The University of Central Florida has earned the top U.S. President’s Volunteer Service Award for 2011-2012, the only university in the nation to receive the honor.

The gold award is given to organizations that provide at least 15,000 volunteer hours a year to Junior Achievement projects. UCF volunteers more than doubled that mark by donating more than 35,000 service hours.

The university joins 11 companies in receiving the award, including Walt Disney World, AT&T, General Electric and Bank of America.

“UCF through its service-learning unit is the largest volunteer source of any JA in the world,” said Craig Polejes, president of Junior Achievement of Central Florida.

The award was created in 2003 by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation for people who donate significant time to volunteering. In 2006, Junior Achievement became the certifying organization for the award.

Through the UCF and JA service-learning partnership in 2011-12, there were 2,079 classes taught by UCF students at 160 Central Florida schools, reaching 37,676 children, Polejes said.

UCF students teach children in schools about entrepreneurship, work readiness, how to become successful and to stay in school. In return, university students learn leadership, communication skills and critical thinking.

Polejes said UCF’s volunteers come from the College of Arts & Humanities, College of Business Administration, College of Education, College of Health and Public Affairs, College of Medicine,   Interdisciplinary Studies, Nicholson School of Communication, and the Burnett Honors College.

For example, in the College of Business Administration JA is incorporated into the Cornerstone course curriculum. Students spend at least 25 hours teaching JA classes and completing projects at elementary and middle schools.

UCF Provost and Executive Vice President Tony Waldrop and Fred Kittinger, associate vice president and director of state and local government affairs, also serve on the board of Junior Achievement of Central Florida.

“We’re extremely proud of this relationship,” Polejes said. “There’s been a lot of work and effort from many over 20 years, and we don’t take it for granted.”

UCF will officially be recognized at the President’s Volunteer Service Award presentations in New York in March.