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CUNY Service Corps looks forward after one year

The CUNY Service Corps celebrated its second year with more students than it had in its inaugural year. After a successful start, they aim to create more activities and opportunities for participating students across different colleges.

Former Chancellor Matthew Goldstein wanted to create a program that could show the city that the CUNY community is an active network of citizens who care for their communities. That is when the idea of the CUNY Service Corps was born, so students, staff and faculty could perform services for New York City by supporting non-profit and civic programs.

Valerie Chow, associate director of the Service Corps, said that the biggest challenge was to “make the program in such a short time.” However, officials were able to plan out a schedule and gain thousands of student applications.

The program officially launched on Sept. 27, 2013 with 712 students from seven colleges working in 96 organizations and firms. They explored civic engagement and workplace readiness.

After the first year, some community partners enjoyed their interns so much that they requested even more. Chow mentioned how Alicia Joseph, a Queens College student, was the only member working at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

“She helped with the design, planning and implementation of educational programs for high school students and teachers. By the end of the 2013-2014 academic year, the bank was so impressed with Alicia’s work that they requested four more Corps members,” Chow said.

Ernst J. Pierre, a QC graduate, was also a part of the program last year. He worked with the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation.

At first, he worked in the employment center, polishing resumes, collecting documents and showing people where to get certification to work. For the rest of the academic year, he was responsible for doing research on traffic, size of buildings, employee hotspots and other things that would factor in the development of a parking building or alternative parking.

“Brooklyn is great for manufacturing [and] it enhances the public good,” Pierre said.

Thomas P. Szlezak, project manager at QC, was satisfied to see that students enjoyed working and seeing what the organizations could do.

“I am proud to support the students and proud of the city to support the students as well,” Szlezak said.

Some students were able to receive credit for their work. Moreover, after the first year, some students received jobs from their employers.

Cesar E. Oyervides-Cisneros, the manager of the Corps at QC, said that “students had unexpected opportunities to grow. They are happy to make an impact. Students were able to increase confidence in their fields of work, such as teaching.”

Since its launch last year, the CUNY Service Corps has grown. There are more community partners, more faculty-led projects within the program and more students. This year, there are 126 community partners.

Pierre found the experience enlightening and inspiring.

“I built great relationships, I learned a lot about myself, my department and where I want to be. You do great things with the community partners and the CUNY Service Corps can help you find where you want to be.”

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