By Susan Feinberg
FIU Honors College has launched a sweeping partnership with the City of Sweetwater, FL, that will build students’ leadership skills and improve the quality of life in that city.
Sweetwater Mayor Manuel M. Marono and Honors College Interim Dean Lesley A. Northup announced the partnership at the annual Honors College convocation Oct. 15.
The collaboration will give Honors College students unique opportunities to engage in community service and learn first-hand about the management and governance of a small city. Sweetwater has slightly more than 14,000 residents, 93 percent of whom are Hispanic.
“While the Honors College has long offered many wonderful community service activities, it was important for us to find a single focus which would allow many of our students to participate and get enthused about community service,” said Northup. “The Sweetwater project is an ideal way to accomplish that goal.”
“It’s also very important that FIU and Sweetwater work together as partners to turn the city into a college town that will provide shopping and key services for students,” Northup added.
Honors College students will participate in diverse projects including tutoring children, helping to launch an athletic program for girls, and working with the elderly. A “green team” of students will promote environmental awareness with recycling and energy conservation programs and improve the aesthetic appearance of the city with neighborhood cleanups and by planting flowers and trees in parks and recreation areas.
Some Honors College courses have already integrated Sweetwater-related projects into their curricula. Students in a news literacy class will work with community leaders to ensure that Sweetwater residents have access to news at a time when many traditional newspapers and media outlets are closing. First-year students enrolled in a leadership course will help research and compile a history of Sweetwater.
The partnership models the larger goal of a town-gown collaboration between FIU and Sweetwater that will strengthen FIU’s ties with the South Florida community, a key component of FIU President Mark Rosenberg’s “Hit the Ground Running Initiative.”
“I feel privileged to be able to partner with the FIU Honors College and its distinguished staff and students,” said Marono. “This is a perfect example of how Sweetwater and FIU and its students can partner to make positive contributions to the community at large.”