Students are not only getting an education in their academic fields, they are getting important lessons in compassion and civic engagement at West Virginia University.

In fact, WVU is among the best in the nation when it comes to community outreach, according to a new federal program recognizing schools that have answered the call to service.

WVU was one of three schools in the state to be recently named to the 2006 Presidents Higher Education Community Service Honor Rolland the only one in West Virginia to receive a distinction for general community service.

In its inaugural year, the honor roll recognizes colleges and universities with students who have provided exceptional volunteer service. WVU was among 141 colleges and universities that made the list; more than 500 schools applied.

What this recognition means is that as a university, we are institutionalizing service learning and civic engagement as a core message to our students,said Kim Colebank, director of WVU s Center for Civic Engagement.Its not just about sporadic volunteering or paying your dues to society; its part of the learning experience at WVU .

Nationally, it means that WVU is a civic engagement institution, and thats a huge message to send to millennialsprospective students who are looking for an institution that really teaches them about the roles and purposes of higher education,she added.

In applying for the honor roll, Colebank highlighted the extraordinary efforts by the University and its students to serve in communities throughout the state and help Gulf and Atlantic Coast communities devastated by hurricanes.

These efforts included enrolling displaced students, assisting with the rebuilding of homes, organizing relief fund-raisers, establishing a medical clinic at Camp Dawson and working with other schools to provide online classes for students.

The honor roll is based on service completed from July 1, 2005, to June 30, 2006. An estimated 10,400 WVU students contributed service hours locally through community service and service-learning projects during that period, Colebank said. Of those, 330 participated in hurricane relief projects.

The alternative Thanksgiving break was a huge piece; we traveled south to do cleanup after Wilma,she said.To my knowledge, we were the only school to partner with the American Red Cross the way that we did.

About 40 students spent their 2005 Thanksgiving vacation helping with relief and recovery efforts in Miami as fully trained, certified American Red Cross volunteers.

Colebank said 2005-06 is only a small representation of the valuable service students have performed in communities. During 2006-07, students have contributed almost $1 million worth of service for the betterment of Morgantown and surrounding communities based on the national volunteer rate of $18 an hour.

WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. said the national recognition is a reflection of the Universitys ongoing commitment to providing volunteer and service-learning opportunities.

WVU students contribute their time, resources, energy and skills to serve those in our community every day,he said.They organize blood drives and food collections, tutor children in after-school programs, raise money for disaster relief and help out in many other ways.

While the University doesnt expect recognition for this service, being named to the Presidents Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll reaffirms our mission of outreach and public service,he added.WVU is committed to preparing students to become engaged citizens.

The 2006 honor roll is sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Presidents Council on Service and Civic Participation, the USA Freedom Corps, and the U.S. Departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development.