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GPC receives Presidential service award

COVINGTON -- President Barack Obama has named Georgia Perimeter College as a 2013 Presidential Awardee in the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

The award, created by the Corporation for National and Community Service, was presented this month to Rob Watts, GPC's interim president, by Jonathan Greenblatt, special assistant to President Barack Obama. Greenblatt is director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.

The college is one of just five institutions and the only two-year college in the nation that earned the Presidential distinction.

The Presidential Award is the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement.

"The award represents the commitment of Georgia Perimeter College faculty and staff to providing community service opportunities to enhance student learning," Watts said. "It also reflects the close connection between the college and the communities we serve at our five campuses."In 2011-12, GPC faculty and students spent more than 189,500 hours doing service-learning and volunteer projects in their respective communities. These are just a few of the examples of countless service learning opportunities that Georgia Perimeter faculty have offered their students.

Highlighted projects included:

-- Debra Denzer's English as a Second Language students teaching English and literacy skills to elderly refugees and new immigrants at the Clarkston Community Center.

-- A three-fold project at Stone Mountain Park that involved Dr. Jonathan Lochamy's biology students collecting insect and plant data for a park database, Dr. Pamela Gore's geology students documenting vanishing granite landmarks on the mountain and creating maps of the park trails, and Natalie Stickney's physical education students rating trails and creating activities for hikers.

-- Students on two campuses planting gardens that contributed fresh produce to families in need. Dr. George Lonberger's geology students and Dr. Sallie Paschal's math students were involved on GPC's Newton Campus, along with English students of Dr. Tyrie Smith and Dr. Scott Mitchell on Decatur Campus.

"Thanks to our GPC volunteers' ingenuity and willingness to get their hands dirty, literally hundreds of families are able to set a healthy, nutritious meal on their tables," said Mollie Melvin, program director of Hands On Newton. "GPC students and faculty don't just wait for us to reach out to them; they actively seek ways to build and support a better community, and it is my honor to connect them with projects that truly make a difference in people's lives."

Refugees and immigrants in Clarkston also work with GPC students in a nearby community garden with veterans of the U.S. military. GPC's veteran students are connected to service opportunities such as gardening through the school's Military Outreach Center. AmeriCorps members, who are both veterans and GPC students, also help their peers with study and social support, assistance with resume writing, and referrals to professional counseling if needed.

Georgia Perimeter's Sean Brumfield, executive director of the college's Quality Enhancement Plan, co-accepted the award with Watts.

"This award recognizes the valuable work GPC students and faculty do to help solve community-identified problems and respond to community-identified needs," he said. "Through service, students are given the opportunity to bring learning to life."

Other colleges receiving the award were Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, the University of Connecticut, La Sierra University in California and Nazareth College in New York.

"We congratulate the awardees and the students for their dedication to service," said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. "These institutions have inspired students and faculty alike to roll up their sleeves and work alongside members of the community to solve problems and improve their neighbors' lives."