North Carolina Central University senior Korey Mercer is one of 17 college students across the state to receive the 2012 Community Impact Award. Given by North Carolina Campus Compact, the award recognizes college students who make significant, innovative efforts to address local community needs.
Since his freshman year, Mercer, a Durham native, has been involved with NCCU’s Soaring Service Leaders program, which organizes service experiences during school breaks. Now the group’s president, he has planned and led service trips to post-Katrina New Orleans; to Washington, Baltimore and New York to address hunger and homelessness; and to Capitol Hill to lobby Congress against proposed cuts to Pell Grants and other student aid. He also organized a “Weigh the Waste” fundraiser to help educate students about reducing food waste in dining halls. He has worked as an intern for U.S. Rep. David Price, and in September he was selected to introduce first lady Michelle Obama before her remarks at NCCU.
The community service award is presented at North Carolina Campus Compact’s annual student conference. The compact is an association of colleges and universities committed to fostering campus-community engagement. Since 2002, the group has hosted an annual conference where student leaders learn and share strategies to address community issues.
This year’s event, held at UNC Wilmington on Nov. 3, brought together 125 students from 18 campuses. Keynote speaker Paul Loeb, author of “Soul of a Citizen,” presented the awards.
NCCU has a long tradition of community service. It was the first institution in the UNC System to require students to perform community service in order to graduate. Full-time undergraduates perform a minimum of 15 hours of service per semester.
In the 2011-12 academic year, nearly 3,800 NCCU students performed more than 210,000 hours of volunteer service. According to a calculation method devised by the Corporation for National and Community Service, that service had an aggregate value of about $4 million.
Dr. Deborah Bailey, who coordinates NCCU community service efforts as director of the Academic Community Service Learning Program, said Mercer’s Capitol Hill lobbying effort represented an innovative new direction for student service.
“Korey’s understanding of the role of advocacy as a component of service has taken NCCU’s alternative break service trips to a new level,” she said. “This resonates with the unique perspective NCCU students bring to service activities across the region, state and nation.”