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Twenty Teams Receive Project Ignition Grants to Promote Safer, Smarter Driving

Posted By Administration, Monday, August 19, 2019

ST. PAUL, Minn. (August 19, 2019) – Coordinated by the National Youth Leadership Council® and funded by The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, Project Ignition has selected 20 teams from throughout the United States to receive $1,000 service-learning teen driver safety grants in 2019. 


According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, auto crashes are the number one cause of death for teens in this country. Project Ignition is a youth-led response that connects academic goals to address the issue of teen driver safety through service-learning. The grants will support student-designed and student-led campaigns aimed at preventing car crashes in their community. 


“Young people have unique capacity to influence their peers’ behaviors. Especially when supported by adult allies, students can save lives by changing practices such as seat-belt use or the decision to not drive under the influence,” said Amy Meuers, NYLC CEO. “Together with The NHTSA, we are honored to provide students and their adult allies with the support they need to transform their ideas into realities and make a measurable difference in teen driver safety. Recognition of these efforts affirms the capabilities of young people to lead effectively on issues that affect their community.”


Each applicant’s plans were evaluated during a rigorous judging process and 20 were selected, in part, based on a commitment to service-learning and the use of proven-effective strategies in changing teen driver behavior. Students will inform, engage and motivate their peers while teachers and afterschool program educators will simultaneously link these activities to academic curriculum. View the full list of participating team here.


The two most effective campaigns that emerge from these 20 will be honored at the 2020 National Service-Learning Conference. Youth representatives from these national leaders will be recognized for their commitment to saving lives and positively impacting the communities in which they live.


For more information about NYLC and service-learning go to

Tags:  project ignition  service-learning  teen driver safety  youth leadership 

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A High School Musical: A Reflection on the Shinnyo-en Foundation Annual Retreat

Posted By NYLC, Monday, August 19, 2019

by Carmen Lopez Villamil

The Marconi Conference Center sits atop a hill that overlooks the bay. To reach it, one must drive through San Francisco’s famed pastel homes, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and along miles of road that twist around hilly farmland and between magnificent redwoods. This drive was only the beginning of the wonder and joy that I experienced at the Shinnyo-en Foundation’s Annual Retreat.

If you have yet to discern the setting of the retreat, feel free to reread the first paragraph. If I was unclear, the Marconi Center is beautiful. As we drove along the bay and turned into the forest on Friday afternoon, I had no idea what I would experience over the next few days. First, I met Jay: exuberant and inattentive to norms, notably, those set by Ineko. Ineko is powerful, composed, and kind. I then met my roommate, Esha, and the other high school students at the retreat. We were acquainted through an admittedly stressful name game, involving the memorization of 35 names and associated foods. In this short introduction, I discovered that everyone, from the Shinnyo-en Foudnation staff to my new friends, instantly inspired me with their charisma and passion for service, learning, and the conjunction of the two.

It wasn’t long until I figured out the purpose of the retreat. Sandra Bass, the director of the Public Service Center at Berkeley, began her workshop with her family history. Her story was of slavery, segregation, and of her parents’ triumph over systemic oppression. The social context of this history is the ground, while the ensuing values are her roots. She went on to describe family and the Public Service Center as her support system, her trunk. And the culmination, the fruit, was service, in its many manifestations. The retreat’s purpose was to help individuals discover why they serve and how their past informs and strengthens their service. It was to share our roots and our fruits, to contribute to each other’s trunks and ultimately change our shared ground.

This aim was fulfilled most crucially by a group of people I failed to mention earlier: my Homegroup. There were six homegroups, each with six people, and presumably randomly assigned. It was so random, or perhaps this was Ineko’s intent, that I first thought I could not bond or share with them. It’s a shameful revelation, but I find it difficult to talk about myself honestly. And so it began, with what I thought would be a shallow session of sharing our family’s history with a boastful conclusion of what we have accomplished. That was not the case.

By the time the first member of my Homegroup had finished talking, we were all speechless and in tears. As the second person began, I tried to listen wholly and actively, but I realized that I trusted these people and that I must be honest with them. Everyone told their story earnestly, trustingly, and forced me to do the same. Though I typically resort to sarcasm to evade sincerity, and I could not entirely discard this defense, my Homegroup pushed me – or “stretched” me – to be honest. It was empowering to share my values and history to a group of supportive strangers and to form part of that group for others.

On Saturday, after a session on restorative justice that asked us to question systems and norms, and a vulnerable iteration of show and tell (also with our homegroups and highly recommended), was Open Mic night. Nothing could have prepared me for that night. It is important to note that my arsenal of defense mechanisms, along with sarcasm, includes an avid avoidance of public vulnerability: no singing or dancing.

But my new friends, all high schoolers in California, did not share this aversion. Maybe it’s something in the water, or in their case, lack thereof? But earlier that day, we had decided to learn and perform the iconic finale of High School Musical, “We’re All In This Together.” I agreed gleefully and enjoyed our impromptu rehearsals during our free-time. It was all fun and games until we actually had to dance in front of 30 mature adults. But we did it, and there is a video somewhere that I hope you never have to see, and it was one of the most joyous and free moments of my summer.


The Shinnyo-en Foundation’s Retreat was a lot like High School Musical; it was an ideal experience of self-exploration, building relationships and pure fun. I cried and laughed, reflected and danced, ate very well and basked in the serene landscape of Northern California. It was a deeply emotional discovery of who I am and its effect on how I serve and learn. I cannot wait to keep stretching myself in everything I do and bring the impactful activities from the retreat back to the rest of the Youth Advisory Council. Above all, I ask you to challenge your assumptions, to trust others with your story, and to discover why you serve. Service-learning is a fantastic pedagogy, but its meaning rests in your reasons for doing it. They are thus worth identifying, even if it requires a little discomfort; or a highly choreographed routine in matching T-shirts.

A special “thank you” to the Shinnyo-en Foundation for creating a powerful agenda and the space for an experience like no other. We are truly grateful.

Tags:  national youth leadership council  retreat  shinnyo-en foundation  youth leadership 

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Summer Internships: The Best Way to Prepare

Posted By Fatumo Mohamed, Monday, August 12, 2019

by Fatumo Mohamed

Internships get a bad reputation, which leads to people hesitating to find any or do them. Most people believe that interns only do mundane tasks like making coffee or filing papers. While interns may do some of these tasks once in a while, the idea that this is what internships are about is objectively false. The most important reason to find internships, especially during the summer, is the experience it gives you. By working in an internship, you get real work experience. This is essential for future job positions, especially if you’re planning to get a job in the field that you are interning in. You can learn about or be told to do something, but that is not the same as actually doing it. You learn what to expect in a working environment and how to navigate one. You develop a relationship with your boss as they take you under their wing and show you the ropes. By interacting with your coworkers, you learn different methods by which people work and ways that a team functions. Being an intern also means being treated like an employee, which teaches you accountability. You are being supervised and told how to improve. All of this combined makes you more ready when you enter the workforce of your choice compared to your peers who haven’t done internships.

What do you think about extra college credit? Most people go above and beyond to find ways they can get extra credit for school, particularly college students. Internships are one easy and helpful to get some additional credit! During school you’re most likely not willing to take an internship along with a full course load; however, during the summer, you most likely have either no classes or a much lighter workload, thus making it possible to find an internship that works with your schedule. Most internships offer college credit, meaning a lesser workload moving forward, and even graduating earlier. Most degree programs encourage or require college students to take an internship so they can get hands-on experience before they graduate. If you are a college student, it is highly encouraged you talk to your college counselor to see if you can get credit from internship - because you most likely will.

Another skill you can develop at an internship is time management. Time management can be difficult and hectic. Not having efficient time management skills can lead to several problems, including double scheduling, procrastinating, and being late to important meetings and events. Having an internship, particularly a summer internship, teaches you how to successfully manage your time in a smart manner. Being an intern teaches you how to manage tight deadlines, too. You learn how to manage multiple tasks and get several duties done without rushing. By learning how to be time efficient, you learn more skills overall, because being good at time management means finding time to learn more skills. If you’re done typing up your report, you can watch the recorded team meetings and learn how to act and contribute to one.

All these skills combined will help you be the best employee possible once you start your dream job - and it all starts with a summer internship.

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Back to School Service-Learning

Posted By NYLC, Monday, August 12, 2019

by Christian Buonfiglio

Students nationwide return to school over the next few weeks. If you’re a teacher, school faculty member, or education professional who’s looking to add meaningful service opportunities and a better understanding of service-learning to your school, consider what NYLC has to offer.

From September 2019 to March 2020, NYLC will be hosting a series of online webinars. These webinars will provide an enhanced understanding of service-learning, and cover subjects such as:

These webinars will be presented via Zoom and available for all members of the Service-Learning Network to view afterward.

NYLC has also partnered with 9/11 Day to bring service-learning to schools. With informative toolkits for students and facilitators alike, your school can unite on September 11th and participate in a day of service that brings our nation together.

Additionally, teenagers nationwide will be driving to and from school once again, which means that teen driver safety is a priority. NYLC's teen driver safety program Project Ignition has a free toolkit that provides a curriculum guide for service-learning projects promoting teen driver safety and building a culture of responsible, educated teen drivers.

NYLC also hosts Lift: Raising the Bar for Service-Learning Practice, a collection of videos explaining each of the K-12 Service-Learning Standards. This collection of informative, engaging video guides to service-learning follows three schools through their service-learning journeys, and provides a blueprint for any school that wishes to bring service-learning into the classroom.

If you want to take the next step towards integrating service-learning into your school, join the Service-learning network, and gain access to NYLC's upcoming webinars, virtual networking services, and a free subscription to The Leader to keep you up-to-date on service-learning efforts worldwide. Contact us about our trainings and programs to enhance your student’s learning today.

Serve. Learn. Change the World.™

Tags:  back to school  service-learning  service-learning network  teen driver safety 

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Meet NYLC Intern Christian Buonfiglio

Posted By Li Sai, Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The author, Li Sai joined NYLC as a Fellow from the U.S. China Relations Committee. She has since returned to China and her work at Beijing Qixing Foundation for Youth Development.

Buon-fig-li-o. Finally, on my third try, I mumbled these four syllables right. That’s Christian’s family name. In Italian, it means “good son.”

I get to know Christian from the languages I don’t understand - HTML, CSS, Java, you name it. When you are browsing the National Youth Leadership Council’s new website, he is the one behind the scenes. As a recent graduate from Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minnesota, he applied what he has learned about computer science in order to upgrade NYLC’s website with a new membership portal and many other exciting features, like an updated online bookstore and many service-learning resources.

“How was a student with only a two-year degree able to build such a complex system?” I wonder. “Well, I didn’t build the system myself,” he responded. “Mostly, I was working with tools and programs built by professionals. I tweak little bits here and there, and I also do a lot of searching online and asking my professors and classmates for help.”

According to Christian, learning by doing is the way to go. Throughout the process, Christian not only leveraged his skills to solve problems for an organization, but also boosted his self-confidence from a career perspective through this hands-on experience. As opposed to someone who graduated from college with a degree, but little experience, he can already tell an employer that he has worked with a database and created a webpage. Yet reaching this point is not easy. “There were many challenges along the way, but these were not challenges that ever made me wonder why I applied for this position. These were all challenges that I liked.”

I asked him what led him to seek to challenge himself at NYLC. A chance meeting with Rob Shumer, a professor and philanthropist on NYLC’s board of directors, is part of the reason, but not all. “My high school was deeply devoted to service, and there were a lot of volunteer opportunities.” In his senior year, Christian worked with adults with developmental disabilities in a visual and performing art center. Together, they did many improvised acting exercises, and he also made sure that their individual needs were met. For example, he would keep the volume of the room in control for those who had sensory issues. “I was more of a facilitator rather than a caretaker.” In real life, people with disabilities are often treated like children - here is your TV, go watch it - but they are human beings who want to engage with the world around them and with each other. “We can’t direct and treat them like puppets to create the scene. These are people we should work alongside, and not just feel sorry for.” Indeed, when we shift our view, “disabled” can easily become “differently abled.”

This experience also led him to understand that he would not feel satisfied with a well-paying job alone. Although he has been around people with wealth for most of his life, acquiring material goods and endless consumption have never motivated him. “There is no part of me that ever thought ‘I won’t be happy until I make this amount of money.’” Instead, what brings him joy is getting involved in a way that makes a difference and helps the people who need the most. I am reminded again of his family name - “good son”.

His passion for social good is rooted not just in his name, but in his family. His grandfather was a dentist living in Revere, Massachusetts. When Christian was young, he often heard stories of people gaving a bag of tomatoes or a couple of lobsters to his grandfather to cover their treatment cost. “My grandfather really didn’t care about money, he cared about fixing people’s teeth.” Kindness passed down. Christian was raised to think of others first and be mindful of others’ needs.

Now, working at Caribou Coffee, he makes sure to remember customers’ routine order or uncommon name. “It would make their days much easier.” Like people who are addicted to coffee, Christian is addicted to getting satisfaction out of helping others. What a world we would live in if altruism became the caffeine of our life!

I have encountered many Americans like Christian, but I also hear criticism about this country being very individualistic. “I think,” he told me, “that there is a big part of my generation that has started to realize it’s not enough to simply fend for ourselves.” This, I believe, partially comes from a longing for human connection. For instance, Christian and many of his friends must drive a long way to work, which leaves them spending much time in cars and away from other people. A nice paycheck can only get people so far, and human connection has the power to solve problems that money can’t.

While I admire the altruistic values that Christian carries, I also wonder how to grow a heart for something bigger than oneself. The answer Christian gave me is “getting involved”. Even though sometimes the reason we go to a volunteer event is simply because we don’t have anything better to do, or we want to look good on college applications, when we look at it afterwards, we feel great about what we did and want to do more. Then, once we get involved in our communities, we must take the next step. “We should not forget to create opportunities for those who are coming in.”

Providing opportunities for others is something Christian would love to achieve along with his career. Enthusiastic about art, he wants to be an artist, but he wants to be known for more than just art. “I want to work with other artists that aren’t typically given enough spotlight. I want to invite them in and give them a spotlight of their own, but in a way that does not frame them as poor, struggling people to pity.” It reminds me of his attitude when working with people with disabilities during high school. I can say for sure that viewing less advantaged people as different, rather than deficient, is deeply embedded in his past and future.

Speaking of the future, Christian is embarking on an exciting journey - he will study at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota this coming fall! He will not have to spend four years there, but only two, thanks to his associate degree at DCTC. However, four years ago, he had a different plan.

“I went to Providence College in Rhode Island in 2015, but wasn’t emotionally prepared, so I came home.” Two years later, he started with two classes in DCTC, hoping to transfer those credits to Providence College when he returned in the fall. But this decision didn’t lead him back to Rhode Island. “The teacher of my English class was really supportive! She introduced me to the idea of getting the first two years’ worth of credits at DCTC without so much debt.” Up until then, Christian was struggling to decide between getting a job and going to college. “I was thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll get an English degree,’ but there is a common misconception in America that if you major in English, sociology, or psychology, you will end up doing something irrelevant to what you studied. I wasn’t sure whether it would worth my time.” One day after class, he and his English teacher stayed for an hour talking about the possibilities, and it was at that time that he realized that, through the lens of English, he could learn about many other areas that he is interested in.

For many people, DCTC is where you learn how to brew beer or fix cars, but for Christian, it was the starting point of his journey into higher education. More importantly, it is proof that he is ready to move forward in his life. “That is my biggest accomplishment so far,” Christian said with a relieved smile.

After my two-hour interview with him, I no longer worry about how to pronounce his name. I know that even if I forget, I will always remember what a “good son” looks like.

Fun facts about Christian:

Q1: If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?

A: I would do a lot more creative writing.

Q2: What is the most creative thing you have ever done?

A: Playing Dungeons & Dragons. (Before playing, Christian always writes a brief recap of what happened the last week to recount to his fellow players. He needs some rest!)

Q3: What is something that your friends would consider “so you”?

A: Wearing shirts with floral patterns, and reading fiction, reviews, and online articles.

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June-July Service-Learning Digest

Posted By NYLC, Wednesday, July 10, 2019

June – July Service-Learning Digest

Summer is a great time for service-learning, especially the action and celebration steps of the IPARD/C process (learn more about the service-learning process at Check out these great stories for inspiration for your next project!

Methodist College camp puts fun emphasis on volunteering and learning

Nine-year-old Lydia Ellis had fun at camp this week, not by playing but helping.

She spent Tuesday volunteering at the Midwest Food Bank as part of Methodist College’s Summer Learn and Serve Camp. Afterward, she raved to her mom about the experience.

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Knoxville Schools reach new heights in 2018-19

As our students enjoy their summer break, the Knoxville Community School District is reflecting on a school year full of outstanding achievements on the part of our students, staff and community. “We started the school year with a number of ambitious goals to raise the bar for achievement, and also to promote life skills, career development and student well-being,” said Cassi Pearson, KCSD Superintendent. “I am proud of the commitment our students and staff gave to help us accomplish these goals.”

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Local teacher traveling to bring service-learning to classrooms

With stops at Yellowstone National Park, Seattle and then all the way to Belize, a Rowan County educator is putting in the miles this summer to bring a new perspective to local classrooms.

Though her travels will consume all but a matter of days in this year’s nine-week summer break, North Rowan Middle School teacher Angie Fleming is enjoying every moment.

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Forsyth service learning project connects students with senior citizens

A service learning project in Forsyth is connecting students with senior citizens. About 15 kids from Forsyth Middle School have been visiting the Forsyth Nursing and Rehab Center a couple of times per week. On Monday, the students brought special gifts for each resident. "I like giving the gifts because it makes me feel warm inside," Student Olivia Kossmann said.

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Lisbon sixth-graders complete service learning project, ‘Spruce Up Sugg’

Kyle Beeton, teacher at P.W. Sugg Middle School, just finished up a service learning project with his sixth-grade students. The project, named “Spruce Up Sugg,” was designed to use math concepts to help provide a springboard for making improvements to the landscaping around the front of the school.

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Tags:  service-learning  service-learning digest  youth development  youth leadership 

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Points of Light Youth Summit: A Reflection

Posted By Abdihamid Mohamed, Thursday, July 4, 2019

Hey! Are you wondering what the Points of Light Foundation or POLF is? Well you came to the right place. The Points of Light Foundation is an international nonprofit organization that was founded by George H.W. Bush in 1990. The Points of Light headquarters are located in Atlanta, Georgia. It was designed to engage more people and resources in solving major issues through voluntary service. The Points of Light holds a conference every year that talks about this and more. This year’s Points of Light conference was held at the RiverCenter in St.Paul, MN. 


My role during the conference was to support the Youth Summit and NYLC’s facilitators, Anthony Le, Sayid Ali, and Maddy Wegner.  The Youth Summit was designed by NYLC to train and help five groups of young leaders enhance their leadership skills and then deliver pitches to adult mentors about a problem that they want to combat in their communities. Each group received a grant to address their issue area. The participants ranged in ages from 13-17 years old. All of these groups were from the state of Minnesota.


The teams included students from Linwood Monroe, ArtsUs, DCS, Anoka High School, and Coon Rapids High School. The problems that they wanted to combat were illiteracy, homlessness, helping empower women, and having more diversity. ArtsUs and Anoka High School each want to combat homelessness in their community. Anoka High School wants to address homelessness in their city of Anoka and destroy the stigma around people that are homeless. The team wants to spread awareness to Anoka residents, making sure people realize that homeless people are still people and that they deserve access to basic necessities like everyone else. ArtsUs also wants to combat homlessness but they want to spread awareness about the fact the most people who are homeless in the state of Minnesota are people of color.  Linwood Monroe is going to address illiteracy in their community by organizing a 5k run with all of the proceeds going to the Minnesota Literacy Council where they can give people with illiteracy the tools they need. The team from DCS wants to help kids all over the world feel empowered, specifically young girls and women in countries where they do not have equal opportunities like their male counterparts. The last team, Coon Rapids High School wants people to be aware of the many cultures that they have in their city. They want people in their community to get along, regardless of what background or “clique” they are in. They will hold cultural education events throughout the school year, highlighting the different cultures that they have in their city.


During the Youth Summit my job was to help NYLC’s trainers prepare each team for their pitches. All of them had amazing pitches and they all got an award. The ArtsUs got a grant of $1,500 for their creative pitch which included dancing and drumming. The rest of the teams each received $1,000 dollars to implement change in their communities. The creativity and passion of the Youth Summit participants is best represented by this poem written by Lorraine Wongbi from Anoka High School.


The American Dream

What is the American Dream?

A Dream that those outside are simply longing to live

They long to live

While some inside are trying to live

Living off the scraps of society 

Expressing and breathing anxiety

Judgement. Why are we so quick to judge the homeless

Why are we so quick to hate, spit rage, disgrace and blame the less fortunate

Man... just imagine being homeless 

Just imagine having to worry about your next move

Praying to even see food 

Wanting to see the good in humanity 

While slowly just losing your sanity

Now look... we all just need to care for another

We all need to stop acting like those who are homeless are a societal bother 

I mean we are all human at the end of the day 

So might as well help those less fortunate to find another way.

~Lorraine Wongbi

The entire conference was amazing and I got to meet such wonderful people.   I hope to meet even more amazing people in future trainings with NYLC.

Tags:  civic action  youth advisory council  youth leadership  youth voice 

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What the 4th of July Means to Me

Posted By Fadumo Mohamed, Thursday, July 4, 2019

July 4th the day of the fireworks and America’s birthday. July 4th is a holiday meant to cause happiness and joy. It is a day for family get togethers, picnics and amazing fireworks. This is what the 4th of July means to most people. What does July 4th mean to me? To me, July 4th starts a week earlier when you can hear fireworks around the neighborhood. I get both excited and nervous. I am excited because I expect the festivities to be fun. I am anxious because July 4th wasn’t really designed for people like me. The 4th of July is expressed by blue, red and white themed desserts at the store. It is hearing about the upcoming holiday when making plans with family or friends at the end of June. July 4th symbolizes the American spirit and how it is mass marketed to the typical American audience. July 4th is seeing the beautiful and ugly sides of patriotism. July 4th is a fun loving day where you can be happy.

July 4th is also filled with bitterness and hatred. To me, July 4th is a complex feeling of both positives and negatives that has shaped and made me aware of my identity over the years. My family doesn’t take July 4th as seriously as most people. So to me, July 4th isn’t a holiday to celebrate or get ready for but a day to relax and enjoy some fireworks. Most years, I spend the 4th of July with my mother and siblings, counting down the time until we leave to see the firework display; betting on how long they will last. My siblings love the fireworks display. I don’t look forward to July 4th like most people but I do enjoy the positive energy it brings which always puts me in a good mood. The 4th of July means seeing other people that you don’t know while watching fireworks and making room for them next to you if they can’t find a place to sit. It’s going on Snapchat and seeing your friends post badly timed photos of fireworks on their story with the cheesy caption of “HAPPY INDEPENCE DAY!!”. July 4th to me is about the unity of a nation, all kinds of people coming together and celebrating the birth of a nation that they are a part of. July 4th despite it’s problematic aspects is something that means a lot to me. It has created some of my happiest memories and I love that it makes people happy and unites others.

July 4th, as I mentioned, also has a negative meaning to me. Last year, my family and I went to watch fireworks in our hometown. Halfway through the display a group of young white teens drove past our car and yelled both racial and islamophobic slurs at us. This incident ruined my family’s experience and we drove home about five minutes later. There behavior acutely reminded me that while July 4th is a holiday that was meant to bring joy, it is also a holiday that is reaped with racism and oppression. It is a holiday that wasn’t created for people like me, a Muslim American who lives in the midwest. Patriotism can be a beautiful thing but it has an ugly side that many people tend to ignore. Many people believe that America should be celebrated by “ True Americans” and that usually leads many people to be unfairly bigoted to those that don’t fit that very small and close-minded niche. This tye of patriotism makes people feel pressured to celebrate and do ‘typical American things’ on July 4th even if they don’t want to. Whenever people bring up the problem with July 4th they are accused of hating America and are told to “leave the country”. To truly celebrate all that America represents, we need to address these issues. As you celebrate Independence Day this July 4th, have fun but don’t engage in toxic behavior for the sake of the “True American Spirit”. Let’s make this an America where we all celebrate because we all belong.

Tags:  civic action  civic engagement 

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What Is Philanthropy? A rich concept but not just for rich people

Posted By Betsy Peterson, Learning to Give, Thursday, May 30, 2019
Updated: Thursday, May 30, 2019

Milo at eight years old gave three dollars to his dad’s friend who was starting an orphanage in Mexico. He got a personal note and a picture from a child who lived there. Milo was so excited, he learned everything he could about the town and the needs of the kids in the orphanage. When he was in high school, he and his friends planned fundraising activities in the community and arranged to visit the orphanage for three weeks so they could meet the kids and do maintenance projects together.

When Victoria was 11, her artwork was used on a flyer for a race that raised awareness of ALS. Her grandpa died of ALS, and she felt good about being part of the path to a cure. She started noticing and doing volunteer work for other nonprofits over the years. As an adult, she now has a marketing job with a health and wellness nonprofit, and she finds opportunities to involve kids as much as possible.

Ms. Clary’s second grade classroom learned about giving as they interacted with hunger-related nonprofits in the community. The year started with students feeling disconnected and unmotivated to learn. After group experiences learning from the staff at the homeless shelter, service projects helping at the soup kitchen, and reading and writing activities about hunger, the students could be seen working hard, helping one another, and caring about their classroom community. They were visibly kinder, more collaborative, and confident. They recognized that the larger community was there for them and they had a role in it. [Ms. Clary shares her perspective in this Youtube video.]

Milo, Victoria, and Ms. Clary’s students aren’t rich, but they each have something to give that makes a difference to them and to their community. They learned at a young age that giving time, talent, or treasure feels good, and they want to do more of it. Their teachers, families, and experiences nurture them and guide them to discover what they are capable of in the bigger world. The biggest strength of teaching young people about giving is they learn generosity, empathy, and smart work. These skills give them opportunities in the community and world today and in the future.

In the stories above, you don’t see the word philanthropy, but that is exactly what it is. When you read the word philanthropy do you assume it’s about money? Many people do. At Learning to Give, we teach philanthropy education, which is the “knowledge and practice of giving time, talent, or treasure and taking action for the common good.”

Over the 20+ years Learning to Give has been helping K-12 U.S. educators empower their students through philanthropy lesson plans and service-learning resources, we have debated whether we should drop the word philanthropy. Are we in danger of turning schools away before they even try a lesson because they misunderstand the word or think we are teaching about financial giving? Does the strategy of service-learning seem too complicated or scary? We have held firm to the vocabulary because we embrace the rich meaning of this concept that transforms lives. Kids can say Tyrannosaurus Rex after all.

More than ever before, young people from all backgrounds and experiences need connection to one another and to resources in their diverse communities. They need to feel they matter and have a voice in their present and future. Philanthropy education and service-learning give a purpose for their lives. Students learn about different needs and issues around them. They learn different ways they can take action to be agents of good.

What if the word philanthropy or the strategy of service-learning are blocking educators at the door of our website? Would the word generosity be more approachable? Who wouldn’t want to teach generosity or explore community at the same time they are teaching language arts or science? Whatever it is called, Learning to Give will continue to teach these concepts because data shows students engage more in learning and gain self-confidence when they see their generous actions matter. This internalization of generosity in community forms the underpinnings of an ongoing healthy civil society.

Learning to Give is a free educational online resource. The lesson plans and activities help students become engaged, active participants in their community by weaving service and kindness into curriculum we’re already teaching. Students are writing persuasive letters, reading about historical models of social good, and researching the missions of local nonprofits.  They are following passion and setting a life path of generosity.  

Tags:  philanthropy  service-learning 

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Service-Learning May Digest 2019

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 30, 2019

Summer’s almost here, and students were busy this spring with service-learning in classrooms and afterschool programs. Check out some of the great happenings from the past month. Got a program you want to share? Send us an email at!

Ridgefield Academy's Grade 7 and Prospector Theater: The Importance of Making a Difference
Service Learning is an integral part of the curriculum at Ridgefield Academy and builds character development. It teaches students to be thankful for what they have, to empathize with others and to develop a sense of civic responsibility. This results in students being able to see different perspectives. Additionally, they develop confidence and a sense of empowerment, as they discover they can have a lasting impact on others.
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Better World Day: Grass Valley Charter School Students ‘get smart, do good’
Grass Valley Charter School celebrated Better World Day in early May, with the other EL Education schools in their network nationwide.
EL Education (formerly known as Expeditionary Learning) is a network of schools committed to service learning and character education. Grass Valley Charter showcases service learning projects on Better World Day, and throughout the year. Here are a sampling of teaching kids to “get smart, do good,” as EL Education likes to say….
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Turner Elementary to Host Learning Fair
Each year Turner Elementary School has a year-long, whole-school Service Learning project. This year the students focused on Heifer International, an organization that works to end world hunger and poverty. They kicked off the year by reading “Give A Goat” by Jan West Schrock, a picture book which features a grade five class that raises money to purchase a goat to help a family in need through Heifer International.
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Around Town: St. Paul Seventh-Graders Work Hard, Learn in Park Visit
The seventh-graders of St. Paul Catholic Church in North Canton have a long standing partnership with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. For more than 15 years, they travel to the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Camp for hands-on, multi-day learning experiences.
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Tags:  civic engagement  monthly digest  service-learning 

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