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Honors Scholar Calls Community Service an ‘Amazing Experience’

Ever since she started at UC, sophomore Erin Hood has been a familiar face at the sites of UC’s home-building projects with Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity.

Date: 10/25/2006
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover
UC ingot Erin Hood cut her summer break short after she graduated from McAuley High School to join a University of Cincinnati service-learning course for first-year students that got underway before classes even started.
Erin Hood
Erin Hood

Now a sophomore, the 20-year-old graphic design major and Honors Scholar from Monfort Heights has been involved with the partnership ever since.

Erin exemplifies a surge in volunteerism among college students reported in the most comprehensive federal study ever conducted of college student volunteering in the United States – a report that’s suggesting the possible emergence of a new civic generation, an age group that has also been billed as a the “9/11 Generation” following the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001.

“College Students Helping America,” a report released this month by the federal Corporation for National & Community Service, found that the growth rate of college student volunteers is more than double the rate of all adult volunteers, and that from 2002-2005, the number of college student volunteers grew nationally by 600,000. That report also states that “College students are more than twice as likely to volunteer as individuals of the same age who are not enrolled in an institution of higher education.” 

Erin is now one of the site hosts who volunteers during UC/Habitat construction work that takes place on Saturdays at the site of UC doctoral student Custodio Muianga’s future home in Avondale. The construction project is just two doors down from new homeowner Megan O’Malley and her daughter, Shamia – the home where as a freshman Erin had her first volunteer experience with the UC/Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity partnership.

“When I was a freshman, the Honors Scholars program sent me a letter, asking me if I was interested in the blitz week,” she says, as she refers to the service-learning English course for first-year students. Students who participate in the course become the first volunteers at the UC/Habitat construction sites. “I really wanted to take the course, because I thought it was a great way to meet people. Plus, I had really wanted to get involved with Habitat.”

But Erin’s roots in civic engagement were established before college, where at UC, she’s required to perform 30 hours of community service per year (but dedicates above and beyond that amount) as part of her commitment to her Cincinnatus Scholarship Century Award. At McAuley High School, she was required to perform 20 hours per year of community service, yet she recalls putting in as many as 200 hours her senior year alone, rehabilitating houses in Cincinnati neighborhoods.

“It was just so addictive. All of my friends were doing it, too, and it was something fun to do on the weekends,” she says. “Otherwise, I would have just been lying in bed or something.”

“Immediately after her Honors Scholars English course ended last year, Erin wanted to stay involved at the Habitat site and find ways to contribute,” says Debbie Brawn, director of programs and administration for the UC Honors Scholars Program. “She volunteered through fall, winter and spring quarters and was there in a heartbeat anytime we needed someone to fill in. This year, she brought brownies to the first-year students working during the blitz week and consistently stopped by to see the students. She’s dedicated to helping people, and a lot of the things that she does is at the heart of helping others,” says Brawn.

Erin Hood
Erin created a chart for the Muianga family to record the hours they've worked on the home.

Erin also served on the planning committee for the UC/American Cancer Society Relay for Life fund-raiser that raised over $75,000 last spring to benefit cancer research and education programs. Her service has also taken her on road trips, volunteering at Hole in the Wall Camps on the west coast – camps where children with serious illnesses can just be a kid for a week.

As for students interested in volunteering at the Habitat site, Erin says she’s among a lot of company – the demand to volunteer at the site is very high. “The people are a lot of fun,” Erin says. “Plus, I love that next spring, Custodio and his family will have a nice place to live – and a street where his children can ride their bikes.”

And, as Erin’s hard work addresses goals of the UC|21 Strategic Plan to forge key relationships and partnerships in the community, Erin says she has witnessed how these efforts are making a difference in the city. “I felt that way back when I was rehabbing houses in high school. I just think if more people could work to improve living conditions, our city would be a better place.”

UC/Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity Web site

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