For many years, schools and youth development organizations have recognized the importance of exposing kids to volunteer opportunities. You may reflect on your youth and remember times that you participated in picking up trash in the neighborhood, volunteering at a homeless shelter, or visiting with the elderly in nursing homes. Taking part in these activities may have been the catalyst to becoming an active member of your community.
Today, it’s not only important to expose young people to volunteerism; it’s key to also focus on service in the academic context to yield both learning and service outcomes. An intentional emphasis should be placed on reflection and connecting the service experience with learning objectives so youth can gain a deeper understanding of why the reason for volunteering.
Studies also show that that youth who participate in service learning are more likely to stay and school and remain interested in their studies. Nationally one third of students don’t graduate from high school. Among minorities the dropout rate is as high as 50%. Locally, the combined minority student (African Americans and Hispanics) cohort graduation rate is on average 65.45% compared to white students at 90.8%.
At MDTMT one of the pillar of our philosophy and curriculum is called Life Changing Events. Under this portion of Men’s Development program, we provide boys opportunities to go beyond the walls of our after-school problem by planning for service learning programs, identifying community needs and outcomes they’d like to achieve, and then going on-site to volunteer. We believe there are 5 main reasons why all boys should participate in service learning.
1. Makes the connection with how their actions impact others. Service learning is a hands-on experience that encourages buys them to look beyond themselves and it shows them, in real time, how their participation directly helps people and their community.
2. Deepens understanding of community needs. When developing service learning projects a part of the process is assessing the needs of the community. This allow boys to gain a better sense of the resources their community lacks and what’s needed to make it thrive.
3. Gives opportunities to lead and serve. Taking part in service learning places boys in the position to create project themes, build teams, and delegate tasks; all of which expose them to leadership experiences and empowers them by serving others.
4. Offers education and professional opportunities. Participating in service learning teaches valuable skills that serve boys well in both academic and professional settings. It’s a noble act that opens door for educational opportunities like scholarships and professional networking which leads to employment.
5. Builds a sustainable future. Teaching boys the importance of service learning ensures a future of voters, community leaders, activists, and service workers. Often when young people become involved in service learning, they adopt service as a lifestyle.
Recently the young males in our Men’s Development program kicked off their service learning project by learning about how crisis and addiction affect members in our community and Western Carolina Rescue Mission’s work to provide Rescue, Recovery and Restoration in Jesus’ Name. They culminated the experience by serving dinner to the recovery program participants.
Do you believe service learning should be mandatory for all youth? Comment and tell us what you think.