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Beyond the Walls of the Classroom

Posted By NYLC, Sunday, April 7, 2019

(This article was originally posted on January 21st, 2019 on nylc.org.)

By: Joy Mazur 

A senior year English class is usually filled with college essay writing, novel reading, and research practice. However, students in the Morris Hills Regional District’s new Service-Learning course are developing their college readiness in a different way–through investigating genuine community needs and applying their academic knowledge and skills to meet those needs.

Service-Learning teams at Morris Knolls are currently planning projects based on student-chosen topics, focused on raising awareness of veterans’ issues, the benefits of training your pet to be a therapy animal, advocacy and support for people experiencing homelessness, and fighting stigma associated with mental health issues. They have developed community partnerships within the school as well as with local organizations such as Creature Comfort Pet Therapy and Family Promise of Morris County. Morris Hills Service-Learning teams are designing and implementing a new way for students to choose tutors through a website they created, running after-school seminars and meetings at retirement homes to lessen the communication divide between generations, and organizing a clubs/sports fair for to help 8th grade students feel excited and more comfortable coming into their freshman year.  In addition to these ongoing projects, students will develop individual or small group projects during the second half of the school year.

“I have learned many things that I would’ve missed out on if I hadn’t taken Service-Learning. Unlike our other classes, it throws us into the world. I’m thankful that this course was added to Morris Knolls and that I am able to be a part of it.” – Senior Iara Vellaro 

The Service-Learning course is based on a framework developed by the National Youth Leadership Council, which follows the IPARD cycle: Investigation and Research, Planning and Preparation, Action, Reflection, and Demonstration. Students are expected to research and become experts in their field of concern, and determine community needs through interviewing stakeholders before beginning their planning phase in collaboration with a community partner. The Action phase may take place through direct service, indirect service, or advocacy. They must also create a sustainability plan, outlining how their project can be replicated or carried on in the future.

The students are the Project Managers, and hold leadership roles in Outreach, Budget, and Research. In order to be successful, they must collaborate, communicate, and problem-solve when things don’t go according to plan. I have seen them make great leaps in their confidence through taking on this responsibility.

In order to enroll in the course, which can fulfill the MHRD 12th grade English requirement due to its focus on research, writing, and communication skills, students apply during the winter of their Junior year. The application process includes a personal statement, recommendations from a school counselor and a teacher, and a group interview. Thirty-two students at Knolls and twenty-one students at Hills were accepted for Service Learning’s pilot year.

Morris Knolls Principal Ryan MacNaughton is happy with the new course so far. He has been interviewed as a stakeholder by several student teams during the Investigation phase of their projects, and says the students “have been a pleasure to work with. Ms. Mazur is doing some amazing work with our students and I am so pleased with the success of the program.” Morris Hills principal Todd Toriello agrees, adding that students “are learning first-hand the importance of giving back to one’s community. Through authentic learning experiences, students are exploring local community-identified needs as well as the historical and philosophical roots of service.”

Dominique Tornabe, Director of Development and Community Relations for Family Promise of Morris County, describes her time working with a team of Morris Knolls Service-Learning students as “incredibly impactful” and commented about the course, “In addition to teaching empathy and compassion, it develops the critical thinking and problem solving skills required for leadership in the 21st Century and beyond.” As Service-Learning student Luke Nienstadt observed, “The goals we are trying to achieve go way beyond the walls of the classroom.”

Tags:  college readiness  community engagement  english  featured  IPARD  research  service-learning 

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Nurturing Learners, Growing Leaders

Posted By NYLC, Sunday, April 7, 2019

(This article was originally posted on November 12th, 2018 on nylc.org.)

Each year the National Service-Learning Conference brings together more than 600 educators, administrators, higher-education faculty, non-profit leaders, government officials, AmeriCorps members, and students from across the nation and around the world for three days of learning, connection, and inspiration. The 30thAnnual National Service-Learning Conference will take place April 14 – 16, 2019 in Philadelphia, P.A.

This year, the National Service-Learning Conference is excited to partner with New Foundations Charter School for Nurturing Learners, Growing Leaders.  “We are thrilled to serve as the host school for the National Service-Learning Conference. Keeping schools as the heart of the community is important to education and we work hard every day at NFCS to ensure we serve our larger community,” Shira Woolf-Cohen, Principal.  It’s a theme that connects educators and community members joining in partnership with students, to make positive change in the world.

The conference provides more than 100 hands-on learning opportunities through workshops, keynote and thought leader sessions. Topics range from social-emotional learning and civic education to youth leadership and international service-learning. Whether you are new to service-learning or an experienced practitioner, this conference has something for you. A Rookie series offers introductory sessions on the practice of service-learning while the research and thought leader sessions will engage even the most seasoned professional.

Networking is a key component of the conference with dedicated opportunities to meet and interact with other attendees from your region or from across the world. Evening receptions, exhibit hall times, lunches, and breakfasts are spaces designed for you to make connections that will advance your practice and inspire you to take-action.

The National Service-Learning Conference prides itself on student participation at every level. Students make up nearly half of conference attendees and can be found on the plenary stage, facilitating workshop sessions, showcasing their projects, participating in hands-on service projects, or mingling in the youth room. Youth of all ages are welcome at the event (with an adult mentor).

Mark your calendars today with these important deadlines:

  • Got something important to impart? Submit a workshop proposal.Deadline is November 23, midnight CST.
  • Showcase an amazing service-learning project. Deadline is February 22, midnight CST.

We look forward to welcoming you to Philadelphia. We guarantee this is a conference you won’t want to miss.

Tags:  events  featured  professional development  service-learning  youth leadership  youth voice 

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Teams Named to Project Ignition: Leading Change in Teen Driving Behavior

Posted By NYLC, Sunday, April 7, 2019

(This article was originally posted on October 26th, 2018 on nylc.org.)

Sixteen teams have been selected from throughout the United States as a leader in teen driver safety by Project Ignition— a service-learning teen driver safety program in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and coordinated by the National Youth Leadership Council®

Each team will receive a $1,000 grant to implement a safe driving program that engages their peers, family, and the larger community in safe driving practices like buckling up. Carmen Devita of Central Coast of California Camp Fireshares an important aspect of how Project Ignition works, “As one person, you can’t do much. If we all unite for a cause, we can do so much more.”

NYLC believes that youth leadership is a critical component to effectively changing teen driving behaviors and saving lives. “Students are in the best position to address issues of driver safety,” said Amy Meuers, NYLC CEO. “Through Project Ignition, these young people are saving the lives of their peers, their families, and their community members because they are in the best position to influence behaviors and decision-making at critical moments—especially before they operate a moving vehicle. We champion the leadership that youth have to make a positive impact on the world.”

In addition, two teams will receive funding to participate in the 30th Annual National Service-Learning Conference®, hosted by NYLC on April 15 – 16, 2019 in Philadelphia, P.A., where they will have the opportunity to showcase their work to other students, educators, and thought leaders in the education field. The sixteen 2018-2019 Project Ignition teams are:

  1. Making Dreams Come True, Valley of Rainbows, Waianae, Hawaii
  2. Success Academy, Bloomington, Minnesota
  3. Camp Fire Patuxent Area, Bowie, Maryland
  4. Gillespie High School, Gillespie, Illinois
  5. Scully Serves, Seattle, Washington
  6. Jackson Indepent School, Jackson, Kentucky
  7. Clifton Central High School, Clifton, Illinois
  8. Global Girls, Inc., Chicago Illinois
  9. Belton High School, Belton, Missouri
  10. Camp Fire Sunshine, Lakeland, Florida
  11. Ridgemont FFA , Mt. Victory, Ohio
  12. New Castle Area School District, New Castle, Pennsylvania
  13. Camp Fire Central Coast of California, Pismo Beach, California
  14. Camp fire C New Jersey, Trenton, New Jersey
  15. Clarksville High School, Clarksville, Tennessee
  16. District 191, Saint Paul, Minnesota

There is still time for your school or after-school organization to join us in taking action on Global Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being by tacking safe-driving behaviors in your community.  Learn more about Project Ignition and how your team can become part of Project Ignition Nation!

Tags:  featured  Global Goal 3  peer-to-peer education  safe driving  service-learning  teen driver safety  teen driver safety week 

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“National Service should become the common expectation and common experience of all Americans.” Senator Harris Wofford (1926-2019)

Posted By NYLC, Friday, March 29, 2019

(This article was originally posted on March 1, 2019 on nylc.org.)

By:  James C. Kielsmeier, Ph.D., NYLC Founder/ CEO (Ret), and Senior Scholar

On Saturday, March 2, Harris Wofford will be honored at a Memorial Service at Howard University in Washington, D.C., his law school alma mater.  Harris died January 21, the national holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Harris Wofford will be remembered for his pivotal leadership in the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 60s and for the past 60 years, as America’s most important champion of nonmilitary national service and volunteerism. We have Harris to thank for key leadership of the Peace Corps during the Kennedy presidential campaign and Administration. Then without wavering, Wofford continued to build the intellectual, political and organizational leadership foundations for the modern nonmilitary national and community service movement we know today.

In 1979 Harris acknowledged an earlier proposal for the Peace Corps by US Senator Hubert Humphrey (D-MN) in his 1986 biography (Of Kennedys and Kings, 1980) well before JFK embraced the concept. This generosity of sharing credit to advance a greater good distinguishes Harris as a rarity among modern political leaders and helps explain the success of the service movement.

I met Harris in 1989 at the National Governor’s Association annual meeting in Chicago when I was part of Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich’s delegation charged with exploring how Minnesota could grow volunteer service and service-learning. Harris represented Pennsylvania at the Chicago meetings and shared with me his national vision for civic service.  His buoyant personality and shared insights borne of decades of public policy debate and scholarship captured my attention and began three decades of friendship and collaboration.

Harris was both consistent and persistent. In his brief tenure in the US Senate from Pennsylvania (1991-94) he created legislation identifying the Martin Luther King Holiday as a  Day of Service. After being defeated for reelection, Harris was appointed by President Clinton to become CEO of the embattled Corporation for National and Community Service / AmeriCorps. Harris quickly built bridges to sympathetic Republican lawmakers including Dave Durenberger (R-MN), a key Republican national service proponent.

Harris Wofford believed that service should be introduced in schools as an effective “on ramp” to full time National Service/AmeriCorps. Service-learning was already well established in many state K-12 and higher education systems across the country in 1995. That year, National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC) worked closely with Harris and the Corporation for National and Community Service and Department of Education Secretary Richard Riley to convene over 500 delegates from 30 states to create a set of core principles linking service-learning with school reform.  Again, it was Harris Wofford who was able to build the base of political leadership that allowed National Service to extend beyond its usual boundaries, in this case into K-12 education.

In 2006 Harris was the first recipient of the William James National Service Lifetime Achievement Award collectively presented by a group of twelve national service organizations and President Clinton. Harris barely took a breath before challenging the crowd in Philadelphia to do more – much more to take service further! That’s our charge today. Thank you, Harris, for charting the course and leading!

In Minnesota we continue to feel the impact of Harris Wofford’s vision through the efforts of many allied service groups. Below is a partial list of supportive organizations which collectively along with donors have made Minnesota among the top three volunteer participation states in the nation. Of special encouragement this year has been the interest of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz in volunteer service and service-learning. Like Harris Wofford, Governor knows service and service-learning as a practitioner. He’s been the top non commissioned officer in the Minnesota National Guard and used service-learning practices as a classroom teacher prior to becoming Governor.

The following is a representative sampling of Minnesota organizations engaged in volunteer service:

  • ServeMinnesota www.serveminnesota.org  is the state coordinator for full time AmeriCorps positions and is currently hiring.
  • The Minnesota Senior Corps www.mnseniorcorps.org is part of AmeriCorps and offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities for older people statewide.
  • Lead advocate for Minnesota Higher Education Service-learning is Minnesota Campus Compact www.mncampuscompact.org
  • National Youth Leadership Council www.nylca non profit organization started at the University of Minnesota in 1983 and continues to primarily support research and technical assistance for K-12 service-learning.
  • The Center for School Change www.centerforschoolchange.org is an advocacy, policy and training hub for service-learning and positive youth development with a significant track record.
  • Youthprise, a nonprofit takes on issues of equity and justice head on often using a service-learning approach. https://youthprise.org
  • Of course, the number of faith-based and civic organizations with opportunities for service is extensive. www.handsontwinCcties.org is a good place to start looking.

At this writing we have learned that the Federal funding base for National Service in Minnesota and nationally is threatened with extinction by the Trump Administration.

More information to follow next week on how proponents can respond.

Tags:  community service  featured  national service  service  service-learning  volunteerism 

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February Service-Learning Digest 2019

Posted By NYLC, Friday, March 29, 2019

(This article was originally posted on March 13th, 2019 on nylc.org.)

What happens when service-learning is part of classroom instruction? Check out a few shining examples of excellence in this month’s digest.

UTD ADDS SERVICE LEARNING CLASSES

UTD is joining the nationally growing trend of service learning in the classroom. This semester, the university is offering 10 classes centered around service.

In 2017, UTD received $1 million through the University of Texas System to incorporate community engagement into the curriculum. Since then, the school has offered a variety of classes, from helping the homeless youth population to supporting students who identify as parents, to reach this goal.

Read more

SPHS Juniors Connect With Community For Service Learning Projects

Throughout February, the 400-person junior class at Severna Park High School traveled to three elementary schools to complete their service learning project.

The project was to connect with students at Park, Brooklyn Park and Hebron Harman elementary schools and write books for their buddies.

“It is probably one of the most meaningful things that I get to be part of at Severna Park,” said Valerie Earhart, an English teacher at SPHS.

Read more

Learn 2 Love group makes sandwiches for 363 Sandwich Project

The Somerset Elementary Learn 2 Love service learning group recently made 610 sandwiches for the 363 Sandwich Project.

Read more

Fort Service Learning Academy honors Columbus community members in celebration of Black History Month

On the last day of Black History Month, 10 community members were honored by Fort Service Learning Magnet Academy in Columbus.

News Leader 9 Barbara Gauthier was among the honorees.

“Everybody should be celebrated, not just this one month, but all months,” said Crystal Simonton, theater arts director. “Everybody should be celebrated in general.”

Read more

Service Learning earns state award

Only ten schools in state recognized for their service

Staying busy is nothing new for the dedicated Jefferson County High School Service Learning teacher Lani O’Connor, who matches the energy and passion of her students as they work together.

Read more

New Service Learning Classes Build Community Connections

In one of the newest University of Texas at Dallas classes, students are helping immigrant high schoolers with English. Another class is talking to fifth- and sixth-grade girls about social media and bullying. And still another is working with homeless teens in Dallas.

These classes are part of the University’s growing community-based service learning program, which gives students the opportunity to explore new topics while serving as teachers and mentors in the community.

Read more

 

Got a story you want to share? Send it to info@nylc.org

Tags:  civic action  civic engagement  community engagement  featured  service-learning  volunteerism  youth leadership 

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Beyond the Walls of the Classroom

Posted By NYLC, Friday, March 29, 2019

(This article was originally posted on January 21st, 2019 on nylc.org.)

By: Joy Mazur 

A senior year English class is usually filled with college essay writing, novel reading, and research practice. However, students in the Morris Hills Regional District’s new Service-Learning course are developing their college readiness in a different way–through investigating genuine community needs and applying their academic knowledge and skills to meet those needs.

Service-Learning teams at Morris Knolls are currently planning projects based on student-chosen topics, focused on raising awareness of veterans’ issues, the benefits of training your pet to be a therapy animal, advocacy and support for people experiencing homelessness, and fighting stigma associated with mental health issues. They have developed community partnerships within the school as well as with local organizations such as Creature Comfort Pet Therapy and Family Promise of Morris County. Morris Hills Service-Learning teams are designing and implementing a new way for students to choose tutors through a website they created, running after-school seminars and meetings at retirement homes to lessen the communication divide between generations, and organizing a clubs/sports fair for to help 8th grade students feel excited and more comfortable coming into their freshman year.  In addition to these ongoing projects, students will develop individual or small group projects during the second half of the school year.

“I have learned many things that I would’ve missed out on if I hadn’t taken Service-Learning. Unlike our other classes, it throws us into the world. I’m thankful that this course was added to Morris Knolls and that I am able to be a part of it.” – Senior Iara Vellaro 

The Service-Learning course is based on a framework developed by the National Youth Leadership Council, which follows the IPARD cycle: Investigation and Research, Planning and Preparation, Action, Reflection, and Demonstration. Students are expected to research and become experts in their field of concern, and determine community needs through interviewing stakeholders before beginning their planning phase in collaboration with a community partner. The Action phase may take place through direct service, indirect service, or advocacy. They must also create a sustainability plan, outlining how their project can be replicated or carried on in the future.

The students are the Project Managers, and hold leadership roles in Outreach, Budget, and Research. In order to be successful, they must collaborate, communicate, and problem-solve when things don’t go according to plan. I have seen them make great leaps in their confidence through taking on this responsibility.

In order to enroll in the course, which can fulfill the MHRD 12th grade English requirement due to its focus on research, writing, and communication skills, students apply during the winter of their Junior year. The application process includes a personal statement, recommendations from a school counselor and a teacher, and a group interview. Thirty-two students at Knolls and twenty-one students at Hills were accepted for Service Learning’s pilot year.

Morris Knolls Principal Ryan MacNaughton is happy with the new course so far. He has been interviewed as a stakeholder by several student teams during the Investigation phase of their projects, and says the students “have been a pleasure to work with. Ms. Mazur is doing some amazing work with our students and I am so pleased with the success of the program.” Morris Hills principal Todd Toriello agrees, adding that students “are learning first-hand the importance of giving back to one’s community. Through authentic learning experiences, students are exploring local community-identified needs as well as the historical and philosophical roots of service.”

Dominique Tornabe, Director of Development and Community Relations for Family Promise of Morris County, describes her time working with a team of Morris Knolls Service-Learning students as “incredibly impactful” and commented about the course, “In addition to teaching empathy and compassion, it develops the critical thinking and problem solving skills required for leadership in the 21st Century and beyond.” As Service-Learning student Luke Nienstadt observed, “The goals we are trying to achieve go way beyond the walls of the classroom.”

Tags:  college readiness  community engagement  english  featured  IPARD  research  service-learning 

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New Publication Advances Civic Education through Service-Learning

Posted By NYLC, Tuesday, March 26, 2019

(This article was originally posted on December 7th, 2017 on nylc.org.)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (December 7, 2017) —The National Youth Leadership Council is pleased to announce the release of Service-Learning by Design by Dr. Sue Root. This publication will help educators not only teach core subject areas, but prepare students to be civically informed and engaged citizens – ensuring an excellent education for all our children.

Service-learning, as a teaching strategy, involves young people in engaging learning activities while preparing them to be life-long members of a democratic society. This method of teaching and learning requires teachers to intentionally design a curriculum that meets desired results in academic, civic, and social emotional outcomes.

“For students to grow into civically informed and engaged citizens they must have the opportunity to work outside the classroom. Service-learning connects community and classroom, inspiring students to make positive contributions to the world,” said Amy Meuers, National Youth Leadership Council CEO. “This publication will inspire new ideas, strengthen the practice of service-learning, and help students become responsible citizens.”

To purchase your copy of Service-Learning by Designvisit NYLC’s online store. The book is available in both digital and print formats. To learn more about the National Youth Leadership Council and service-learning, visit our site.

Praise for Service-Learning by Design:

  • “I’m very excited to see this important new resource, which will help move the whole field of service-learning into a new phase, with more consistent and powerful outcomes for students, their communities, and the whole democracy. It’s a user-friendly resource for educators, based on the best research.” -Peter Levine, Associate Dean for Research, Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life
  • “Very interesting and really helpful concrete examples of the points in your argument for an alternative model. This seems to move the service-learning and core standards discussions a big step forward.” -Constance Flanagan, Bascom Professor in Women, Family and Community, School of Human Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • “Service-Learning by Design is fantastic! It offers a clear, step by step approach to working through intricacies of service-learning…something the field has sorely needed. This work is going to help practitioners in innumerable ways and it will surely be one of the seminal pieces that we’ll all point to years from now.– Andrew Furco, Associate Vice President for Public Engagement, Professor, Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development, University of Minnesota

Tags:  civic education  featured  service-learning  service-learning resources 

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Launching a New Service-Learning Class: A Teacher's Perspective

Posted By NYLC, Tuesday, March 26, 2019

(This article was originally posted on February 21st, 2018 on nylc.org.)


by Joy Mazur, guest blogger, English teacher, Morris Knolls High School, Rockaway, NJ


I’m trying something new. I’m a rebel, a renegade, outside the law. I’m going rogue.

I’m making service-learning its own class.

I know, I know — service-learning, by definition, must serve the curriculum: that is, it’s not about the service itself, but the service in service (get it?) of practicing skills and applying knowledge. You can’t make service-learning the content.

But what if you could?

Really, the content in my new full-year service-learning course next year (open to Seniors only) isn’t “service-learning.” It’s language arts skills: communication, research, writing; and college and career readiness skills, like collaboration, leadership, use of technology, practicing critical problem-solving skills, and acting as a responsible and contributing citizen. Students may take the course as an elective or as their Senior year English requirement, so they will be practicing and applying these skills regularly. The curriculum content is flexible, but will have a loose framework in our Character Education Core Virtues, and may cover the historical and philosophical roots of service.

There’s a bit of nagging doubt — because aren’t those skills corollaries to any service-learning project in a content-area course? Couldn’t I just incorporate service-learning in my current English classes?

While I have started to include service-learning as part of some units in English 11 Honors, and I have awesome colleagues in the building who incorporate some form of service-learning as well (although not everyone calls it that), this limits the experience to only our students. If we believe this is a valuable approach to teaching and learning, why should the chance be limited to those students who, through the luck of the draw, end up on our rosters? Requiring every teacher in a district to participate in service-learning may address that problem, but without mass buy-in, it may also result in watered-down, forced, and/or resentfully submitted unit plans.

Engagement is key. So, why not start with the most motivated staff and curious, engaged students? The energy from this cohort, hopefully, will inspire a ripple effect of more teachers getting on board. And I’m ready (or I will be, after next year) to turnkey my own research, seminars, and experiences into meaningful professional development in this area for my colleagues. By devoting a full-year course to service-learning, and allowing it to fulfill an English requirement, my district has demonstrated that we value and support service-learning as something essential to a student’s education, rather than something extra.

Nonetheless, I’m aware of some potential speed bumps:

Engaging the experts without stepping on toes. We have a very active community of service-oriented clubs in our school. How do I learn from this existing network while also establishing service-learning as distinct from community service, and not offending colleagues who have devoted a great deal of time and energy to running these organizations and building relationships in the community? I’ve already discussed with some advisors the possibility that their clubs could be community partners for students in the service-learning class, who may be able to investigate their needs and design projects to support the work that is already being done.

Making service-learning as accessible as possible. It has been my philosophy from the beginning of the course proposal process that a service-learning course should be open to any student who wants to take it. My administrators, mindful of the potential messiness of teaching this course, have placed a hard cap on enrollment. As a result, students must “apply” to take the course, and include recommendations from teachers and counselors. While grateful for the vote of confidence I have been given to run this new course, and the meaningfulness of a guaranteed smaller class size, I worry that this additional gatekeeper — the application — might dissuade the very type of student who could most benefit from the service-learning experience: the student who most needs to see herself as part of something bigger, as capable of making an impact, as a leader, might not want to bother with even the slightest chance of rejection. With this in mind, I have worked closely with the School Counseling office and our Gifted and Talented Coordinator (who also oversees an application process) to develop the application and encourage a diverse cohort of students to apply. I’ve also sought input from both the lead teacher and the Supervisor of our Special Education department, to try to anticipate how to make service-learning as inclusive as it can be.

Keeping the dreams big and the goals small. When I first floated the idea of a service- learning course to my very supportive supervisor, her advice was, “Decide if you are proposing a course… or a program.” I had to admit that in my mind’s eye, this would naturally blossom into a sort of service-oriented Work-Study program (or Cooperative Education program). In some ways, I have already become an ambassador for service-learning in the district, as my proposal presentation introduced the concept to both building principals, the Assistant Superintendent, the Curriculum and Instruction committee, the School Counseling departments, and the Board of Education. Since the course was approved, I’ve reached out to and answered questions from colleagues, students, the Home and School Association, and the community. But in reality, I proposed one course, and the course hasn’t actually run yet. There are practical questions that I haven’t yet answered, like: If the course is entirely skill-based, with the content and focus being decided by the particular cohort of students taking it that year, how do I plan? How do you write a unit plan when the content of the unit is completely student-driven?

Keeping it authentic. Already I am fielding legitimate, but sometimes difficult-to- answer, questions: Will I be able to use this course to complete my Girl Scout Gold Award? We could really use some help with (x, y, z) in the building. Maybe your students could help with that! Isn’t this just a community service class? Will this be, like, way easier than a regular English class? Do you go on a lot of field trips? The answer is inevitably some version of “Yes and no” or “It depends.” Introducing this as a new course gives me a lot of creative freedom, but also a great deal of responsibility to keep our focus on the essential qualities that make service-learning unique, and valuable.

Living up to the hype. I did a lot of promoting in the process of proposing this course, and got a tremendous amount of support at all levels. Service-learning is really an easy sell, after all: it’s student-driven, problem-based, authentic, civically-minded, collaborative… all while addressing concrete academic skills! Who wouldn’t vote for that?

I gained most of my resources for this proposal at the NYLC Educator Institute in Philadelphia last fall, and that weekend, one of our mantras about service-learning became: “It’s messy.” I now wonder, since service-learning is new to our district, and relatively new to me, and certainly new in this format, do any of us really understand how messy? In every meeting I had to pitch this course, I reiterated that some failure will likely be a part of the learning process for students as they grow to understand the realities of project management, grant-writing, and working with community partners. My administrators said they understood this. And hopefully they do!

I’ve also tried to emphasize that while I will be a liaison and point person, I won’t be managing multiple student projects myself. Working toward the higher steps of Hart’s Ladder of Youth-Adult Partnerships should transfer ownership to these near-adults, who have elected to take on this unique level of responsibility during the school day. In fact, students are already moving to the center of the class: as part of a service-learning unit in my classroom this year, inspired by our district summer reading book (Front of the Class by Brad Cohen), a handful of students designed what they thought of as a “wishful thinking” course centered around empathy. They ended up working closely with me to refine the proposal I had already begun, and to promote service-learning both before and after its official approval.

I’ve been a public school teacher for 15 years, and have been wanting to start “Community Service Co-op” for almost as long. I thought of it as my own “wishful thinking” class. It wasn’t until recently that I began doing the research and discovered that it was a real thing, called service-learning, for which curricular support and pedagogical resources abound! I am so grateful to NYLC for their quality professional development and ongoing support through the Generator School Network, which gave me both the confidence and the vocabulary to bring this concept to fruition in my school. I’m also quite lucky to work in a district that will support this endeavor that is unique among public high schools in our area.

I feel invigorated and inspired, even though the course hasn’t started yet, and the response from students has been truly uplifting. They are ready to do something different, something meaningful, something real.

What seemed like a crazy idea is a natural fit with the reasons I got into teaching in the first place, and the things I’ve found to be most important in education. For me, it’s not a rebellion — it’s a revolution.

Tags:  featured  service-learning  youth engagement  youth voice 

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NYLC Offers New Youth Leadership Training at 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Forum Minneapolis

Posted By NYLC, Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Updated: Saturday, August 4, 2018

As many know, NYLC’s deepest roots are in camp experiences. Always challenging, often mosquito-ridden, and unfailingly life-changing, the National Youth Leadership Training has traveled from St. Louis, to the Cherokee Nation, to San Francisco.

This year, NYLC’s new Youth Leadership Training is coming to Minneapolis’ Augsburg University, Sept. 14-15  and is embedded with an exciting partner: the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. Now, not only do participants get to explore their own identities and leadership skills, but they also get to hear from world leaders recognized for peace-building.

NYLC’s training is designed for young people entering grades 7-12 in the fall, both existing and potential youth leaders are invited to attend in partnership with an adult ally. It’s a great way to kick off a year of civic engagement, student leadership, and/or youth voice — as youths with similar interests learn from one another in the context of a much larger event — the only of its sort outside of the Nobel Peace Prize’s home base in Oslo, Norway.

In this new training, young people will function as a cohort, spending 75% of their time together in hands-on learning through simulations on the intersectionality of race, class, ethnicity, and geography, explorations of personal leadership styles and cultural backgrounds, and action-planning for assessments leading to addressing community needs.

They’ll share in the daily general sessions with the larger audience, hearing from inspiring leaders ranging from those who have worked to bring peace to Colombia after the world’s longest civil war, to those who are working for nuclear disarmament (I-CAN, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize laureate).

Meanwhile, their adult allies will attend other sessions offered through the Forum, learning community- and peace-building strategies through workshop offerings, and rejoining their students at the end of each day for reflection and planning.

It’s a new take on a proven strategy. Register today to join us this fall for an inspiring time in the Twin Cities!

Registration

$75/student
Two-day leadership training including access to Nobel Peace Prize laureates and selected world leaders.

$100/adult
Two-day access to Nobel Peace Prize Forum (discount of more than $30 off general admission), plus two training sessions with youth teams, and the opportunity to apply for a service-learning grant. All youths must be accompanied by an adult.

Tags:  civic engagement  community action  featured  National Youth Leadership Training  peace building  service-learning  youth development  youth leadership  youth voice 

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The Future of Democracy and the Role of Young People

Posted By NYLC, Thursday, June 28, 2018
Updated: Saturday, August 4, 2018

By Amy Meuers, CEO

At NYLC, we envision a world where all young people become civically informed and engaged global citizens. We work with youths and educators, both in and out of school, to integrate service-learning as a strategy to meet learning objectives, including citizenship and 21stcentury skills, in order to inspire all young people to change the world.

As we celebrate America’s independence this 4th of July, it is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the state of civic engagement in our country. Young people have taken center stage this past year as engaged citizens through demonstration on issues such as gun control, education equity, mental health, and more. They have shown both courage and tenaciousness that demands respect from our leaders and from each of us.

Despite current civic actions by young people, as a nation our democracy is weakening. A new report released by the Democracy Project does not shed a positive light on the state of our Union. According to the report released on June 26, 2018:

Democracy is facing its most significant challenge of recent years. Worldwide, the uneven distribution of economic progress and unrelenting pace of change have tested the capacity of democratic institutions and their leaders to deliver. At the same time, authoritarian regimes and populist national movements have seized the opportunity to undermine democracy and the example of freedom it represents.

The phenomenon has not spared the United States, where confidence in our governing institutions has been weakening over many years and key pillars of our democracy, including the rule of law and freedom of the press, are under strain. These trends have raised questions about whether the public has begun to lose faith in basic democratic concepts and what can be done to strengthen popular support.


The report finds that 55 percent of respondents believe our democracy is weak and 68 percent believe it is getting weaker. This lack of faith in our government and the continuous attacks on media – historically the watchdogs of government – does not bode well for future generations.

Leaders from across the world have often heralded young people as the instigators of positive change in government. In a 2012 address at the National Service-Learning Conference in Minneapolis, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “Young people – it was them exclusively organizing youth for change. They helped bring about change on the viciousness of apartheid.”

I recently had the opportunity to hear from the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize winner and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. One of his quotes continues to inspire me and the work of NYLC: “No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts off from its youth severs its lifeline.”

As we celebrate the birth of our nation, perhaps we can also celebrate that young people are engaging as active, informed citizens. Whether you agree with their platform or not, we should all be inspired by their commitment to participate in the democratic process and follow suit.

This commitment to civic engagement by young people gives me hope that the state of democracy in our country will improve. We must all commit to support and strengthen the state of civic learning for all our children. Our freedom, our democracy, depends on it.

Happy Independence Day, America.

Read the full report from the Democracy Project

Tags:  civic engagement  civics  democracy  featured  youth voice 

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