Secretary's Column

Secretary’s October 2017 Column

In Service to the Community

By Rochelle Hendricks
Secretary of Higher Education

Huddled together with colleagues in the State Police emergency management headquarters in West Trenton during the first hours after Superstorm Sandy, I made calls and sent emails to assess student and staff safety and security needs, property damage to campuses, academic challenges across the State, and to identify temporary shelters. What emerged was the readiness, the eagerness to volunteer in service to those persons and communities in need.

We dealt with immediate crises. Power outages. Roads blocked by fallen trees. Shortages of food and water. As we worked to solve problems, a clearer picture began to emerge – a picture of a higher education community pulling together, protecting its students and serving the community.

Some of the more heroic stories are detailed in the Sandy Retrospective section on the right side of this blog. Colleges and universities opened their doors and shared their campuses with the community, providing shelter to people in need. Students waded into the water and trudged up the steps of dark, powerless housing complexes, saving lives and bringing comfort to those who could not help themselves.

Now, five years later, we can use this retrospective and these memories to highlight the enduring value of service learning.

Meeting with Caldwell Students at ICFNJ Annual Meeting on October 26, 2017

By serving as volunteers in neighborhood schools, cleaning up neighborhoods, building or rehabilitating homes, working in internships and serving as apprentices, students learn the life-long value of a life of service. While helping others, and gaining important life skills, they learn lasting lessons about sacrifice, the strength of the human spirit and the true meaning of citizenship.

On behalf of the state, I thank our higher education institutions – students, faculty and staff – for your contributions, then and now, in making New Jersey stronger through service beyond the campus.

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