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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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Service-Learning and Protest

Posted By NYLC, Sunday, April 7, 2019

(This article was originally posted on March 23th, 2018 on nylc.org.)

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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Youth Voice Reigns in 2018

Posted By NYLC, Friday, March 29, 2019
Updated: Friday, March 29, 2019

(This article was originally posted on December 28th, 2018 on nylc.org.)

The end of the year is a wonderful time to look back—to reflect on all that has happened.

In 2018, young people across our nation stood together to address an issue that adults have swept under the rug for years — gun control. They found their voice, their passion, and took action. In February, the students of Parkland, Florida inspired young people across the nation to stand up and take action on gun violence. On March 24, for 17 minutes, at 10 a.m. across every time zone, students protested Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.  Young people found their voice and together, they told the world that change is needed.

It is young people’s passion and commitment to making the world a better place that has inspired the work of NYLC for the past 35 years. When students engage in service-learning they gain academic knowledge, interpersonal skills, self-confidence, and civic knowledge and skills. They learn they have the power to make a positive change in the world by working with people with diverse perspectives. Young people gain a better understanding of themselves as they explore and develop ways to contribute to their communities. They develop self-confidence and an enhanced commitment to public service.

In 2018, young people showed the courage and tenacity to demand respect from our leaders and from each of us. They showed us all that they are ready and willing to Serve. Learn. Change the World.®

Tags:  civic action  civic engagement  civics  learning  service  service-learning  student engagement  youth leadership  youth voice 

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February Service-Learning Digest 2019

Posted By NYLC, Friday, March 29, 2019

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

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

UTD ADDS SERVICE LEARNING CLASSES

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

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

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SPHS Juniors Connect With Community For Service Learning Projects

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

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

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

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Learn 2 Love group makes sandwiches for 363 Sandwich Project

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

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

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

News Leader 9 Barbara Gauthier was among the honorees.

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

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Service Learning earns state award

Only ten schools in state recognized for their service

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

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New Service Learning Classes Build Community Connections

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

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

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

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

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