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The Time is Now to Invest in Service-Learning

Posted By Amy Meuers, Thursday, June 25, 2020

Prior to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic, we were seeing years of stressed educational systems, communities divided, and many young people disengaged. As the current situation shows in what some are calling the “tale of two pandemics,” existing societal injustices are being further amplified, individuals isolated, and students’ educational outcomes are at risk. And at a time when they face risks to mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing as well.

At the same time, we know many stories of success, with young people leading the way in creating positive change in their schools and communities. Bringing the power of youth-led service tied to academic and civic outcomes is once again coming to the forefront as a solution to the challenges we face in our country and around the world. In these times, NYLC’s mission to create a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world, with young people, their schools, and communities through service-learning takes on a new and even more vital importance. We remain steady in our belief in the power of young people to lead us to solutions.

We are not alone; the momentum is growing with a realization of the impact of youth-led service as an effective vehicle for learning and citizenship. In addition to a host of proven academic, social, and career outcomes:

  • “A Republic (Still) at Risk- and Civics is Part of the Solution” published in 2017 acknowledges service-learning as one of six proven practices for restoring faith and participation in our democracy. (The list further includes student voice in schools, and student-led voluntary associations).
  • In 2019, a group of foundations convened a project study our nation’s capacity to create citizens who are well-informed, productively engaged in working for the common good, and, hopeful about our democracy. “[W]e need to fundamentally rethink and enrich the ways we prepare young people to be successful citizens in a democracy… to imagine a lifetime of civic learning and practice.” Service-learning fits squarely within the civic learning eco-system, supporting the shift of focus from merely direct Civics education in one high school class to civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions beyond classrooms in K-12 schools, and beyond schools to community organizations and post-secondary institutions.
  • In “Inspired to Serve” issued last month (May 2020), the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service—a bi-partisan commission completing two and a half years of extensive research—concluded with a compelling call to revitalize civic education and expand service-learning over the next 10 years. They recognize these as key factors to ensure young people are fully prepared to participate in civic life and understand the importance of service.

In the last decade, beginning with the 2009 elimination of Learn and Service America, closely followed by a shift in focus of major national funders, we have seen an exponential drop in financial support for organizations and schools at all levels- national, regional, state, and local to do service-learning. While interest and demand for high-quality service-learning resources remained high, the ability to implement decreased significantly. Many organizations and initiatives ultimately had to close their doors.


With a new focus on civic learning and youth voice, now is the time to reinvest in service-learning. We know from experience that service-learning is a proven strategy to engage students in their education when they understand that their service is authentic, has substance over time, and can be understood in the context of academic or civic content. It is time for service-learning to expand in classrooms and communities across the nation.

Tags:  civic education  service-learning  youth voice 

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Minneapolis Becomes Child Friendly City

Posted By Amy Meuers, Tuesday, February 18, 2020

On Friday, February 14, 2020 Minneapolis Minnesota became the first city in the nation to become a Child Friendly City as designated by the United Nations in support of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI) is a UNICEF-led initiative that supports local governments in realizing the rights of children at the local level using the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as its foundation. The United States in the only country in the world that has not ratified these rights.

Mayor Frey stated, "this brings Minneapolis into an international community of cities that strives to bring young people's voices into decision-making".  One of NYLC's core values is youth voice and we are elated that Minneapolis is recognizing the contribution that young people are and can make in the world. 

Visit the NYLC Youtube channel for coverage of the event.

Tags:  rights of the child  youth voice 

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Connecting Girls Across the World to Change the World

Posted By Christian Buonfiglio, Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Daisy Leonard and her sisters, Coco and Sunny, have problems of global importance to solve. Racial and religious hatred, the decline in the mental health of young people, and the marginalization of girls drove them to create Dynamic Champions of Sisterhood, an online reading club that connects girls from all over the world to help them build confidence, challenge old ideas, and change the world.

The Leonard sisters created DCS with funding provided by the Points of Light Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to engaging with people from all walks of life to help the world meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The sisters presented their ideas at the 2019 Youth Leadership Summit, which was hosted by the National Youth Leadership Council as part of the POLF Conference.   My colleague Maddy Wegner, Director of Youth Engagement at NYLC, invited us to the Points of Light Foundation Youth Summit when she heard about DCS,” said Daisy, 16. “She saw its potential and knew that the financial and networking support we could gain at the Summit would immensely help us carry out our vision.”

The support from POLF helped the Leonard sisters transform DCS from an informal group to a full-fledged nonprofit organization.  “We wanted a bigger platform to reach more forgotten girls around the world, and be able to give them a stage and unlock the voice inside of them,” said Coco, 15. “By creating the non-profit, not only would we have a better business model that would be long-lasting and sustainable … but also a better way to reach out to foreign organizations in other countries.”

With the help of Facebook and the hard work of skilled translators, DCS has been hosting multiple book clubs with girls from Afghanistan, India, and Togo. The girls from Afghanistan, who call their group Kahari – “sisterhood” in the Dari language – have been reading Les Miserables and discussing isolation and prison. The Indian girls, who call their club Aghnipankh, or “Wings of Fire” in Marathi, have been reading The Diary of Anne Frank and discussing tradition and individuality. The largest group, Le Papillon, French for "The Butterfly," is made up of girls from Togo, who are all students from a boarding school. “They all are girls that would ordinarily have no voice and wouldn't be asked what their opinion is, and they have all felt the feeling of being forgotten by the world,” said Coco. “They all are not only wanting a voice, but are taking the opportunity presented to them and thriving.”

These book clubs are held in order to bring girls together and discuss difficult and often vulnerable subjects openly.  “The truth is that the books pushed participants past personal differences, and into a world where universal truths faced by all girls worldwide could be unearthed,” Daisy said. “Participants could externalize and express their thoughts and feelings through characters in a book.”

The discussions were enlightening, and Coco said that they also corrected many of her misconceptions about girls from other countries.  “I truthfully always thought they just followed whatever their elders told them without question,” Coco said. “But after speaking to them I realized that they do question the ways of their elders, and that they don't always get along with their parents, and that they also feel like nobody understands.”

A large part of hosting these discussions is healing the rift between human beings caused by the isolation, anxiety, and depression frequently caused by today’s social climate.  “[American girls] aren’t having meaningful conversations,” said Sunny, 13. “Today teens are so caught up in comparing themselves on social media, as well as in everyday stresses, that they unknowingly create a powerful barrier of isolation through ignorance.”

Through leading these discussions, the Leonard sisters and their participants have learned the importance of empathy across borders and the power that girls have in their collective voice.  “This kind of an organization is so important to be able to connect the next generation of young people,” Sunny said. “It gives the next generation a strong sisterhood so that the world is not fearing one another, and so that no girl in this world feels that they are alone and have no voice.”

Learn more about DCS here.

Tags:  dynamic champions of sisterhood  points of light foundation  polf  service-learning  youth voice 

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Why Attend the National Service-Learning Conference?

Posted By Administration, Friday, January 24, 2020

Whether you’re young or young at heart, we’re confident that this conference will inspire you to make a difference in the world.

When you attend Unmask Your Potential, you’ll be joining hundreds of students, educators, and government leaders from across the country and around the globe. This event will provide the tools, resources, ideas,and support you need to return home and make positive changes in your schools, communities, and across the globe.

The time is now to book your hotel and complete your registration for… Unmask Your Potential – 31st Annual National Service-Learning Conference, April 16-18, 2020 at Harry Hurst Middle School in New Orleans, La.  Reserve your rooms today at the Hilton New Orleans Airport by booking online or by calling 504-469-5000. Make sure to refer to the National Service-Learning Conference to receive the negotiated rate.

Reservations must be made no later than February 29, 2020.  Book early! New Orleans is celebrating the French Quarter Festival. Rooms will fill up fast! Plus, shuttle transportation to and from the conference venue is only available from the official conference hotel. 

Regular admission rates end on February 29, 2020. Full-conference admission includes entry to plenary sessions, workshop sessions, the Exhibit Hall, the Showcase, on- and off-site projects, the Day of Service, Service-Learning Awards Ceremony, as well as designated meals. Take advantage of discount registration by joining the Service-Learning Network. Find all the conference information you need at including the full list of workshop sessions, plenary speakers, and more!

So, are you ready to prepare students with the skills they need to make positive change in the world? Join us to expand your knowledge and skills to engage in complex, meaningful projects by bringing service-learning into the classroom and the community. Your students (and you!) can learn how to do this at the 31st Annual National Service-Learning Conference.

Tags:  National Service-Learning Conference  service-learning  youth voice 

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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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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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Global Event: 100 Million Campaign

Posted By NYLC, Sunday, April 7, 2019

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

NYLC is pleased to invite you to take part in an inspiring global event connecting young people and decision-makers across the world. Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi and the National Youth Leadership Council are supporting a week of global action, taking place internationally the 12th–18th November, that will see parliamentarians, local officials and representatives visit schools to learn with students about the 100 million most marginalized children and be part of an international film screening for social change.
Schools will also have the chance to screen the new award-winning film, THE PRICE OF FREE, throughout November for free. This new documentary follows the true stories of children rescued from child labor in India and their journey to freedom.  As part of the film’s commitment to young people, schools around the world will be able to screen it for free, two weeks before its official release. Watch the documentary trailer here (password is pmprice).
By taking part in the week of global action your school will be able to:

  • Join thousands of schools across the globe for the international release of the award-winning documentary streaming online in November. 
  • Support students in their school to be active citizens, sharing their passion and ideas for a better world directly to decision-makers, learning about the 100 million children still denied their right to be free, safe, and educated.
  • Help encourage students to think of other young people in their community, their country and around the world increasing global understanding and compassion.

If you are interested in taking part, please email for more information. A school pack with all of the details for the screening and ideas for lesson plans can be found here and the Speak Truth To Power lesson that features Kailash can be found here. We hope you are inspired to join schools around the world and help strengthen global compassion and understanding.

Tags:  events  Nobel Laureate  Nobel Peace Prize  professional development  youth leadership  youth voice 

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Nurturing Learners, Growing Leaders

Posted By NYLC, Sunday, April 7, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark your calendars today with these important deadlines:

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

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

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

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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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Join the Youth Advisory Council

Posted By NYLC, Friday, March 29, 2019

(This article was originally posted on December 27, 2019 on

For 35 years, the National Youth Leadership Council has tapped into the passion, creativity, and ingenuity of all young people to make meaningful change happen. Our Youth Advisory Council is a team of servant-leaders dedicated to promoting youth leadership, service-learning, and education equity. By providing valuable perspectives to inform NYLC programming, including Teen Driver Safety, Education Equity, and Youth Leadership, YAC members contribute to the success of NYLC in reaching our mission to create a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world with young people, their schools, and their communities through service-learning.

YAC work alongside NYLC staff at the National Service-Learning Conference® and present various youth leadership workshops and trainings across the country. As a Youth Advisory Council member, YAC have an opportunity to use their talents and strengths to help NYLC develop young leaders. Together, we are leading the way to address real world issues with all young people, inspiring them to Serve. Learn. Change the world.®

Join the next generation of youth leaders by submitting your application by January 26, 2019!

Learn more and apply today!

Tags:  education equity  teen driver safety  Youth Advisory Council  youth leadership  youth leadership development  youth voice 

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