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2020 Youth4Education Lead Activists Announced

Posted By NYLC, Wednesday, January 22, 2020

NYLC would like to announce our 2020 Youth4Education Lead Activists addressing issues of education equity! These young leaders will implement service-learning programs in their communities under the guidance of NYLC staff and Youth Advisory Council members in order to fight for a quality education for every young person.


Hoang, Bellaire High School, Texas, USA

"When it comes to educational equity in my community," Hoang says, "I firmly believe that everybody should have the same opportunity no matter his or her race or gender." Hoang wants to implement more hands-on learning experiences in his school's classrooms and raise funds to pay for students' educations worldwide.


Maria, YES Prep, Texas, USA

Maria understands that each student's needs require a different educational approach. "Giving every child the same tools for education doesn't solve every child's problem," Maria says. "Everyone has different ways of learning. Education equity will ensure everyone gets what they truly need [in order] to learn." Maria's goal is to bring hope to students who feel that their educational system is failing them.


Widya Astuti, Malang, Indonesia

Widya Astuti hopes to help students in her community achieve their goals, and teach them in a fun, engaging way. Through hands-on lessons and individualized learning, Widya Astuti wants to give every student in her school a method to learn effectively. "I want to always be connected with education wherever, whenever and with anyone," Widya Astuti says. "I want to continue to learn and teach as much as I can."


Sydnee, Clarksville High School, Tennessee, USA

Inspired by her school's existing Youth4Ed club, Sydnee and her team want to help students take advantage of their local community center and build resources and skills together. "I envision a Youth4Ed group that strives to create a safe space in their community for those who are affected by poor education equity," Sydney says. "I see a concrete group of students who are fearless in fighting for something they believe in.


Sophia, East Chapel Hill High School, North Carolina, USA

"When I think of Youth4Education," says Sophia, "I think of my fellow peers and other kids in my community who don't have the same opportunity as others for some thing that is completely circumstantial." Stunned by a study that showed her school district with the second widest achievement gap in the nation, Sophia realized she needed to advocate for her fellow students and start difficult conversations about students left behind. Sophia wants to create a diverse board of students to discuss issues related to education equity and bring them directly to their school's administration.

Tags:  lead activists  service-learning  youth voice  Youth4Education 

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November-December Service-Learning Digest 2019

Posted By NYLC, Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Happy New Year!

As students and teachers return from winter break, it's time to look back on the past few months in service-learning as we go forward into 2020. Let's look at a few examples of the incredible service-learning projects happening across the nation.


UMass Lowell physical therapy students learn by teaching

Through interactive games and instructional lessons, physical therapy students from the University of Massachusetts Lowell partnered with a local high school to teach students wellness strategies and important health information. The college students learned how to interest and empower the high school students they were educating, and built strong, productive partnerships between college and high school students.

Read more at UMass Lowell News


Tulane, Louisiana service learning class brings hands-on science to the visually impaired

Geologist Nicole Gasparini and her students shared their love of science with middle schoolers at Louisiana Lighthouse, a school for visually impaired students, through interactive exhibits designed to teach geological concepts through touch alone. By meeting students' individual needs and reaching out to partners within the community, Gasparini and her students learned about education as they taught about lava flow and earthquakes.

Read more at Tulane University News


Greenfield High School students participate in Community Service Learning Day

Service-learning is a process, but it begins with projects, however small. Over the winter, students at Greenfield High School in Greenfield, Mass. participated in their fourth annual Community Service Learning Day, knitting scarves for those in need and volunteering their time reading books at their local library. Students worked together to build their community and learn by giving back.

Read more at The Greenfield Recorder


High school class partners with Cazenovia College Inclusion program

Community partnerships are key to effective service-learning. By partnering with a local college's program for adults with developmental disabilities, students at Cazenovia High School built leadership skills and fostered positive relationships, providing adults with disabilities meaningful experiences and breaking down the social stigma surrounding disability.

Read more at Eagle News Online


Kids Who Code builds community partnerships and teaches coding

At the New Jersey Institute of Technology, commitment to service-learning is high. NJIT students partnered with local elementary and high schools to teach programming skills through meaningful one-on-one tutoring, and helped younger students prepare for a rapidly shifting economy while learning about something they enjoyed.

Read more at The Vector


University of Arkansas Nursing School Starts Intergenerational Service-Learning Experience

In order to ensure that her nursing students would be prepared to meet their community's needs, professor Lori Murray added a service-learning aspect to her class, pairing her students with older adult mentors in the community. Students bridged generational gaps and prepared themselves to listen to their patients' needs while learning to move past stereotypes of older adults.

Read more at University of Arkansas News


We hope you commit to bringing service-learning to your communities this year. May 2020 be a year of serving, learning, and changing the world!

Tags:  2019  service-learning  service-learning digest  youth leadership 

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2019: A Year of Renewal

Posted By NYLC, Wednesday, December 18, 2019

By: Amy Meuers, NYLC CEO


At the National Youth Leadership Council, we develop young people to be civically informed and engaged global citizens who strive to create a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world. We believe in the power of youth and adults working together, in partnership, to tap into the passion, creativity, and ingenuity of all young people to make meaningful change happen.


In 2019, we have seen young people making powerful, lasting change around the world.  Just two weeks ago, 16 year-old Greta Thunberg was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for her unwavering commitment to move world leaders to address climate change. Greta has inspired millions of people – both young and young at heart – from across the globe to lend their voices in protest against the lack of action on climate change.  


2020 National Service-Learning Conference keynote speaker, Ekansh Tambe, is a high school sophomore in Texas educating people on the issue of immigration. Through his amazing photography, he chronicles the fence, the culture, and the people along most of the 1,900 miles of the US-Mexican land border. The project educates through the stories of the border security, the residents, immigrants, and federal agents.


Also this month, NYLC’s  very own Youth Advisory Council member Carmen Lopez Villamil was quoted on the front page of the New York Times for her activism for school integration. Carmen attends Beacon High School in New York where she leads a Youth4Education club and helped to organize a strike against the school’s admittance practices.  These young voices, along with the millions of others who stood with them, are making meaningful change happen.


Youth4Education is a youth-led movement to advance education equity through service-learning by creating safe spaces for vulnerable discussions, turning discussion into action, creating positive youth-adult, and improving school climate. Through Youth4Ed, NYLC reached more than 1,600 students directly in 2019.


We also had the opportunity to extend our impact this year in the Afterschool Service-Learning initiative through a generous grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. NYLC supports  the advancement of service-learning with seven state networks including:


  • OregonAsk
  • Michigan Afterschool Partnership
  • New Jersey School-Age Care Coalition
  • Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network
  • Tennessee Afterschool Network
  • Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network
  • Massachusetts Afterschool Partnership


These partnerships have ensured that thousands of students are exposed to service-learning and the multitude of benefits that it brings including academic, 21st Century, leadership, and social emotional skills because they are physically out in the community, making real change happen. It demonstrates that afterschool programs are developing the next generation of engaged and informed citizens who are ready to address community needs.


In addition to our work in afterschool settings, NYLC’s teen driver safety program Project Ignition engaged more than 2,087 students indirectly impacting more than 700,000 people across twenty sites. These teams of students and their adult allies addressed teen-driver safety issues and empowered youth to lead campaigns that make measurable differences in their schools, their communities, and beyond. NYLC is honored to partner with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to continue this vital work in 2020; saving even more lives through service-learning.


Whether advancing service-learning through our annual National Service-Learning Conference; delivering uniquely tailored trainings; creating tool-kits, handbooks, and resources; administering the Service-Learning Network; or by growing programs; NYLC worked alongside our partners and funders to engage more than 300,000 people to create meaningful, lasting change in communities across the globe in 2019. We are excited to see where 2020 takes us as we work with you to “Serve. Learn. Change the world.”!


Support the work of NYLC. Learn more at

Tags:  2019  National Service-Learning Conference  Project Ignition  service-learning  youth leadership  Youth4Education 

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September-October 2019 Service-Learning Digest

Posted By NYLC, Saturday, October 26, 2019
Updated: Friday, October 25, 2019

The fall is here! School is back in session, the leaves are turning orange, and service-learning programs are bringing students nationwide closer to their communities. Here are just a few examples of service-learning in action over the past few months.

UNO service-learning program receives national award

The University of Nebraska at Omaha has been partnering with students in the Omaha public school system to work on service-learning projects to address issues within their communities. For their hard work, the initiative received the Excellence in Community Partner Engagement Award from the Engagement Scholarship Consortium!

Read more at The Gateway

STEM students learn civic engagement in Washington, DC

Learning about civic engagement is like any other kind of learning - students remember more when they learn by doing. A group of undergraduate students from UC San Diego traveled to DC to fight for the DREAM Act and discussed their plans to build civic engagement in their own communities.

Read more at the UC San Diego News Center

High school students gather to build youth voice in California

Youth voice is often ignored, and a group of high school students in Menlo Park, California gathered at the 1Bay Youth Action Summit to make their voices heard. Students discussed the civil rights movement, learned the power of youth voice, and registered to vote.

Read more at InMenlo

Medical students learn to meet community needs

Practicing medicine is more than treating symptoms - it's about finding your community's healthcare needs and addressing them. Medical students at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan learned about the issues faced in their community in order to better meet their needs.


High school students learn environmental stewardship

With the climate crisis looming, students nationwide are fighting to protect their communities from pollution and waste. Students at Crestwood High School in Mantua, Ohio learned how to lead in their communities by example and helped clean up their local Cuyahoga River.

Read more at the Weekly Villager

Engineering students host free repair cafe

Sometimes, service-learning is as simple as helping your peers fix their phones. The Society of Women Engineers at UMass Lowell hosted a free repair cafe to practice their craft by serving others' needs, free of charge.

Read more at the Lowell Sun

Service-learning is happening everywhere, all the time - and it works.

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

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Celebrate Lights On Afterschool

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Celebrate the 20th annual Lights On Afterschool Oct. 24, 2019!

Launched in October 2000, Lights On Afterschool is the only nationwide event celebrating afterschool programs and their important role in the lives of children, families and communities. The effort has become a hallmark of the afterschool movement and generates media coverage across the country each year.

The Afterschool Alliance organizes Lights On Afterschool to draw attention to the many ways afterschool programs support students by offering them opportunities to learn new things—such as science, community service, robotics, Tae Kwon Do and poetry—and discover new skills. The events send a powerful message that millions more kids need quality afterschool programs.

Learn more and prepare to celebrate!

Tags:  afterschool  service-learning 

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Meet Julie Rogers Bascom: NYLC's Director of Training & Leadership Development

Posted By Administrator, Tuesday, October 15, 2019
From an interview conducted by U.S. China Relations Fellow, Li Sai

"When I was sitting at the “secret discussion” held by 212 leadership in Edina high school, I was constantly amazed by the capabilities those 17-year-olds have showed, either when they were making difficult decisions on selecting the next cabinet or trying to figure out the best way to announce the news. What’s more, those discussions were happening almost without adult intervention", said NYLC's Director of Training and Leadership Development, Julie Rogers Bascom at the beginning of our interview on this cool Minnesota morning.

Julie continues, "I use 'almost' because the teacher was indeed sitting next to me." Julie, who most of the time was observing while sometimes bringing up key questions, is the person behind 212 Leadership at Edina High School.

1. The sentence that has changed her life path

Julie is the Service-Learning coach at Edina high school while also serving in her capacity at NYLC. She speaks slowly, but every sentence she says would provoke you to think for a few seconds. She graciously masters the power of slow.

Her career working with youth begins with the education experience of her own children.  Julie’s children were born in Oakland California and attended a local independent school. Unlike other private schools, this one was special. Over half of the students were of color with 40% receiving tuition assistance.  However, students who graduated from this school, ranging from their social emotional learning to other soft skills like critical thinking or communications were just off the charts compared to their peers in other schools.

So, what is the secret?

The answer is that the school has a service-learning program where every student is engaged throughout the year. Julie was deeply touched by the effectiveness of this approach and believed that service should always be part of her children’s lives.  Shorty after that, the family moved to Minnesota where Julie’s children went to Edina. At that time, Edina did not have something like service-learning. So Julie approached the teacher asking whether she could lead a unit on service-learning.  Call it fate or destiny, not long after that trial the school received a grant from the federal government to implement service-learning. Excited about the news, Julie hurried to the school interested in knowing more about how the money would be used.  “The teacher asked me what would you do if you had this grant, so I told her ideas I had in my mind.” And next, Julie heard the sentence that would later change her life. “Well, when can you start?”  That’s how Julie got the job. Since then, she has been nurturing young people grow through service and this year is her 15th year since she received that job offer.  It seems that this unexpected job offer stems from her children’s education, but perhaps it has been written in her life code way earlier.

2. The light on a Christmas morning

Julie grew up in a farm in Minnesota. Her family and the neighborhood are all Christian, for whom Christmas is a big deal in the community.  One Christmas morning, Julie’s father came back home with a piece of bad news - one of their horses had fallen into the pond!  How absurd! This had never happened before and it hit on a Christmas morning, who would come to help?  In half an hour, Julie’s father made three phone calls. A few minutes later, 12 farmers showed up in front of the house with ropes and all kinds of tools they could think of to get the horse out of the pond.  Without doubt, they collectively saved the horse and a Christmas time that could otherwise been sad for Julie’s family.  Until now, Julie still holds vivid memory to that morning. The kindness of the neighbors is like a light to her, not only lit up the festive atmosphere but also her pursuit of the common good.  Julie chose to pass that light to the younger generation, in order to honor the legacy of her father’s generation and to support young people to make themselves, the society and the country even better.  However, when some students come to Julie asking to volunteer or service, instead of getting them immediately onboard, she usually asks them what they are interested in or what they are passionate about.  “Many students do community service because they want to look good on their resumes.” Julie is very cautious about that because to her, service is not a checklist or a project to be done, but a genuine heart for solving problems.  “Service-Leanring is not a project but a process.” 

Julie further illustrated with a story about blankets.  One day, a group of elementary students wanted to tie blankets into fleece so that they can give to homeless people. Consuming quite amount of time, they finally delivered the blankets to a homeless shelter. To their surprise, the woman at the reception was almost offended. The students were very disappointed, “that’s how you appreciate our hard work?”  The next year, a teacher who had been trained in service learning encouraged the students to find out the reason. During their investigation, a student called the homeless shelter. What he heard was, “we love your blankets but you didn’t make up for the size of what we need. They were too short for the men who sleep here.” Finally, the students understood why. For their first try, the goal is actually to tie up blankets and get the project done, while the second is to find out what is needed. 

I have seen many service and volunteer programs, either initiated by children or adults, are actually to make people who did it feel good, without meeting the real need. Then how to avoid such a result? Julie’s answer is asking good questions.

3. What does a good question look like?  What is a good question? How to ask good questions?

This is not a ability only required by journalists. A proverb says asking the good question can solve half of the problem. Some good questions can make strangers suddenly become friends while some can provoke deep thinking which is particularly important to young people.  Julie has introduced me a tool she finds transforming, the Question Matrix.  Take hunger for example, referring to this matrix, you can write questions like what is hunger? When does hunger happen? Which factors would trigger hunger? Who would be affected by hunger? How might we tackle the problem of hunger? To name but a few.  As the question becomes harder, the students begin to think deeper and more comprehensively.  In fact, the attention on asking questions reflects the shift on teacher’s role.  “I would rather be a coach than a teacher.”

Julie remembered one of the 212 leadership member once said to her, “this group is nothing like other groups I have ever been because you don't tell us what to do. You just ask us questions and help us figure it out.”  To Julie, this was the one of the most rewarding moment in her career life. With all those years planting the seed of facilitation and watering with good questions, she finally harvested the blossom. 

4. Have you practiced respectful conversation?

Handling student conflicts is inevitable to a teacher. Knowing how to manage conflicts is not only useful for a teacher but every one of us, after all who has not have some friction with others?  I remembered a few years back, I was in an interview and one of the questions was, give an example of a time you have a conflict with someone and how did you deal with that? I thought for a long time. Not because I never had such experience but I always choose to avoid confrontation. It seems to me that all controversy would lead to quarrel and eventually a breakdown.

But is it true? Maybe not if I have tried respectful conversation.

Respectful Conversation was brought up by Minnesota Council of Churches as a protocol for discussing difficult topics. Since 2012, more than 3,000 Minnesotans have participated in over 100 Respectful Conversations on a variety of divisive topics such as gay marriage or “race” relations. Julie came across this approach right after the 2016 presidential election, at which time anger needs a rational outlet.  When people with different opinions begin to sit down and talk, magic happens.  70% of participants report: “I have a stronger sense of empathy for those whose viewpoint is different from my own.”  Over 95% agree that they felt listened to, and this process is different than a polarizing debate. Even months after their conversation experience, people report greater awareness of their own listening attitudes, more curiosity about those they would previously have considered opponent, and even transformed family relationships. 

American researchers have long criticized about the lack of robust discussions of public issues in the classroom. Given the current environment of increasing ideological and cultural diversity, many teachers are fearful that open discussions may be hurtful to marginalized students.  Together with Minnesota Council of Churches and Minnesota Civic Youth, Julie has been promoting Respectful Conversation in classrooms which includes the following steps.

1. Norms
2. Three questions
3. Final reflection
4. Timed
5. Peer-led

Norms are protocols agreed by the group, for example, practice respect, listen carefully, respect confidentiality, so on and so forth. One of the important norms is speak for oneself using the “I” statement. Julie said American schools and out-of-school programs often teach students how to debate, but when discussing controversial topics, starting with “you” can go emotional and extreme. That’s why offering “my” opinions and feelings is critical.

Respectful Conversation entails three questions. The first is what in your experience or background or values leads you to your feelings/opinions, the second is what are your hopes and the last is what are your fears. Each question lasts one round where students can choose pass or pass for now. Teachers should also give students some time to think beforehand. All this is to reduce students stress and anxiety when they face with tough questions.  Once the three questions are completed, the conversation comes to a final reflection session, aiming to help students reflect individually and as a group. Teachers don’t want to experience awkward silence but they also don’t want to see someone talking endlessly. Thus, a timer is a must. Last but not least, all the steps mentioned above don’t necessarily have to be done by teachers. Instead, Julie always trains students to be facilitators of peer discussions. 

5. What is the key word of your life?

In her spare time, Julie is involved in an organization called “Doing Good Together” which helps families with resources and ideas of how to raise children who care and contribute. One Saturday when Julie was attending their retreat, she met a man outside the building who looks like experiencing homeless or similar situations. When the guy learned what she was working on, he said, “well my mom had eleven children, seven are foster kids and she still made sure that whatever anybody in the community needed they got it.  Even until today, we still need an organization that teaches people how to be kind to each other, that’s so…”

Julie didn’t finish the rest of the sentence. But she didn’t have to. She is doing so by her behaviors. No matter as a volunteer or consultant, she always tries to be closer to the common good. Since working with NYLC four years ago, Julie has been enthusiastically promoting service-learning to ensure young people are able to make responsible decisions that will benefit all of us. Although there are high mountains to climb ahead, she believe the goal of our education should be creating active citizens and service-learning certainly is the solution. For Julie, civic engagement has become the center of her life.

If she didn’t send her children to that school in California, if she didn’t volunteer to lead that service-learning unit in Edina, if she didn’t grow extra curiosity to ask about that grant, Julie said she might be a housewife now.  This job has opened the door to a professional career, gradually making her an expert in the field, more importantly, it continues to help shape the world a little girl saw on that Christmas morning. 

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Announcing the 31st Annual National Service-Learning Conference

Posted By Amy Meuers, Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The National Youth Leadership Council is honored to partner with Harry Hurst Middle School and St. Charles Parish Public Schools to bring you the 31st Annual National Service-Learning Conference, April 16 – 18, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

This year’s theme is Unmask Your Potential– it’s a call for educators and community members to join in partnership with students to make positive change in the world. The mission of the National Service-Learning Conference is to bring recognition to the contributions that young people are making to change the world and to help prepare them and their adult mentors in reaching their goals. The conference does this through learning, inspiration, and connection. Both youth and adults come out of the experience with the tools and resources, ideas and inspiration, to return home to improve their practice, their schools, and their communities.

The 31st annual conference will provide more than 60 hands-on learning opportunities through workshops, keynotes, and thought leader sessions. Topics range from social-emotional learning and civic education to youth leadership and international service-learning. The conference will conclude with a Day of Service in partnership with the Wetland Watchers Coastal Restoration Service-Learning Project of Louisiana. Whether you are new to service-learning or an experienced practitioner, this conference has something for you.

There are many ways for you to get involved in this year’s event by presenting and exhibiting to sponsoring and attending. Join us at the world’s largest gathering of service-learning leaders, educators, and change-makers for Unmask Your Potential!

Learn more and register today!

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Tags:  national service-learning conference  professional development  service-learning  youth leadership 

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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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