Houghton College Announces Service and Learning Initiatives

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Houghton College publicly announced on March 31, 2010 the launch of two new Houghton College initiatives in Buffalo, New York: Wesley ServiceCorps (in collaboration with WNY AmeriCorps) and City Semester. These programs aim to expand the college’s outreach and engagement in the city of Buffalo during the next decade. The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation has pledged $106,000 towards the first year of both programs.

A 20-year Houghton College tradition of serving the Buffalo community will continue via the establishment of the Wesley ServiceCorps and City Semester program.

Houghton College publicly announced on March 31, 2010 the launch of two new Houghton College initiatives in Buffalo, New York: Wesley ServiceCorps (in collaboration with WNY AmeriCorps) and City Semester. These programs aim to expand the college’s outreach and engagement in the city of Buffalo during the next decade. The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation has pledged $106,000 towards the first year of both programs.

“The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation has played a critical role in partnering with Houghton College to provide opportunities for student learning and service in the city of Buffalo,” remarks Shirley A. Mullen, President of Houghton College. “A 20-year Houghton College tradition of serving the Buffalo community will continue via the establishment of the Wesley ServiceCorps and City Semester program. Both initiatives embody the Houghton ideal of graduating students who are exceptionally well-prepared to achieve their professional and personal goals, but who are also motivated to offer those achievements in service to others.”

Wesley Service Corps
Established in collaboration with WNY AmeriCorps, Wesley ServiceCorps will encourage and enable a select group of Houghton College graduates to serve for a year with organizations in Buffalo and Allegany County committed to education and anti-poverty initiatives. The work of the Corps will be coordinated with community partners to take full advantage of the talents and interests of Corps members and to establish continuity and consistency in service provided. Housed in the Houghton College Office for Urban Connections in Buffalo, Wesley ServiceCorps began recruitment in January 2010 and the twelve initial Corps members will begin service in September 2010.

“WNY AmeriCorps is proud to continue our successful partnership with Houghton College in a new and exciting direction with the Wesley ServiceCorps,” said Mark P. Lazzara, CEO of WNY AmeriCorps. “Houghton College students and alumni have proven to be some of our most dedicated and impactful members in our history. We hope to continue that tradition while providing new and exciting opportunities to serve.”

It is fitting that the Corps carry the name of John Wesley, eighteenth-century English theologian and founder of the movement that gave birth to The Wesleyan Church, sponsoring denomination of Houghton College. Committed to social reform, Wesley worked tirelessly to improve the lot of the poor, giving attention to education, prison reform, health care, employment and the abolition of slavery. He combined simple acts of kindness with a continual effort to understand and address underlying causes of poverty and injustice.

City Semester
The purpose of the Houghton College City Semester is to afford students the opportunity to experience urban life as a form of learning. The City Semester combines a structured introduction to the patterns and dynamics of urban settlement with experiential learning via internships and service opportunities – pedagogically, reading and discussion with field study. Abstract ideas become more meaningful when introduced with a sense of place: an introduction to “the city” is best carried out in the context of a specific city with an urban experience that engages all the senses. The City Semester program, designed for a dozen students, will operate both fall and spring semesters annually, beginning Spring Semester 2011, and will serve primarily students in their junior and senior years of study.

“Buffalo has been chosen as the location for the Houghton College City Semester program because of its rich history as the endpoint of Great Lakes commerce and industry and because of its strategic location in the future development of the area that sweeps around Lake Ontario from Toronto to Rochester, an area that encompasses one of the biggest economic markets of the world,” states Ronald Mahurin, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College. “Buffalo is an exciting place of transition in many of its oldest and most diverse neighborhoods, a diversity made more vibrant by a recent wave of refugee immigration that adds to the city’s long tradition of welcoming newcomers.”

Charles Massey, Coordinator of the Office for Urban Connections, will serve as the director for the City Semester program. A Houghton College faculty member for 33 years and Buffalo resident for 20 years, he is positioned to lead this initiative. He, with the assistance of AmeriCorps staffers serving in the Office for Urban Connections and participation of appropriate faculty, will be responsible for placements and general oversight for internships.

About Houghton College
Houghton College, a Christian liberal arts college serving 1,200 students at its campus in Allegany County, some 65 miles from Buffalo, has increased its opportunities for involvement in the city. Its first incursion came twenty years ago when the college played a major role in saving a historic and architecturally significant Roman Catholic Church building in an impoverished community on the Buffalo East Side. Houghton faculty led the effort to develop a model early childhood school to be housed in the former church building. Ultimately, this resulted in the creation of the first charter school in Western New York in 2000. The college’s second incursion began six years ago and has led to significant involvement with refugees arriving in Buffalo and settling in large numbers on the city’s West Side. Houghton College students, alumni serving through AmeriCorps, and faculty are working with community partners to address needs of refugees in schools, after school programs, health and human services, housing and community development. The introduction of two new initiatives, Wesley ServiceCorps and City Semester, is a continuation of the college’s outreach and commitment to the city of Buffalo and its residents.

About WNY AmeriCorps
WNY AmeriCorps, an independent non-profit organization, creates opportunities for all individuals to serve, challenging citizens to turn their ideals into action and their passion into positive change. Through transformational service and civic responsibility, WNY AmeriCorps is designing a sustainable future for our nation’s communities.

About The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation
The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation, led by trustees Thomas D. Lunt, Robert J. Kresse and Janet L. Day, primarily funds organizations based in New York. The foundation has previously awarded grants to Houghton College for its efforts in the city of Buffalo.

Houghton College, founded in 1883, provides an academically challenging, Christ-centered education in the liberal arts and sciences to students from diverse traditions and economic backgrounds and equips them to lead and labor as scholar-servants in a changing world.

The college of 1,200 students is located in western New York, just 65 miles from Rochester and Buffalo. For more information, please visit http://www.houghton.edu    

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