Almost 75% of the more than 20,000 University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) students are Hispanic, the majority of them first-generation college students. UTEP is largely a commuter campus, 60% of students attend full-time, and the vast majority of them work. In this context, engagement in the community is a key ingredient to student success at UTEP, reinforcing classroom instruction with real-world applications and allowing students to recognize the value of their newly acquired skills and education.
The mission and purpose of the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) is to engage faculty and students in the area through community-based activities to enhance student learning, promote civic engagement, and actively improve the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez region.
Since 2004, 2,462 students have participated in the programs. A large sampling of participants (n=1,465) suggests that nearly 80% of students participating in CCE are Hispanic. Over 50 students have participated in a CCE internship, and 100% of the current interns are Hispanic/Latino. More than 86% of students who participated in service learning (n=1,235) agreed or strongly agreed that they understood the link between what they learned in class and what they learned in the community. More than 75% felt that the experience contributed to their development in leadership; 71.4% believed their self-confidence increased as a result of the experience; 86% agreed that it changed their perception about the need for social change and their commitment to “get involved”; and 39% stated that they will pursue a career in the nonprofit sector as a function of service-learning. Forty-nine of the 50 student interns have graduated or are on-track to graduate. CCE has connected UTEP faculty and students to local community organizations, and in turn these groups have started their own service-learning programs. Ninety-five UTEP faculty members have offered a service-learning component in at least one of their courses; 11,356 students have participated in service-learning programs; and 110 community partners have welcomed students to their organizations. Through the programs, students have contributed nearly 300,000 hours to the community, the equivalent of 24 hours a day and 7 days a week for 34 years and 3 months!
This program was recognized as an Honorable Mention for making innovative and/or significant improvement in increasing Latino student success.