California State University, Dominguez Hills
Cheryl McKnight, director of the Center for Service Learning, Internships & Community Engagement (SLICE) at CSU Dominguez Hills, is recognized for her commitment to student success by creating service opportunities for students.
Cheryl's way of connecting service with academics is powerful in addressing social injustice, bridging cultural gaps and encouraging grassroots leadership. Since becoming director of SLICE over 10 years ago, McKnight has dedicated the space to be inclusive and welcoming for all students. As the center received grant funding and increased resources, McKnight brought two AmeriCorps programs in, collaborated with faculty members to increase service learning pedagogy in the classrooms, and developed the Native American Indian Institute.
The AmeriCorps programs that Mcknight oversees—Jumpstart and JusticeCorps—has shown effectiveness in addressing social issues and helping students succeed. Data from the first five years of the Jumpstart program show students involved had an 84 percent retention rate and a 71 percent graduation rate. Additionally, preschoolers from Compton consistently show as much as 64 percent improvement in kindergarten readiness due of the work of the program. For CSUDH students who served in JusticeCorps, even higher retention and graduation rates were observed, at 88 percent and 74 percent, respectively.
These AmeriCorps programs have provided pathways for employment with students working in preschools, K-12 schools, courthouses and police departments. McKnight mentors students with the goal of helping them in their professional endeavors and each staff member of the Jumpstart team is an alumnus who started as a student volunteer that Cheryl mentored. Through her continued mentorship and bringing in resources, Cheryl has helped countless students finish graduate school and use their education to continue serving their communities.
“Cheryl's work and dedication embodies extraordinary leadership and service that put the needs of students first," says Miami G. Gatpandan, Jumpstart instructor at SLICE at CSUDH.