The Office of Civic Engagement was founded at Rutgers University in Camden in 2010. Andrew Seligsohn founded the program and is currently the Associate Chancellor. Civic Engagement’s mission states that, “We are committed to advancing community objectives while developing the next generation of engaged citizens and leaders.” One of Seligsohn’s goals when orchestrating the Office of Civic Engagement was to teach students effective skills and to teach students to work together. Seligsohn hopes that the office will help students address challenges in their communities and work collectively to solve them.
The main objective in the city of Camden is to transform the campus into a lever for positive change in the city. The office hopes to continue to advance the communities ambition for education. The Office of Civic Engagement opened up a public library on campus two years ago and works with partnerships to enhance the current education curriculums in Camden public school systems. The office currently has a partnership with schools throughout North Camden. The intentions within that partnership are to support the children’s academic improvements, support the teachers and reinvigorate the schools as centers for community life. The program received a 21st century community learning grant to help form an after school program for children in the city of Camden. Civic Engagement started opening up the campus to the city’s children to offer them a summer camp during the long summer months. The program seeks to bring connections to schools and families to provide the finest opportunities to its community. Civic Engagement connected the aquarium with the education system in Camden so that children can have class trips and learn about wild life in the ocean. The office started physical fitness programs to get children active and educated on how to live healthy lifestyles.
Seligsohn described how the Office of Civic Engagement has built a really strong team and their exceptional staff provides outside connections for the community. “A big part of our goal is match-making,” he stated, referring to the staff reaching out to the community in Camden and creating positive partnerships.
Each year Rutgers-Camden offers a program for future scholars attending school in Camden. The office identifies fifty promising eighth graders. These eighth graders participate in five years of academic enrichment. If after those five years their academic skills are appropriate for college acceptance, Rutgers-Camden offers them a full tuition scholarship. There are about two hundred and fifty kids in the program. The first group of students graduated from Rutgers in 2013.
Civic Engagement offers several opportunities for students at Rutgers as well as the community of Camden. Students are encouraged to get involved with the Office of Civic Engagement as soon as they start attending Rutgers-Camden. Students have the opportunity to enroll in classes that include engaged civic learning. Some courses offered at Rutgers-Camden do actual hands-on service work in the community as class participation. These courses are listed under the Office of Civic Engagement on the Rutgers-Camden website and will be specifically listed in the course registration system soon. Students can participate in volunteer work, internships and/or work at local schools. Students can apply for ambassador jobs and get involved with the Students of Rutgers Volunteer Council (SRVC). Ambassador jobs are paid jobs held in the community that way students have the ability to gain experience while being compensated.
Civic Engagement experience can be an opportunity for students to gain powerful tools. The program “enables students to do meaningful work,” says Seligsohn. Students can write about real life experience on their resumes compared to just a list of references. It is a “greater opportunity to build skills,” says Seligsohn.
The Civic Scholars Program is a program where students commit to three hundred hours per year of community service and participate in educational activities. The students receive a $1000 in scholarship money each year and are eligible to enroll in AmeriCorps to earn an additional $1,175 education award. Students involved get to participate in a network of similar programs to meet other students around the country. Rutgers-Camden takes applications every year for the scholars program. Students can apply online or e-mail Chris Countryman for more details about the Civic Scholars Program.