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Signature Programs

The Center for Civic Engagement's network of partner institutions, programs, and opportunities reflects the population and priority areas in which we hope to make an impact. To create both learners and active citizens, CCE offers a range of opportunities that engage Upstate students and faculty in learning through real-world, community-based problem solving while also responding to a significant need in the area. Student and faculty work benefits the community as well as their own intellectual development.

Patient Navigation Programs

The concept of patient navigation was founded and pioneered by Harold P. Freeman in 1990 for the purpose of eliminating barriers to timely cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment, and supportive care. Currently the patient navigation model has been expanded to include the timely movement of an individual across the entire health care continuum from prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment, and supportive, to end-of-life care. Patient navigation has shown efficacy as a strategy to reduce cancer mortality and is currently being applied to reduce mortality in other chronic diseases. (Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Institute)

Students participating in this category of programs will be able to accomplish the following:

  • Develop a deeper understanding of the patient demographics, social and structural determinants of health through hands-on experiences.
  • Develop a plan by applying health related beliefs and practices to the development, implementation and evaluation of community-based programs and services.
  • Develop an understanding of the complexities that exist in linking individuals to appropriate health and social services to improve patient care and community health.
  • Develop a sense of themselves as health care professionals working collaboratively to address a community need.
  • Communicate (written and oral) to Inform, educate, and empower patients and their families about health issues and resources.
  • Foster respect for diversity and inclusion of all individuals

Amaus Pediatric Clinic

Walk-in, primary care facility located at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Downtown, Syracuse. Clientele served include pediatric patients (until age 18) without health insurance or with limited access to health care. Student volunteers participate once a week to aid in patient intake and assessment, managing patient flow, and referrals to primary care centers or other services under the supervision of an attending physician.

Helping Hands for Forgotten Feet (Foot Clinic)

Housed at the Rescue Mission Homeless Shelter in the Mission District, student volunteers run a clinic once a month to provide foot care, health education, and referrals to residents of the Shelter, under the supervision of two attending physicians.

Rahma Compassionate Health Care Clinic

Primary care facility for adults without health insurance or with limited access to health care. Specialty services such as surgical consults, cardiology, and more, are also provided. Student volunteers participate once a week to assist with patient in-intake, assessment, referrals and patient flow under the supervision of an attending physician and other volunteer clinic personnel. Student volunteers also help with outreach and health education on a variety of topics.

Community-based Research Projects

Community-based research (CBR) begins with a research topic of importance to the community with the aim of combining knowledge with action to achieve social change (Community-Based Research and Higher Education, Strand et al., 2004, p.3). Students are encouraged to work with community partners to develop research projects under guidance of an Upstate faculty member to learn more about the design and implementation of effective and accurate research that is both rigorous and useful to specific community organizations or public interest constituencies. Findings can be reported through publications and conference presentations.

Students participating in this category of programs will be able to accomplish the following:

  • Develop an understanding of the fundamentals of community-based research design
  • Adhere to the laws, regulations, and policies and procedures for ethical conduct of public health research and practice.
  • Pursue diverse means for disseminating research findings; and
  • Develop a plan to translate the findings from research into practice or social action.
  • Foster respect for diversity and inclusion of all individuals

Safety Net Research Project

Student volunteers assist with survey administration at 4 local free clinics to interview patients to gather information about other services this population needs the most. Students also assist with documentation for IRB review purposes. Students assist with data analysis under the guidance and supervision of a faculty member from the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine.

Companionship Programs

The purpose of Companionship program is to improve the care, health and wellbeing of patients and reduce loneliness. Volunteers will provide one-on-one time with patients while also providing respite to the caregivers of those patients.   Research indicates that friendship contributes to a person’s wellbeing: through the provision of companionship in daily life, support during stressful transitions, as well as sustainment of identity under changing circumstances.

Students participating in this category of programs will be able to accomplish the following:

  • Develop an understanding of the psycho-social issues that accompany chronic illness and treatment
  • Develop an understanding of the complexities that exist with various health conditions in getting the patients to a healthier state of physical and mental health
  • Increase social awareness and responsibility to advocate for patients and families
  • Provide supportive services to help patients cope with their health condition(s)
  • Foster respect for diversity and inclusion of all individuals

Geri C.A.R.E (Companionship And Relief Experience)

Student volunteers interact with geriatric patients, caregivers, and staff at Upstate Medical University Hospital on a weekly basis.  Through this experience, students are matched with a patient to engage in activities determined by the interest of the patient (play games, read books, arts and crafts, story telling/listening, singing).  This interaction can help students be more comfortable interacting with the geriatric population and their caregivers; and become more aware of age-related changes in this population and how they are accounted for by the healthcare team. Orientation training is required.

Peds Relief

Student volunteers provide companionship on a weekly basis to pediatric patients which allows brief respite for parents or care givers. Student volunteers engage in activities usually determined based on interest of the patient (play games, read books, create art, etc.). Orientation training is required.

University Dialysis Clinic

Student volunteers are matched to a patient receiving dialysis treatment three times a week to provide companionship during the process. Student volunteers’ engagement is based on the comfort level and interest of the patient. Volunteers can play games, read books or magazines, have friendly conversations, etc). Time commitment and frequency is largely dependent on the student and the patient.

Peds Pals

Student volunteers are paired with pediatric patients as they undergo treatment.  Activities include accompanying a patient to an appointment, going on outings or visiting during in-patient stays. A two year commitment is required.

Health & Wellness Programs

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The National Wellness Institute defines wellness as an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence.
Students participating in this category of programs will be able to accomplish the following:

  • Assess health behaviors and the environment (social or structural) related to promoting healthy lifestyles
  • Apply principles of program planning, including design, implementation, budgeting and evaluation to develop programs that promote social and emotional wellbeing
  • Develop confidence and proficiency in communications skills (written and oral) to inform, educate, and empower patients and their families about health issues and resources.
  • Foster respect for diversity and inclusion of all individuals by appropriately attending to cultural competency.

The CanTeen of Central New York

Student volunteers meet once week with the youth (grades 8th – 12th) at The CanTeen to build relationships, play games, learn from and about them in an effort to develop age appropriate health education and wellness programs.

Somali Upstate Folk Art Partnership

Student volunteers use creative arts, dance, and healthy cooking sessions as well as poetry and music to improve social integration and mental health of the Somali Bantu community. These activities also help to promote cross-cultural and intergenerational relationships, and other healthy behaviors. This group meets weekly.

Women's Health & Empowerment Group

Student volunteers coordinate and hold semi-monthly groups with female residents of the Rescue Mission to promote the physical, mental, and social well-being among participants through education, relaxation and a variety of other activities. Activities include Zumba, yoga, meditation and conversations.

Mentoring Programs

Children who succeed despite overwhelming personal, economic and social obstacles do so often because of a caring adult in their lives. Mentoring outcomes include greater participation in school, improved attendance, higher graduation and college admission rates, and better overall performance. (New York State Mentoring Program, 2016)
Students participating in this category of programs will be able to accomplish the following:

•    Build and support positive relationships with youth based on mutual trust, respect, and accountability
•    Develop an understanding of the psycho-social issues that accompany children living in underserved communities
•    Increase social awareness and responsibility to advocate for patients and families

After School Tutoring Program at South West Community Center

Student volunteers assist with and conduct a variety of after school activities including tutoring, reading, homework, games, mentoring, and health education on a weekly basis.

C.H.A.M.P (Children¿s Health After-school Mentorship Program)

Student volunteers lead the CHAMP Program which serves to enhance understanding and performance of various fitness activities and healthy behaviors. Youth of all abilities are able to participate. Student volunteers mentor and teach the students techniques and strategies for staying healthy and active. This group meets weekly starting in the spring.

Medical Education for Diverse Students (MEDS) Program

Student volunteers help to increase the awareness and interest of high school students from Henniger High School in the city of Syracuse to career opportunities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Student volunteers meet monthly to participate in teaching and mentoring sessions focused on various aspects of health careers.

Reading Buddies

Students are matched with 3rd and 4th grade students from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School (Syracuse City School District) to practice reading, one (1) hour each week throughout the school year. The goals of the program are to increase literacy levels and to instill a passion/love for reading.

The Salvation Army Youth Services

Student volunteers provide mentoring, and health education to residents of the emergency shelter for runaway and homeless youth between 13 and 17 years old.


For more information on any of these programs, please contact Marnie Annese or Simone Seward at engage@upstate.edu or via telephone at 315-464-8807.

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