President Obama recognizes volunteer efforts of the campus community

By Pat Gareau

Hudson Valley has been recognized by President Barack Obama for its participation in the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, which was started in an effort to use community service to unite people of all religious backgrounds.

About 50 students at Hudson Valley participated in the president’s challenge throughout the year. Many continue to volunteer and serve the community.

President Obama’s initiative called on college students across the country from all different backgrounds to work together in service of the poor. Over 250 colleges participated.

Hudson Valley’s campus chaplain, Cylon George, coordinated the efforts of volunteer organizations around campus to meet the purpose of the challenge.

“Helping the community is a wonderful, spiritual principle that unites us all,” George said.

In the fall of 2012, the focus was on the community service side of the challenge. Volunteer organizations on campus, such as Circle K and Habitat for Humanity, do work that is applicable to the president’s initiative.

Eric Menshi, student and president of the Circle K International at Hudson Valley, said volunteering for good causes inspires people “to look past race, religion and economic hardship and help people together.”

Menshi organized a volunteer event at Joseph’s House, a homeless shelter in downtown Troy, and now volunteers there on a weekly basis. Circle K and the campus ministry also worked with Equinox, a local non-profit organization, on their Thanksgiving community dinner.

After focusing on community service in the fall, the campus made an effort to promote interfaith dialogue and respect during the spring. Hudson Valley hosted a panel discussion last fall where Christian, Islamic and Jewish leaders discussed how their faith calls them to serve.

“Jesus is always serving others,” George said in regard to helping the poor in Christianity. In Islam, he said that, “One of the five pillars is serving the poor.”

In a video promoting the initiative President Obama said, “An act of service can unite people of all faiths.”

Children at the Well was also present for an event on campus last year. Children at the Well is an organization that has children from different backgrounds tell stories about their traditions in order to build understanding.

While the United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, there are still people who benefit from community service. Nationally, the poverty rate is 15 percent. Over 20 percent of all children live in poverty. In the city of Albany, 28 percent of residents live on incomes below the poverty rate.

Students interested in continuing the mission of community service can reach out to volunteering clubs on campus such as Circle K and Habitat for Humanity.

For students who are interested in religious exploration, the campus ministry is informed on the full spectrum of faiths with an interfaith prayer room and scripture from all three Abrahamic religions and Eastern traditions.

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