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Service-Learning in Japan

Posted By NYLC, Sunday, April 7, 2019

(This article was originally posted on April 4th, 2018 on

By: Amy Meuers, NYLC CEO

I had the honor to speak at the Japanese Conference on Philanthropic Education on Saturday, March 17 at Komazawa University, Tokyo. Japan has placed great emphasis on peace education ever since WWII including the incorporation of it in their 9th grade civics classes and in their constitution under Article 9. My participation in the conference was to share how service-learning is a way for students to be active participants in their own education. My desire was to show that when students discover the positive impact they can have in the world – that is when the real learning occurs.

At NYLC, we envision a world where all young people become civically informed and engaged global citizens by participating in service-learning as part of their educational experience. We work with educators (both in the classroom or after school), students, community leaders, and businesses to incorporate peace, justice, and sustainability into the fabric of all education systems by asking students to be of service to their community as part of their educational experience –to learn, lead, and grow through service-learning.

Successful service-learning projects are tied to specific learning objectives, and many of the best are tied to numerous areas of study. For example, when seventh- and eighth-graders studied the historical significance of a local river, they developed projects to build nature trails, tested water samples, documented contamination of the local habitat, and restored historical sites. Their teachers connected those activities to studies in earth science, mathematics, language arts, physical education, music, visual arts, and social studies. These connections not only deepened the impact projects had on learning, but also provided the young people with a broader understanding of how different subjects are interrelated. Service-learning helps students make connections to learning outside the classroom. It is hands-on learning but most importantly, it connects to community and empowers each student to lead change.

The 20th century educator, John Dewey is the founding father of service-learning. It is based on his central tenets of experience and democracy. He wanted to see students experience education. He said, “When the school introduces and trains each child of society into membership within such a little community, saturating him with the spirit of service, and providing him with instruments of effective self-direction, we shall have the deepest and best guarantee of a larger society which is worthy, lovely and harmonious.” Dewey wasn’t the only educator who felt this way. Progressive activist Jane Addams, Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, and Mahatma Gandhi all envisioned education rooted in community and democratic principles.

 It (education) “either functions as an instrument that is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes ‘the practice of freedom,’ the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” -Paulo Freire

Transforming the world –powerful stuff. Service-learning encourages students to not only dream of a better future but to create it. It is democracy in action.

As an organization, NYLC has been a champion, a resource, and a contributor to the field of service-learning whether in the United States or in countries around the world. We see ALL young people as active contributors to society, and schools a place where students can act as resources, be active in the learning process, not passive. A place where they produce or contribute to the world, not just a place where they consume. We want all young people to see themselves as someone who can give, lead, and learn. We know that all young people, no matter their background, their abilities, can be leaders through service-learning. It was an honor to bring the tenants of service-learning to Japan and share the tools and resources that have been developed with the educators and students who are passionate about creating a better world for us all.

Tags:  Japan  service-learning  youth development  youth leadership 

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Justice in Action Hits the Streets

Posted By NYLC, Sunday, April 7, 2019

(This article was originally posted on March 29, 2018 on

Thanks to all of you who joined us in balmy St. Paul for the 29th Annual National Service-Learning Conference March 11-13! We’ve been awash in reflections as we hear the news you’re making putting justice into action, planning for change, advocating — in short, making history.

Thanks both to participants and to the amazing volunteers, partners, and sponsors who supported #SLC18. You all make this possible!

More than 500 people of all ages and geographies gathered to share stories, scheme, and learn the latest. The conference was a packed three days of powerful speakers, innovative sessions, and meaningful service — kick-started by a two-day Educators’ Institute at the nearby Science Museum.

So, let’s reflect.

Day 1 (Sun.) We have yet to hear of one daylight savings time mishap, despite the conference beginning on Sunday, concurrent with the time change. Service-learners are prepared! New to the conference this year were sessions first, plenary midday.

At the plenary, youth in action took center stage, with 13-year-old Caleb Chung of Colorado explaining the inspiration behind his marathons to raise funding for access to potable water; Merrit Jones urging us to “amplify, accelerate, and aggregate” the impact of our work; Nicodemus Madehdou explaining his innovative tech start-up JumpButton Studio that has a public purpose; and ever-young Barry Guillot — a teacher from New Orleans — describing the latest chapter of his Wetlands Watchers Park. All this, capped off by a youth panel with moderators Ricky Yoo, a member of NTLC’s Youth Advisory Council and NYLC’s Professional Development Director Elizabeth Koenig.

More sessions followed, featuring a Gathering of Elders with McClellan Hall of the National Indian Youth Leadership Project moderating, and including educators Josie Johnson, Daniel Abebe, Jim Kielsmeier, Abdisalam Adams, Rose Chu, and Ramon Pastrono sharing their wisdom teachings.

Day 2 (Mon.) By the second day, workshop sessions were in full swing, including panel discussions that featured peace-building and social and emotional learning’s role in service-learning.

We feasted midday while celebrating the 2018 Service-Learning Award-Winners: Alec Dickson award-winner professor Barb Witteman; an illustrious crowd of young people from Utah who developed a STEM curriculum called “The Incredible Machine”; Katrina Weimholt of Northwestern University’s Center for Civic Engagement; and Nan Peterson of the Blake School.

Day 3 (Tues.) Fresh off the dance floor of the Youth Room Mon., evening, participants boarded buses for the Day of Service, heading out to the YMCA’s new Equity Innovation Center, the Arc Minnesota sites that support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families; and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Education and Visitor Center. Service-learners discovered, sorted, labeled, photographed, and created across the metro area, linking their actions and contributions to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Here’s to 2030, when we aim to have conquered all 17 goal areas!

That was so much fun, let’s do it again next year!

Save April 10-13, 2019
for the 30th Annual National Service-Learning Conference
in Washington, D.C.
(We promise real spring there!)

Tags:  awards  civic engagement  elders  service-learning  Sustainable Development Goals  youth leadership 

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Service-Learning March Digest 2018

Posted By NYLC, Sunday, April 7, 2019

(This article was originally posted on March 27th, 2018 on

Thanks to all of you who joined us in St. Paul March 11-13 for the “Justice in Action” National Service-Learning Conference! We have been buzzing since, with news about all the ways you are making impacts in your communities — most recently with March for Our Lives. Check out a conference participant’s experiences in the local march in St. Paul. We are excited to work with you on connecting these actions to ongoing advocacy.

Meanwhile, in news from around the country:

  • The April 15 deadline for the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes award of $10,000 is looming! The prize celebrates “inspiring, public-spirited young people from diverse backgrounds all across North America.” Each year, the recognition goes to 25 inspiring young people, ages 8-18, who have “made a significant positive difference to people and the environment.”
  • Global Youth Service Day is just around the corner, April 20-22! Our partners at Youth Service America are documenting service-learning experiences around the globe, linking actions to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Register your project to see your own role in affecting change!
  • Our friends in North Carolina are sponsoring a series of service-learning “UN-conferences” in mid-April. As they describe the event, “An unconference is a conference without predefined topics. The theme will be service-learning, but actual topics will be generated during the conference. This format creates space for peer-to-peer learning, collaboration and creativity.” Join them April 16 in Asheville; April 17 in Raleigh; and April 18 in Wilmington.
  • In Ionia, Michigan, the Ionia County Foundation’s Youth Advisory Committee is awarding grants to organizations that benefit young people in the region. Their YAC is composed of high school students, and every two years, they conduct a needs assessment to identify funding priorities. Successful grantees utilize “service-learning” to address teen driver safety; academic motivation; the achievement gap; substance abuse; depression; literacy; bullying; and/or hunger. The maximum award available per grant is $1,000.
  • In New Jersey, Partners for Health “fosters collaboration among nonprofits so that together they can increase positive health outcomes in the communities they serve.” In a significant collaborative effort last year, Montclair Community Farms distributed 1,200 pounds of affordable produce to local residents with lower and fixed incomes. They engaged more than 500 participants in service-learning projects, and provided educational experiences to 350 children, while addressing community food access goals by launching a greenhouse program.
  • Finally, check out this great article ““What Service-Learning and Global Goals Taught Us About Promoting the Greater Good” about the impact of last year’s National Service-Learning Conference on Bettie Weaver Elementary School in Chesterfield, Va. Connections to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals are reinvigorating their commitment to project-based and personalized service-learning. As authors Lara Ivey and Lindsay Mottley say, this commitment promises to bring their school “from good to great, and from compliant to engaged.”

Tags:  civic engagement  funding  grants  march for our lives  monthly digest  service-learning  Sustainable Development Goals 

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Service-Learning and Protest

Posted By NYLC, Sunday, April 7, 2019

(This article was originally posted on March 23th, 2018 on

by Maddy Wegner, NYLC Director of Engagement

Are you prepared (the “P” in service-learning’s IPARD cycle) to March for Our Lives tomorrow Sat., March 24 — to put some justice into action?

At NYLC, we have been in a post-conference reflection zone, thinking back to the inspirations of March 11-13, when many of you gathered at the National Service-Learning Conference in St. Paul, Minn. As keynoter Merritt Jones, the Executive Director of Student Voice said, now is the time to “amplify, aggregate, and accelerate!”

We know that many of you were returning to school walk-outs the day after the conference (Mar. 14), and are now preparing for the march on Saturday, in Washington, D.C. and sister cities around the globe.

This seminal moment in American history is a perfect time to apply what you know as service-learners. Let’s see how the IPARD cycle fits.

  • “I”: Investigate the issue – The march itself can be an opportunity to more deeply investigate how gun control and school safety issues are framed in your own communities. Are students ready to survey participants in the march? Could they document the signage? Maybe they want to interview marchers about their  next steps, and create a podcast? They might also want to read the recent coverage of the Parkland shooting in Time and/or New York Magazine, or investigate one of many movements initiated by young people. Check out this five-minute video on the 1963 Children’s March for civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama, for example.
  • “P” Plan next steps, based on what students have learned in the investigation phase. NYLC offers an action plan that helps this stage of learning. As the Parkland students planned, they even reflected (an ongoing part of the service-learning process) on what words to use as they deal with the media.
  • “A” – This is where action can and should be determined by the students themselves. The Parkland students, for example, developed a five-part agenda: 1) Congress should lift funding limits on CDC research into gun violence; 2) records of gun sales should be digitized, so they can be better tracked; 3) universal background checks should be enacted; 4) the sale of high-capacity magazines should be limited; 5) as should the sale of all assault weapons. Any one of these issues could be the basis for ongoing advocacy.
  • “R” – Reflect, using the “What? So what? Now what?” questions to spark thinking. This allows you to discuss how actions of substance, which result in change, aren’t one-time events. They require sustained attention, and ongoing refinements to initial actions.
  • “D” Demonstrate what has been learned. Students can upload their actions to the Student Voice Network national map to start to see the aggregated impact of related actions across the country.

As NYLC’s founder Jim Kielsmeier reminds us, while the Parkland students are powerful in their ability to inspire others, “They are not unusual.” The legions of service-learners ready to put justice into action attest to that.

Let us hear how you and your students mobilize this weekend! We are with you!

Tags:  civic action  civic engagement  march for our lives  service-learning  student protest 

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Students Take the Lead Where Adults Have Failed

Posted By NYLC, Sunday, April 7, 2019

(This article was originally posted on February 19th, 2018 on

by Amy Meuers, NYLC CEO

The horrific events of last week in Parkland, Florida have inspired young people across the nation to stand up and take action on gun violence in their schools. On President’s Day, young people lay like corpses outside the White House to demonstrate how quickly a shooter can take a life and thousands more plan to walk out on March 24 for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. across every time zone to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.

Young people across our nation are standing together to address an issue that adults have swept under the rug for years — gun control. They have found their voice, their passion, and are taking action and we adults – educators, parents, administrators, politicians – must come together to not only listen, but to act. According to Everytown, so far in 2018 there have been seven firearm attacks in schools across America and there have been 18 school shootings – discharge of a firearm during school hours. No matter how you cut the numbers, our schools are not safe.

The National Youth Leadership Council was founded on the mission to create a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world with young people, their schools, and their communities through service-learning. We believe in the power of young people and support them in taking action on issues that affect them and the world. We recognize youth as partners in decision-making. When given the opportunity to lead, youth understand their rights and obligation to act in the benefit of the public good. From young people who are affected by issues, to adult allies who work with them, we actively build shared leadership that creates space for each person to take ownership and affect change.

We stand with the students of Parkland and those across the nation who have decided enough is enough. Our students deserve a safe place to learn, grow, and lead. The time to act is now.

(photo by Lori Shaull, demonstration was organized by Teens For Gun Reform, an organization created by students in the Washington D.C. area, in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Tags:  youth leadership  youth voice 

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Service-Learning February Digest 2018

Posted By NYLC, Sunday, April 7, 2019

(This article was originally posted on February 19th, 2018 on

Happy leap month — minus the extra day. We hope you’re counting down the very few days ’til we’ll see you in St. Paul for the National Service-Learning Conference, March 11-13. It’s less than three weeks away, so get your service-learning swag packed!

Meanwhile, good news abounds in service-learning, even in the dead of winter.

NYLC’s board member and treasurer, Kevin Michael Days, has been appointed George Washington University’s community relations director. As he said in an article in the campus newspaper, the GW Hatchet, “The community is a rich resource of individuals. There is a lot untapped opportunity there to have relationships both authentic and positive.”

Teen driver safety Project Ignition sites also continue to make the news. Check out the work in central Illinois of the Danville High School Future Problem-Solvers group, who are addressing teen driver safety issues with a virtual reality simulator designed to mimic distracted driving.

In Wisconsin, federal 21st Century Community Learning Center sites are incorporating service-learning into after-school programming, knowing that often academic gains result. The Puma Scholars program in Madison, for example, is involving students in their academic enrichment program in making beds, blankets and toys for animals at the local humane society.

Closer to home, strands of service are working together. Conservation Corps Minnesota will  provide hands-on environmental stewardship and service-learning opportunities for young adults in the northwest suburbs in Minneapolis through a county parks department, getting them engaged in conservation, involved in the community, and knowledgeable about possible future employment in parks and conservation.

Please plan to join us to share more stories like these next month, at the National Service-Learning Conference in St. Paul — and come early for the Educators’ Institute!

Tags:  events  monthly digest  Project Ignition  service-learning 

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Civic Engagement and Service-Learning in North Carolina

Posted By NYLC, Sunday, April 7, 2019

(This article was originally posted on February 13th, 2018 on

by Maddy Wegner, NYLC Director of Engagement

There’s nothing like a group of social studies teachers, in the midst of African-American History month, in Greensboro, North Carolina, to make service-learning sing.

Twenty-seven indomitable educators attending their state social studies conference Feb. 7-8 tackled the service-learning IPARD cycle and social and emotional learning in less than an hour. Driven by the “big ideas” they teach with implicit or explicit civic engagement outcomes, they brainstormed possible project ideas, then connected academic, civic, and social/emotional outcomes to each step in the cycle, with an eye toward the formative assessments that would help them track their students’ understandings.

  • The big idea of the Bill of Rights framing American ideals became a youth review of a student handbook vis-a-vis the Bill of Rights, with student surveys and school board presentations driving the action.
  • The big idea of poverty as the root of many societal challenges became a youth-led resource bank of post-secondary options for students, with avenues for financial support as part of the research and deliberation phase of the inquiry cycle.
  • The big idea of civil rights issues shaping societal norms became an exploration of movements and activism, from the 1960s to present day, with ideas for English/Language Arts assessments and self-awareness leading to social awareness interspersed throughout the study.

As one teacher mused at the end of the session, “What if social/emotional learning were a part of the state curriculum?”

“Can you mandate empathy?” she wondered.

Perhaps you can in a state with such a rich sense of living history. Certainly, my understanding of the impact of the civil rights movement increased when I met a brother of one of the “Woolworth Four” who was staff at our hotel. As he could attest from his sibling’s (Ezell A Blair, Jr.) refusal to leave the “whites only” Woolworth counter in downtown Greensboro in 1960, “Food just tastes better when you can sit down.”

These social studies teachers may be inspiring the next Woolworth Four by supplying their students with the tools for not only reading history, but also making it.

Tags:  civic engagement  service-learning  social justice  social studies 

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President Trump’s Budget Proposes Elimination of AmeriCorps and Senior Corps

Posted By NYLC, Sunday, April 7, 2019

(This article was originally posted on February 12th, 2018 on

The White House just submitted their budget proposal for fiscal year 2019. As in last year’s proposed budget, it recommends the shutdown of the federal agency that administers national service programs, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and elimination of AmeriCorps and Senior Corps. These steps would end the country’s 80-year investment in national service.

“The elimination of national service funding would have significant negative effects here in Minnesota,” says NYLC CEO Amy Meuers. “In our community, numerous nonprofits have increased their capacity to serve local residents, thanks to CNCS. Through AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, organizations such as the Minnesota Alliance With Youth, Math, and Reading Corps deliver critical services in the high-need areas of education, health care, and veterans services.”

Since 1994, nearly 30,000 Minnesotans have served as either AmeriCorps or Senior Corps members, fighting the opioid epidemic and helping communities rebuild after natural disasters. They connect returning veterans to jobs, support seniors living independently, preserve public lands, foster economic opportunity, prepare students for college, and more. In exchange for their service, members enhance their job skills and earn an education award they can use to pay for higher education.

National service also has multi-partisan support. A poll in nine presidential battleground states found that 83 percent of registered voters, including 78 percent of Republicans, support increased or maintained federal investment in national service.

Fortunately, the Administration’s budget is just one step in the process to determine fiscal year 2019 funding. Congress ultimately decides which federal programs are funded and at what levels.

Congress will soon begin the FY19 appropriations process. Please send an urgent message to  members of Congress to continue, and even expand funding for AmeriCorps and Senior Corps.

“We look forward to working with our congressional delegation — including Senators Klobuchar and Smith — to ensure that national service continues to provide vital support to communities across Minnesota,” says Meuers.

Last year, supporters successfully mobilized to protect funding for CNCS. “With your help, we can do it again. Thank you for taking action with us today,” Meuers adds.

(Read the full Voices for National Service statement on the President’s Budget here.)

Tags:  AmeriCorps  national service  SeniorCorps  service 

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Announcing 2018 Service-Learning Award Winners

Posted By NYLC, Sunday, April 7, 2019

(This article was originally posted on January 29th, 2018 on

NYLC staff have been pouring over heartfelt stories of service-learning greatness in a quest to name the 2018 Service-Learning Award recipients. The stories of insight, persistence, listening closely to community members, and pulling together to address local and global needs make us feel that all the nominees are worthy of these awards — and more.

So, (drumroll) here are the 2018 award-winners. For her long-term commitment to pre-service teachers at Concordia College and her ability to involve all ages in addressing critical needs while integrating a plethora of academic skills, the Alec Dickson Servant Leader award goes to education professor Barb Witteman. Though Witteman says, “Change can begin with one person,” she clearly believes in involving far more.

Katrina Weimholt, Assistant Director of the Center for Civic Engagement, has had a similar long-term dedication to helping service-learning grow through civic engagement at Northwestern University, after founding the Civic Education Project more than 20 years ago. Colleague Simeon Bodsky of Johns Hopkins University says that her work illustrates that “intellectual rigor can and should underpin service as mutually reinforcing activities,” for which she will receive the Service-Learning Practitioner Award.

And, for their innovation and persistence in launching not only a new STEM curriculum, but also a training for teachers and teens with limited engineering experience, the Youth Leadership for Service-Learning Excellence Award goes to a group of students led by Cassandra Ivie and Hala Louvier from Entheos Academy in Kearns, Utah. Their curriculum features chemical, mechanical, civil, electrical and software engineering approaches and culminates in a project that uses these approaches to build an “incredible” Rube Goldberg-like machine.

NYLC would like to thank UPS for their support of the National Service-Learning Awards. Join us to hear more about their stories at Justice in Action, the 2018 National Service-Learning Conference March 11-13 in St. Paul, Minn.

Tags:  awards  Center for Civic Engagement  Concordia College  Entheos Academy  service-learning  UPS 

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Reflecting on 2017

Posted By NYLC, Sunday, April 7, 2019

(This article was originally posted on January 16th, 2018 on

2017 was a year filled with contention in our government, communities, streets, and schools. We saw mass destruction when three monster hurricanes ravaged Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands within a four-week span and when a lone shooter rained gunfire down upon concert-goers in Las Vegas, Nevada.

2017 was also a year that inspired action and global change. The #MeToo movement encouraged people everywhere to stand up against harassment and injustice, while students across the nation protested everything from race to the President’s decision on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program. It was a year when many young people found their voices and the courage to stand up for something they believed in. It was a year when people, both young and old, worked side-by-side to make positive contributions to the world.

At NYLC in 2017, we strove to meet our mission by growing our programs and services that develop young people as civically informed and engaged global citizens. Over the course of the year, we provided support to 15,600 people directly, impacting an estimated 550,000 youth indirectly, reaching an audience of more than three million people across the country and around the world.

Over the course of the year, we worked to instill the skills and knowledge needed so that all young people can make positive contributions to their communities and to the world. We trained teachers and out-of-school time practitioners on how to engage differently with young people, and we trained young people to be active change-makers in their communities. Our Youth Advisory Council directly engaged more than 71,000 young people through Youth4Education, a program that inspires young people to take action on issues of education equity.

We know that doing what is right is not always easy, but it is what is needed. Service-learning is not easy, but when implemented with quality it provides students with the opportunity to develop their moral character and a life-long commitment to serve. It connects communities to classrooms, and challenges students to act on issues that matter to them. It meets academic content standards and it develops civically informed and engaged global citizens. Service-learning helps students do what is right, step out of their comfort zones, and make deep-rooted changes in themselves. It also allows them to change the world.

We hope that 2017 ignited your passion to make positive change and to support young people in becoming active life-long citizens. We are excited to work with you in 2018 to Serve. Learn. Change the world.™

Tags:  civic education  National Youth Leadership Council  service-learning  youth development 

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