SJSU Celebrates 20th Anniversary of Center for Community Learning and Leadership

It takes a community to build a service-learning legacy: Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Thalia Anagnos, CCLL Director Elena Klaw, CCLL Founding Director Debra David and former CCLL Director Michael Fallon. Photo: Robert Bain.

SJSU’s Bowling Center.

Attendees of the celebration bowled together at SJSU’s Diaz Compean Student Union Bowling Center, illustrating how CCLL ensures students and community members do not “bowl alone,” in the words of Robert Putnam. Photo: Robert Bain.

San Jose State University’s Center for Community Learning and Leadership (CCLL) commemorated 20 years of curriculum-based service-learning at an event on February 6 in the Diaz Compean Student Union Bowling Center. Over the past 20 years, 80,000 SJSU students have contributed 1.4 million hours of service to the community as part of their coursework.

Having the event at SJSU’s Bowling Center was a nod to Robert D. Putnam’s Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, a book that served as a catalyst for service-learning infrastructure on university campuses, explained CCLL Director Elena Klaw. In the book, Putnam described the precipitous decline of all the forms of in-person social relationships that once formed the basis of Americans’ lives and provided opportunities for enrichment and education.

“Instead of joining leagues in activities like bowling, we bowl alone, missing civic discussions that might occur in a club or a local association. Putnam suggested that service-learning programs are a primary solution to the problems of bowling alone,” said Klaw. “The antidote to apathy, isolation and disregard is education and civic involvement.”

SJSU President Mary A. Papazian shared highlights from the center’s programming, including the AmeriCorps Bridging Borders Program, which brought $3 million in federal funding to the campus over a span of nine years; the Students Helping in the Naturalization of Elders (SHINE) program; the Veterans Embracing Transition (VET) project; and the SJSU Chapter of Students Demand Action (SDA), developed to provide students the opportunity to support the mission of Everytown USA in advocating for common sense laws that promote gun safety and reduce violence.

President Mary A. Papazian and Elena Klaw.

President Mary A. Papazian and CCLL Director Elena Klaw celebrated 20 years of SJSU service-learning. Photo: Robert Bain.

“In many ways, CCLL is the embodiment of everything we hope to achieve with our students at San Jose State” said Papazain. “Educating students about how they can most effectively influence change on issues that matter to them is what our Center for Community Learning and Leadership is all about.”

In addition to San Jose State Academic Senate Chair Ravisha Mathur, who presented a Sense of the Senate, entitled “Celebrating 20 Years of Service-Learning at San Jose State University,” the center welcomed CCLL Founding Director Debra David, former CCLL staff members, and community partners, without whom many programs would not be possible. A representative of the city of San Jose presented a commendation on behalf of San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Councilmember Raul Peralez (District 3) and other members of the City Council.

To the crowd gathered in SJSU’s Bowling Center, President Papazian revealed that SJSU would announce receipt of $566,288 in grant funding for a one-year pilot California Volunteers AmeriCorps Service Fellowship program at a Feb. 10 press conference in the California state capitol. For the pilot year of the AmeriCorps Service Fellowship, San Jose State’s Civic Engagement Fellows will build on CCLL’s current Cyber Spartans program, addressing educational equity needs within the city of San Jose. Since launching in 2018, 26 Cyber Spartans have mentored 75 underserved youths, teaching them cyber skills. In turn, they use what they learn to create engaging computer programs. With the new grant funding, these numbers are expected to increase substantially.

“CCLL’s own program of research shows that community initiatives boost civic participation, academic engagement and career readiness for students,” said SJSU Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Vincent Del Casino, representing SJSU at the press conference in Sacramento. “San Jose State is always looking for ways to expand or create initiatives that develop our students as leaders in the diverse sectors of Silicon Valley.

At the anniversary celebration, CCLL named SJSU kinesiology major Erika Lisina the Service-Learning and Community Engagement Student of the Year. Described as a “devoted resource for students,” Lisina volunteers at SJSU’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library as a homework coach.

“Students are the reason we’re here,” said Klaw. “CCLL’s service-learning does not add to education. We are the education.”