The Carolina Center for Public Service honored this year’s graduating class of Public Service Scholars at a reception Friday, recognizing 96 students for their commitment to communities throughout the world and their legacy of service while at Carolina.
At Commencement on Sunday, the 96 wore Carolina blue and white cords designating them as Public Service Scholar graduates.
These seniors have completed a special program, launched in 2003 through the center, that provides guidance and instruction to students who want to combine service and education. Completing an average of almost 450 hours per graduate, the scholars have been part of public service projects on campus and across the state and the world. Collectively, program participants have logged more than 165,000 total service hours, and participation has climbed from 78 individuals in 2003 to 1,117 this year, with 833 of these students coming from within the state.
This year’s Public Service Scholars graduates have worked at UNC Hospitals, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Inter-Faith Council for Social Service, Habitat for Humanity and the Durham Crisis Response Center. They also have participated in international public service projects such as the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Youth Development Programme in Jamaica.
“From the first day I walked around on this campus, it was easy to see the number and variety of opportunities for students to get involved were abundant,” said Mehul Patel, a chemistry major from Jamestown, who is graduating as a Public Service Scholar. After graduation, Patel plans to volunteer in rural Nepal and then attend medical school. Being a Public Service Scholar “is more than just being recognized as a public servant – it is molding yourself into a caring leader and a compassionate human being for the future,” he said.
Public policy major Jennifer L. Barry of Charlotte will start an internship with Orphanage Outreach in the Dominican Republic after graduation. “I’ve been active in public service throughout my life and was thrilled to learn upon joining the Carolina community that a place exists that supports, facilitates and recognizes engagement and activism,” she said.
To graduate as a Public Service Scholar, students must have a minimum 2.5 grade point average, complete at least 300 hours of service, take one service-learning course and attend four skills-training workshops.
“I don’t plan on ending my public service at Carolina,” said Ana Hacic-Vlahovic, a political science major from Chapel Hill, who plans to focus on international relations and human rights in graduate or law school. “I want to spend the rest of my life helping those that don’t have a voice to be heard through international law and human rights.”
The Carolina Center for Public Service, created in 1997, engages and supports the faculty, students and staff at Carolina in meeting the needs of North Carolina. The center is designed to strengthen the University’s public service commitment by promoting scholarship and service that are responsive to the concerns of the state and contribute to the common good.