volunteer and
in return, I gain the power to allow myself to respect others who give back to the community,” Falcon Fellow Vieng Chang said.

This year students active in the Falcon Fellows participated in a service trip for Spring Break that consisted of traveling to six different states including, Minnesota, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Iowa to complete community service projects.

“By spending spring break serving communities they’ve never before visited and devoting a whole year of service to the River Falls community, the Falcon
Fellows created impacts those communities will never forget,” Sevick said.

Falcon Fellows entices other students to join by showing what is important to the program. Reasons to join the program include: development of a strong supporting network, building your resume, foster an appreciation for lifelong community engagement and to learn more about yourself and your community, according to the Web site.