NobleHour Heads to the 2015 National Service-Learning Conference

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Wed, Apr 08, 2015 @ 11:42 PM

NobleHour is attending the National Service-Learning Conference (NSLC) as a sponsor for the fourth year in a row. The 26th annual NSLC will be held in Washington, DC on April 8-11. This year’s theme, “More Powerful Together,” emphasizes how making meaningful connections increases the effectiveness of service-learning. This event brings together educators, students, nonprofit organizations, and community members to discuss how they can make impactful change through service-learning.

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Participating in workshops, listening to guest speakers, and engaging in a day of service will expose attendees to the tools, resources, and solutions they can use in service-learning. Although those in attendance will represent a diverse group of people, they share a common goal. They hope to improve their schools, communities, and world by empowering young people and encouraging them to take an interest in the issues around them. Fueled by this passion, the conference will examine current issues and how collaborative efforts are a necessary component of the solutions. Everyone has ideas that can improve our world, but learning how to translate ideas into actions is a daunting challenge, particularly for young people. Service-learning brings young people together to share their knowledge and hope for something better. It is through these experiences that they can supplant problems with change.

The NobleHour team feels a deep connection with the NSLC because our roots are in service-learning. NobleHour began as a tool built specifically for volunteering and service-learning. Then a high school sophomore, Callahan Fore founded NobleHour in 2005 as a simple database where students could learn about volunteer opportunities in their communities and organizations could find volunteers. The site grew to include all of service-learning's best practices and a complete suite of tools to encourage students to explore new interests, initiate connections, track and record engagements, and gain real-world experience while contributing to a larger cause.

NobleHour is proud to advance the field of service-learning. As an educational tool, we are committed to supporting educators who are invested in empowering and engaging young people. As most of the NSLC attendees are students, NobleHour hopes to connect students with their communities, so that they may become tomorrow's leaders by solving real-world problems today. Indeed, the NobleHour network of communities, schools, non-profits, and individuals is an example of how we can be “More Powerful Together.” 

The NSLC is one of many initiatives organized by the National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC). NYLC is an organization that promotes, supports, and facilitates service-learning as a method of creating “...a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world.” With the help of its many sponsors, such as NobleHour, the advice of its Youth Advisory Council, and partnerships with schools and organizations, NYLC advocates for service-learning by supporting educators and young leaders.

The Youth Advisory Council (YAC) provides NYLC with a youth prospective. The YAC is composed of young leaders recognized for groundbreaking achievements in service-learning. These young people go above and beyond when they volunteer, found non-profits, and engage in social entrepreneurship. They bring their experience to advise the NYLC on how service-learning programs can be more effective in encouraging young people to begin acting in their communities.

One such program is Project Ignition, a campaign to improve motor vehicle safety awareness. According to NYLC, car crashes are the number one cause of teen deaths, and Project Ignition hopes to educate young people on driving safety. Project Ignition is designed with service-learning in mind by making this a youth-led effort. Students combine service to their communities with academic lessons that analyze how and why culture contributes to unsafe driving. At NSLC, most of these participants will be students from all over the country bringing their ideas, big or small, for how to improve their world. These young change makers represent a future brightened by collaborative efforts.

The NSLC is a spirited and meaningful event powered by the energy and open minds these young people will bring. If you are attending the NSLC, be sure to stop by the NobleHour booth to say hello and pick up a free water bottle! Make sure you to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for updates, and follow the hashtag #mpt15!

YAMFest Fosters Community Discussion about the Impact of Technology on Students

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Mon, Mar 30, 2015 @ 10:49 AM

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It is a normal Saturday morning and I find myself convincing my brother Mariusz to come to YAMFest with me. My methods of persuasion with a teenage boy involve promising I’ll buy him food and the opportunity to win prizes, but I’m hoping that the real reward is that he might learn something new. Reluctantly he joins me, but not without first asking, as you may be wondering also, what is YAMFest and why is it so important?

YAMFest (Youth and Media Festival) is a student-organized event at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC that explores how young people can better engage with technology. This past Saturday, over 350 students, educators, and members of the community attended the third annual YAMFest.

After the opening ceremony, YAMFest guests attended two sessions hosted by guest speakers from the community and by Grimsley students and organizations. For each session there were five possible presentations to attend, which covered a variety of topics: The cultural significance of hip hop and punk rock, the problems and benefits of technology use, business and marketing relationships, coding in Scratch, and using Linux.

IMG_2468-1[Left: Students attend "Nexus between Hip Hip and Punk Rock" by Bryan Turman]

After these morning sessions, four student speakers from the Greater Greensboro Area shared their experiences creating feature length films, starting a photography career, and sharing their original music online. These four students represent how young people can use technology and media to become young entrepreneurs by simply sharing their interests and hobbies. A preview of a documentary by Grimsley Filmmakers Club about the Poet Laureate Project was also shown. At the beginning of the day each attendee was given a raffle ticket, and in the closing ceremony four iTunes gift cards, two selfie sticks, an iHome speaker system, and a Galexy 4 tablet were given away.

The Project Committee for YAMFest 2015 consists of 27 students from Grimsley High School. However, many other clubs, organizations, and sponsors were also involved, putting the estimate at about 100 people who helped make YAMFest a reality.

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[Left: Members of the Project Committee]

The YAMFest Project Committee has two advisors at Grimsley High School, math teacher Roberta Rohan and librarian Jessica Sherard. As an educator, Rohan describes that supporting students outside of class “shows that you care about them and their other interests.” She says that, particularly in high school, each teacher will teach their favourite subject, but one of “the joys of teaching is seeingthem outside of class and supporting what they can do . . . you learn from them and you enjoy it.”

After having been involved with YAMFest as a junior, Paige Kitchen was invited to become the Project Manger in the beginning of her senior year. As a young leader, she has learned the importance of having a strong team supporting her. The Project Committee began working in August to plan the event. The day before YAMFest, she and her team were hard at work, but at no moment were they nervous. “We were all just so excited, the whole team . . . they’re so awesome,” says Kitchen.

IMG_2484[Right: Paige Kitchen]

Students like Paige are models of how young people can make a positive impact on their community. Her advice to other young leaders is to accept that at times there will be stress, but “make sure you’re having fun during the process. Seriously, if you’re not laughing all the time and enjoying the process, then you will never be truly absorbed by it.” The most challenging part was organizing speakers for the event, Kitchen reflects. However it was worth the effort because she hopes that from these presentations her peers can gain a better understanding of technology and “hopefully be more conscious of the things they do” with technology.

YAMFest’s huge success is due to the though provoking questions it asks of Millennials. Indeed, Millennials may be the most technology-steeped generation in history, but they rarely stop to consider how technology affects our lives in many profound ways.

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[Left: Members of the Project Committee]

“I just hope that people understand what we’re trying to do. We’re not some kind of boring, computer gadget museum day. No, we’re here to show you the technology that you don’t expect!” says Kitchen.

In the session entitled “Tools and Technologies: Are There Any Questions?” Muktha Jost from North Carolina A&T State University asked students to consider “how you evaluate your technology.” Technology can be both useful and dehumanizing. She described high technology such as a smartphone as the “external brain,” while low technologies, tools such as a pencil or knife, help someone develop a “craft.” She challenged students, after evaluating technology, to ask, “Taking away the external brain, what can you do?”

Music is one such “craft” that is changing in response to new technology. Gisselle Gladden, senior at Grimsley High School, describes that her favourite part of YAMFest was “learning about the technological advancements throughout the evolution of music and how today we take different approaches to discovering new music.”IMG_2473

[Right: Members of the Project Committee]

Sabrina Cheung, a member of the Project Committee for YAMFest, shared with me her experiences with this project. “Before, I wasn’t aware of the deep connection between youth and media. Art, music, and technology are so deeply ingrained into us. I hope that other youth can recognize this.”

YAMFest challenges young people to be self-aware of the ramifications of having an online presence, and to use their technology in the best way possible. As a regular blogger for NobleHour, I wanted to share some recent news that ties into this YAMFest mission. NobleHour.com is an example of a website used by students that is committed to a conscientious approach to young people and technology. NobleHour recently became one of 127 signatories to the Student Privacy Pledge. As a software provider to K-12 schools, NobleHour assures parents, teachers, and students that data collected from students is for the sole purpose of supporting learning opportunities and providing educational services.

After convincing my brother to attend YAMFest, Mariusz did not win any of the raffle prizes I promised him. He also complained that we didn’t order enough breakfast. I half-expected him to maintain his morning grumpiness and to hide the fact that he’d enjoyed himself. But at the end of the day, I asked him, “Mariusz did you learn anything?” and he nodded and smiled with a very enthusiastic “yes.”

 Photos: Natasha Derezinski-Choo 

9 Tips to Help Plan a Successful Campus Fundraiser

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Fri, Mar 06, 2015 @ 12:14 PM

While we all know college can cost a lot of money, let’s face it – students themselves don’t necessarily have a lot of disposable income, especially for campus fundraisers. Many students may need to work multiple jobs to pay for tuition, or they might be living on a tight budget.  In addition, there are a lot of  “extra-curriculars” competing for their dollars!

Funding is competitive on campus. While volunteering within your school community is truly important, there are still expenses like transportation, supplies, etc., in addition to raising funds for a cause or service event. If you want your club or service organization to succeed, you need to raise money. Planning a fundraiser on campus takes discipline, creativity, and solid communication skills. If you need to increase your funding, check out these tips from experienced student fundraisers to organize your next event.

1. Form a committee and get organized. 

Find out who’s interested in planning your club’s fundraiser. Know your members’ talents and make use of their expertise. Discuss your budget, time frame, and goals. “We have a Vice President of Philanthropy and her committee plans and organizes each event we put on,” said Isa Brooks, a member of the Alpha Chi Omega (AXO) sorority at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

Brooks, a junior, serves as Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing for the sorority. She said AXO also has an Executive Board that is dedicated to the planning stages, as well as the overall execution of events.

2. Get Permission!

Before you commit a lot of time and resources to your event, make sure you have permission from your organization’s governing board, as well as the appropriate university department. Get it in writing! In addition, check your school’s calendar to make sure you aren’t competing with other clubs for funds and attendance.

3. Be specific in your communications. 

Clearly explain why you are raising money and how the funds will be used. Alpha Chi Omega raises money annually for Domestic Violence Solutions, a local women's center in Santa Barbara. “We have two main events during the year,” said Brooks. “Both involve getting the Greek and the larger UCSB community together to fundraise for the women's center, as well as bring about awareness.”

4. Be Professional.10984714_10153169825364388_789415289_n

“You are fundraising for a worthy cause,” said Jane Berry, a junior at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Berry is one of three fundraising and development coordinators for the Waltham Group, the umbrella community service organization for the university.

“You should believe in and care about your project,” said Berry. However, just because you care, doesn’t always mean that everyone else will. Berry cautions that as a college student, you may not automatically receive the respect or attention of companies, partners, and volunteers. “They make take one look at you or your email address and decide it’s not worth it.”

To make a good impression when fundraising in public, Berry suggests team members wear similar outfits to show you are part of a specific group. By looking professional and a part of a team, faculty and students are more likely to stop and talk for a few seconds. This could be a club t-shirt or maybe a solid color shirt and dark pants. Berry advises not to wear anything too crazy. You don’t want to scare away shy freshmen!

While it’s easy to remember to be professional in person, Berry acknowledged students might forget to do so when making phone calls and sending e-mails. “My team’s solution for this was to make scripts for all the different types of phone calls we make and emails we send and sort them into Google Docs folders based on each fundraiser.”

5. Always get a name, title and phone number.

“No matter who you are talking to or what you are asking for, make sure to get their name and position,” said Berry. “When we run our annual holiday auction at school, it’s essential to know exactly who within a company has guaranteed us what. It also applies to smaller fundraisers when you just want to know your contact.”

6. Make sure everyone is on the same page – literally!

As mentioned previously, Berry’s team puts everything on Gmail and Google Docs. Using the same account allows them to see each email sent. “It looks professional with the uniform signature and the docs don't get lost through email,” said Berry.

7. Be proactive with your marketing and create a buzz about your event.10967814_10153169825339388_1018867664_n

Social media is one of the easiest ways to reach out to potential donors, but it shouldn’t be the only avenue used. AXO works with local businesses and donors by sending out newsletters about their philanthropy. “We try to start fundraising as early as possible,” said Brooks. “We also try to create innovative ways to create a buzz about our events in our own Greek community by tabling, making announcements to other sororities and fraternities on campus, and holding fundraising events at restaurants in our student neighborhood.”

Brooks stressed that creativity is key and emphasized the importance of engaging the community during fundraising campaigns. “We usually create competitions within the Greek community at our sponsoring restaurants.”

Berry advised to do anything and everything to get students interested. “If people don’t know about your fundraiser, no one is coming,” she said. “Write in chalk on the sidewalks in heavy traffic areas, put up flyers with catchy slogans, send out campus-wide e-mails, and post incessantly on social media.”

While students lead busy lives and may not go out of their way to part with their money, if they know about your cause, they may at least be curious to learn more about what you’re doing. Plus, if your information table is positioned along their daily route, they may just stop to see what all the excitement is about.

8. Address a student need.brandeis

If you address a specific need, students may be more willing to give freely with the added bonus of helping others! “If we throw an event involving food, then students love to participate,” said Brooks. “Our Pizza Pie with Alpha Chi event is a favorite. The community comes to our house and they design their own mini pizza. All proceeds go to our local women’s shelter.”

Berry said her most successful fundraisers have been holiday silent auctions, which also appeal to teachers and staff; a Valentine’s Day roses sale; and late-night food delivery service. 

“I was actually truly surprised at how many fellas stepped up and got their girls red roses,” said Berry. “The convenience of having them on campus really drew people in. Students love grilled cheese delivered right to their door, especially if you’re open late!”

9. Communicate progress and success!

It’s important to maintain a good relationship with all of your donors. Share your progress throughout the campaign via social media and on campus through tables, signage, etc. When your event is over, let everyone know the results and how their support will benefit others. Make sure to let your donors and sponsors know how much you appreciate their assistance. Send out thank you messages via social media, e-mail, and newsletters. If possible get a quote or picture from the organization that received the funds.

Raising money isn’t easy, but with preparation, organization, and a little creativity, you can make your fundraiser a success. Do you have a few more tips that worked for your club? Share them with our readers!

 

Photos courtesy of UCSB chapter of Alpha Chi Omega and the Waltham Group at Brandeis University.

 

 

 

 

Topics: college, fundraising, campus fundraiser

7 Things You Can Do to Support International Women’s Day

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Fri, Mar 06, 2015 @ 11:19 AM

International Women’s Day (IWD) is on March 8, 2015 and has been celebrated since 1911. IWD is a worldwide movement to “celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality.” To participate in IWD, you should promote awareness, learn about the issues facing women worldwide, and take action to show your support of women around the globe. On this day, we recognize that the most marginalized group in the world comprises half of the population and that changes need to be made. Improving the lives of women is in everyone’s interest because everyone has women in their life. Women with better lives would make for a better society. Here are seven ways you can take part in IWD through your thoughts and actions.

1. Ask the Question: Does Gender Inequality Exist?

Evidence for gender inequality lies in the fact there are women missing from the world. At birth, more girls are born than boys. This is a biological fact that humans cannot change. Additionally, women tend to live longer than men. However, worldwide there are more men than women. Approximately 100 million are “missing,” indicating that barriers in health, education, and economics are indeed yielding an unequal world—this we can change.[1] In the developed world, women can work, vote, and go to school, but inequality remains. For some, this means women are treated equally, but this is not true. The sentiment for equality does not ensure its actualization.

2. Make it Happen

The 2015 theme for IWD is “Make it Happen.” It is a reminder to reflect on what needs to be done to improve equality and to make these changes happen. Gender equality means women can also “make it happen” when they don’t have to face barriers to their independence, freedom, success, and happiness. Use your social media influence to talk about IWD using the hashtag #MakeItHappen.

3. Wear and Share the Color Purple

Purple is the color for IWD. In the early 1900s, the colors of the British suffragette group, Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), were purple, white, and green. Purple symbolizes justice and equality—two important tenets of gender equality—and has been adopted as the IWD color[2]. White symbolized purity, and green symbolized hope. You can participate in IWD by wearing purple and sharing #PaintItPurple on social media.

4. Be a Leader

Throughout history, women in positions of power was limited to a few individuals who inherited power due to lack of a male heir. Here are some facts and markers of progress: In 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the first democratically female elected head of state as prime minister of Sri Lanka.[3] Afghanistan, Cuba, and 57 other countries have a higher percentage of elected women than the United States.[4] However despite these advances, only 20% of parliamentarians (elected representatives) in the world are women.[5] In democratic governments, it makes sense for women to have influence as representatives of half of the population, and this is an area where the world could improve by teaching girls that women are also leaders.

5. Have Compassion

IWD may often seem to celebrate “Great Women History,” but it also reminds us to think about our mothers, sisters, and friends. Surely there are incredible women in your life. The cumulative memory of our actions will someday characterize our place in history, so let us try to create a society remembered for its compassion. Our attitudes towards success, beauty, and proper conduct affect our treatment of women. A compassionate society would treat its women with respect. It would not objectify them. It would want them to be happier.

6. Advocate for Education

In countries like the United States, nothing prevents girls from going to school, but this is not the case everywhere. In many places, women’s inability to access education has a negative impact on their entire life. A powerful video by the non-profit, One Girl, illustrates the improvements a girl can make to her life when she can go to school. She can work, be independent, maintain her health, and provide a better future for her family. The divide between women’s educational opportunities around the globe is an important reason to stop and reflect on IWD.

7. Understanding Equality

A common misconception is that advocating for women’s rights means advocating against men. I think Cheris Kramarae put it best when she said, “feminism is the radical concept that women are people.” It’s no secret that women have not been treated equally in history. IWD is a celebration of the progress women have made to overcome these challenges and serves as a reminder that our world is not yet equal. It’s difficult to see how a world where half the population was happier, healthier, and more successful would be problematic.

IWD is a reminder to be cognizant of how our thoughts and actions impact women. Whatever gender you identify with, IWD is an important cause. You can make an impact by raising awareness, reflecting on your attitudes, and donating to organizations that deal with the issues previously discussed or improve other areas of women’s lives.

“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.” ~Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman


 

[1] http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1990/dec/20/more-than-100-million-women-are-missing/

[2] http://www.internationalwomensday.com/theme.asp#.VMWh_WR4oaU

[3] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/51492/Sirimavo-RD-Bandaranaike

[4] http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm

[5] http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/leadership-and-political-participation/facts-and-figures

 

Topics: international women's day

10 Tips to Plan a Campus-wide Service Event

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Mon, Jan 19, 2015 @ 10:53 AM

Every January, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day marks one of the major volunteer service events for colleges, universities, high schools, and even elementary schools across the country. This event brings hundreds of thousands of people together to serve on MLK Day. It has become a great way for students to work together in large numbers to better their surrounding communities. However, having an entire university population serve simultaneously is certainly not an easy accomplishment!

If you’re planning a campus-wide service event for the first time, have one coming up this semester, or would like to initiate one in the future, here are a 10 tips from seasoned veterans to ensure a successful and meaningful event.

1. Plan early and check the calendar. “These events require extensive planning, research, and communication,” said Misti McKeehen, director of PittServes, a university-wide initiative to help build the culture of service within the University of Pittsburgh and their surrounding community.20141018_113223_resized

In addition to their MLK Day of Service and orientation service projects, PittServes organizes the university’s annual Pitt Make A Difference Day (PMADD) every October. Last year, more than 3,200 students volunteered with approximately 115 organizations logging over 13,000 service hours in one day.

“The key is to plan early and identify a date that doesn’t conflict with other university events,” said McKeehen. “You don’t want to compete with other school activities like home football games.”

2. Choose community organizations that allow you to build a long-term partnership. When choosing organizations for your large-scale service event, consider ways the partnership can become a long-term opportunity for your students, not just a volunteer option for the day. McKeehen said it’s important to work with your community partners and encourage them to discuss ideas about why your volunteer service is vitally important.

Adam Lewandowski, associate director for the Center for Civic Engagement at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York, said they also look at each partner’s ability to give an overview of their organization and what they want to do. “It’s critical to work with the community to help them have a voice,” said Lewandowski. “We view them as co-educators that help create the frame of reference. We understand each other and have shared goals to achieve through the day of service.”

Lewandowski said that 93% of the students who participated in their Orientation Day of Service are expected to volunteer again with one of their partner organizations, many of which offer work-study or service-learning programs.

3. Ensure service projects are meaningful and safe. It’s imperative that all community partners are fully aware of and agree to specific arrangements and commitments regarding providing meaningful activities in a safe environment. Partners should be able to share with the students why their service work is vital to their organization.

“There needs to be a connection of the proposed project with the mission of the organization,” said Lewandowski. “We ask our partners to craft a project and then we work closely with them to make sure to provide service activities that are helpful.”

For example, one of their partners provides horseback rides to developmentally disabled children. Their project involved clearing trails so that companions could walk along side the children riding the horses. “Students had a better understanding of the service opportunity and its impact once it was explained. They weren’t just there to clear weeds and bushes, but to help the children feel more secure while riding the horses.”

4. Get your students involved as early as possible. “It’s important to know how to recruit volunteers, Shaprsburgidentify good projects, and how to retain volunteers,” said McKeehen. “Event organizers need to know how to talk about community service to students and partners.”

“Our upperclassmen students serve as orientation leaders,” said Lewandowski. “They receive specific training to facilitate projects, as well as the guided reflection at the end of events. The student leaders coordinate the work at each site. It’s fantastic to have peer leadership. New students can relate to them and they can reflect on their impact and how to move forward from their experience.”

5. Communication is key. “Team leaders should call on partners throughout the planning process and the days leading up to the event to make sure everything is in order and that the organizations are ready for the volunteers,” said McKeehen.

You don’t want to show up with a bus filled with volunteers and no one at the organization is ready for them – or worse, not even there!

In addition, don’t forget to send out updates and reminders to your volunteers. Take advantage of social media sites to reach and recruit students. Send text alerts regarding start times or any last minute details.

6. Have a face-to-face and visit the site prior to the event to determine any special needs or 15042682762_4e91db0944_orequirements. “It’s of great value to travel into the community and meet with the organizers,” said Lewandowski. “Look at their space and the tools available.”

For example, if students are going to work outside around plants, trees, gardens, etc., make sure they have the proper tools and know to wear appropriate attire to avoid any potential mishaps like coming in contact with poison ivy!

7. Don’t forget transportation. If your budget allows, consider renting school buses or use partner sites within walking distance of your school. Lewandowski recommends doing the research to find a reliable transportation company. “Moving 550 people to 25 sites can get crazy,” he said.

8. Have clear guidelines, but remember to be flexible. Large-scale events make it somewhat difficult for individual students to actually choose their volunteer sites, but you could consider letting them request particular types of service. “When we have groups of students from sororities, clubs, etc., sign up, they are usually allowed to volunteer together at specific locations,” said McKeehen.

9. Always have a back-up plan. “Something always comes up,” said McKeehen. What happens if the buses don’t show up? What do you do if your students arrive at a site and no one is there? What’s the plan if it’s raining and your site is outside? Have a contingency plan and make sure your team knows what to do.

10. Remember to say, “Thank You,” to your partners and your volunteers! In addition, ask them for their feedback so you can make improvements for the next event!

Have you organized a school-wide service event? Tell us about your day of service activities and share your top planning tips with us! Need help managing your service program? Learn how NobleHour helps build, manage, & measure community engagement

 

Photos courtesy of University of Pittsburgh and Nazareth College

 

 

 

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr. through Service

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Fri, Jan 16, 2015 @ 01:14 PM

How will you be spending your holiday on January 19th? Will you be sleeping in, grateful for the shortened week to come? Watch another season of your latest Netflix obsession? Catch up on work or studying? Will you be treating it like any other long weekend? Or, will you join the thousands of people who will use this day to create stronger communities through service?

What is MLK Day? Why is it important?

The_time_is_always_right_to_do_what_isIn 1983, Congress signed legislation that created Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on the third Monday in January. In honour of Dr. King’s vision for equality and justice through community efforts, MLK Day is the only federal holiday that is designated as a day of service. People from all walks of life are encouraged to improve the lives of those in their communities by taking a pause from their regular schedule to take action against pressing issues, such as civil rights, education, the environment, health, hunger, and poverty.

We can learn from Dr. King’s life by modeling his dedication to solving social issues through nonviolent community collaboration. It’s “A Day On, Not a Day Off” where we can explore our ability to make positive change through service. The hope is that this celebration will illustrate that those who volunteer can exercise tremendous influence in our communities.

Who will serve?

Anyone and everyone are encouraged to volunteer on MLK Day. It is important that both non-profits and businesses in the community collaborate. Non-profits can organize special service events to bring people together around a specific social cause. Businesses can help by sponsoring similar volunteer events or giving their employees time off for service. Both non-profit and for-profit organizations are key to the success of MLK Day.

How can you share your service?

Not only is it important to serve on MLK Day, it is also important to make your service visible to others in your community. Today it is easier than ever to promote service through social media.

Before MLK Day, share and invite people to volunteer with you through social media and by speaking with your friends, colleagues, and students. Organizations can also join the MLK Day Service network to connect with community members and access resources to help raise awareness and gain funds. Serving as a family can also help form a tradition of service and reinforce community values.

After your day of service, be sure to use social media to share how you volunteered. MLK Day is a chance to replace a lazy Monday off with meaningful action; we can replace one social media post or photo about ourselves with something we can do for others. With service also comes advocacy, and sharing your experiences and actions can help others become involved.

America’s Sunday Supper

A unique way of getting involved with MLK Day is to host a Sunday Supper. In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream for bringing together people of different backgrounds in order to foster unity within communities, Sunday Suppers are a chance for people to come together and share a meal while discussing issues within their community.

Hosting these events is not very difficult. You or your organization will need to advertise your event and plan a discussion. If you are looking for funds, you could ask guests for donations, speak with local businesses such as grocery stores about donating food, or make the Sunday Supper simpler by simply having light refreshments and snacks. You might also want to use this event to collect material or monetary donations for your topic of discussion. For example, if you plan to discuss hunger, then ask guests to bring canned food donations.

Alternatively, you could incorporate a plan of action into your discussion. After discussing the important facts and causes of an issue, you could move the discussion into possible solutions and come up with a service project at a future date. Another option might be to plan a service project directly after the discussion.

When I was involved in hosting Sunday Suppers in the past, the program encouraged organizers to begin the meal with a film or documentary related to an issue and then end with a discussion about the issue afterwards. We hosted a Sunday Supper about health and obesity by showing the film The Weight of the Nation and a second event about violence featuring The Interrupters.

This year, documentaries about social issues are not available on the American Sunday Suppers event page, so getting appropriate films and the permission to show them may be more difficult. However, this shows how the idea of the Sunday Supper is versatile and adaptable. A Sunday Supper does not have to take place on Sunday nor does it have to be in the evening, but it is a chance to make the MLK weekend a dialogue about pressing issues in our community.

Get Involved

I hope that you will find some way to spend your MLK Day off by serving others. Volunteering is a special way to honour Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy by continuing a tradition of service, as well as a way of honouring your community by giving back to those in need. Search for local MLK Day of Service events here on NobleHour and use the comments section to share how you plan to serve.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.nationalservice.gov/special-initiatives/days-service/martin-luther-king-jr-day-service/about-dr-king-and-mlk-day

http://www.handsonnetwork.org/three-ways-get-involved-mlk-day-service

http://www.pointsoflight.org/signature-events/martin-luther-king-jr-day-service

 

10 Simple New Year's Resolutions to Make A Difference in Your Community

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Tue, Dec 30, 2014 @ 01:13 PM

New Year’s Resolutions shouldn’t be so hard that we give up on them before the end of the month. As I likenh_fb_newyears to tell my kids, bigger isn’t always better and sometimes less is more. In addition, in this day and age, I don’t think resolutions should just be about self-improvement, but about how we can help others while improving ourselves. Here are 10 simple resolutions that everyone can do throughout 2015 to feel better and make a difference in their community.

  1. Make an effort to perform a random act of kindness every week. Say hello to your neighbor. Offer a seat to someone standing on the subway. Wait 10 seconds before you lean on the car horn to let the car in front of you know that the light has changed! Let the person with two items go ahead of you in line at the grocery store. Yes, I know, these don’t seem like major things, but just think how you would feel if you were on the receiving end. 

  2. Bring good manners back in 2015! Start simple. Remember a time when we would say, “Excuse me?” when trying to politely get someone’s attention or when we bumped into someone? Manners go a long way, but unfortunately it seems we aren’t using them or passing them onto our youth anymore. Teach your kids manners through example. Forget all the new words added to the dictionary this year. Let’s make some old ones popular again. Make a resolution to add these words to your vocabulary: please, thank you and you’re welcome. Don’t hoard them for your closest friends and family. Share them liberally with everyone you interact with, especially those in retail, customer service, and public service. They need them the most! You’ll be surprised how a few kind words can make a difference in someone’s day.

    super_pantry3

  3. Whenever you notice your pantry is overflowing with too many cans and boxes of food or you can’t fit one more jacket in your coat closet, this is your cue to get a bag and donate extra non-perishable food and gently used clothing. Find your local food pantry or check with a local church for donation locations.

  4. Think about something that’s important to you and find a way to volunteer or donate to the cause. Sometimes, the commitment to volunteer a specific number of days or hours concerns people and may prevent them from helping. Decide what you can commit to do. Whether it’s once a week, once a month, or even a one-time event, you decide. Volunteering should make you feel good, not bad because you can’t do it all the time. There are opportunities everywhere in many forms. Take time to do the research and think about how you can use your talents to help others.

  5. Practice Patience – This is probably one of the most difficult resolutions since our world has become one where we want results immediately. However, if we all practiced just a little patience, we might not lose our tempers so quickly. And, if we couple patience with our small acts of kindness, just imagine how the world would truly be a nicer place.

  6. Write a letter or send a card to an old friend, someone going through a tough time or maybe an aunt, uncle, or grandparent living alone. Yes, I said, "write!" I didn't say text, Facebook message, or e-mail. Sit down with pen and paper and write about what’s going on in your life, share happy memories, and wish them the best. I don’t do this as often as I should, but I actually feel really good after writing a long letter to a friend or relative. I also absolutely love getting those letters in the mail too! Plus, you could also help extend the life of cursive writing!

    cyber_Grandma

  7. Explore new technology. For some, that’s really easy. For others, technology can be a little scary. Watch kids with iPads, smartphones, etc., and they have no fear when trying new apps or features. But for someone who has lost entire documents in the past, I’m always a little anxious of where each double tap will take me. I've found that, when given the chance, technology can make your life a lot easier. 

  8. Listen more than you talk – especially with your kids. This may be difficult if your kids are like mine and don’t necessarily like to talk, but this is where listening is crucial. When they finally do decide to open up, just let them take the lead and enjoy the fact that they do want to talk to you!

  9. Save some energy. We can all do a better job on this one. Turn off the lights as you leave the room. Don’t let the faucet run when you brush your teeth, put on a sweater and lower the heat, and leave the car at home and walk to your destination for quick trips. Getting out and walking through your neighborhood will also give you the opportunity to greet and get to know your neighbors!

  10. Help your community as a family. It can be something as simple as making sandwiches and small care packages for the homeless, checking in on or visiting with elderly neighbors, or shoveling sidewalks for those that can’t do it. You could even host your own neighborhood food drive, volunteer at a food pantry or help clean up a local park. Ask your children how they want to make a difference in the world and figure out a way to do it together.

Happy New Year! Thank you for reading our articles and being a part of the NobleHour community. May 2015 bring you much happiness, good health, and many opportunities to make a difference in your community!

Topics: Food Banks, volunteering, community service, community, random acts of kindness, Family, food drive, New Year's Resolutions, Good Manners

Online Retailers that Give Back to Charity

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 @ 12:49 AM

The commercial aspects of the holidays can sometimes cause us to question the spirit of giving, thanks, and compassion.  Check out these websites that give back a percentage of your purchase to charity.

PerkleGive a gift that benefits a local organization.

Perkle is a new platform that allows you to donate to various social causes while shopping from some of your favorite retailers. Donating though Perkle is just like online shopping. Many of the things you already buy online can be bought through Perkle, and a portion of the money is donated to a cause of your choice.

 “Lets make giving into an everyday action instead of a rare transaction” - Perkle.org

Many major online retailers are on Perkle, including Amazon, Expedia, Fandango, and Office Depot. For Perkle to donate part of your purchase, you have to go to the merchant’s website through a link from Perkle. There is no extra cost to shop through Perkle. 

A list of all the causes fundraising through Perkle is available on their website, and if you are interested in adding your own cause, you can easily create one.  Perkle reviews each application to ensure each cause meets its standards. Each cause must “accomplish something good for a person, group of people or society.” There is no cost for nonprofit organizations or consumers to use Perkle. There are only the benefits of turning everyday purchases into social good.

AmazonSmile

AmazonSmile sells all of the same products as Amazon.com, but 0.5% of your purchase is donated to charity. You can use your regular Amazon.com account to shop through AmazonSmile. When you shop through AmazonSmile, you can view everything available on Amazon.com, but the product description will specify whether it is eligible for donation through AmazonSmile.  

More than a million charities and non-profits are on AmazonSmile. When you log into Amazon Smile, a list of possible charities will appear, and you are asked to select one. However, you can change the organization to which you are donating at any time. Organizations can register to receive money from AmazonSmile by applying online and submitting information to prove the organization is legitimate. Registration is free. 


Shop With Meaning

Some online retailers give back to charities and non-profits.

Shop With Meaning is a website where you can find products made to raise funds for a particular cause. Shop With Meaning aims to be transparent, allowing consumers to know exactly how their purchase will create social good.  Information about the organizations is readily available so consumers can make cognizant choices about what they are buying. In some cases, a portion of the sales is donated. Some of the social causes supported by Shop With Meaning include providing clean water, combating human trafficking, and fighting poverty. 

Shop With Meaning also offers a "one for one" program, in which a company promises to donate one item for each purchased.  For example, if you buy a pair of shoes from a company participating in the “one for one” program on Shop With Meaning, another pair of shoes is donated to someone in need.  Details about who is benefiting these donations depend on the product, but the information is readily available. 


Chosing the Best Gift for Social Good

Unlike Perkle, the products on Shop With Meaning are not exclusively from mainstream retailers. Most of the products are from non-profits hoping to raise money from the sale of their products. However, the percentage of money donated from Shop With Meaning is generally greater than on Perkle.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both.  On Perkle, consumers can make donations simply by buying things they already would, while on Shop for Meaning one would most likely need to do a little more research to find what you are looking for. Both are terrific ways to make consumerism a little more meaningful.  

AmazonSmile seems to be a miniature version of Perkle, and the differences between Shop With Meaning and AmazonSmile are the same as those with Perkle. However, the impact of shopping with these two organizations is quite different. Perkle provides access to a variety of retailers while AmazonSmile is focused on one retailer. In addition, the average donation when shopping on Amazon.com through Perkle is 4.8%, which is a much higher percentage than the 0.5% that is donated through AmazonSmile. In order to make the same donation on AmazonSmile as Perkle, you would have to spend almost 10 times more. For example, to make a $5 donation on Perkle by shopping through the Amazon link, you have to spend approximately $104. To make the same donation by shopping through AmazonSmile, you would have to spend $1000. On AmazonSmile, the retailer benefits much more than the charity.

All three of these websites provide ways to give back while shopping. However, it’s important to remember that we cannot replace giving with consuming. While it’s a great idea to make your everyday purchases into a charitable event, keep in mind that the organizations are only receiving a fraction of your money. If you end up spending more money through these retailers in the name of charity, you should consider volunteering or donating your money  directly to the charity instead.

We hope you will check out some of these websites as you are shopping during the holiday season.  Making meaningful gifts for social good can become part of your regular spending routine. Share your experiences with us in the comments below!

5 Ways to use Service Learning to Run a Successful Food Drive

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Shay Ernest on Fri, Nov 21, 2014 @ 11:52 AM

Service Learning Curriculum Ideas for Food Drive Projects that will Maximize Impact

Food_DriveFood drives are intended to educate students about food inequity and encourage students to take action. But is this what is indeed happening in class rooms and campuses? When not properly planned, food drives can do just the opposite, producing unintended consequences that reinforce or exacerbate stereotypes students hold about people living in poverty. Today we are providing ways to use service learning to overcome common challenges of food drives and maximize your intended meaningful impact. 

 

THE BIG PICTURE

Let us take one step back. To avoid negative outcomes, we need to first understand when there is an imbalance of education and action, food drives can unintentionally be piloted in the wrong direction. A private high school in San Francisco used to take students to the poorer parts of town to volunteer at soup kitchens and food banks for a few hours at a time. Malcolm Singer, the school director of community service-learning, explains what can happen when there is action without proper education, “What we realized, when we were driving them back to school, was that (students) were saying the same things about hunger and poverty that they had been saying the day before. We realized we were reinforcing the same negative stereotypes.”[1] The same problem often occurs with food drives-- as there is typically little or no interaction between students and the community their donations are intended to help, and food drives may include little education about the root causes of hunger and poverty. The way to create a food drive that positively impacts both students and the community is simple – educate students about the issues of social justice and show them how to take action. Once a student becomes aware of the injustices in the world, they aspire to be a part of the improvement.

EDUCATE

Nearly fifty million Americans face food insecurity.[2] Education should be centered on the root causes of hunger and poverty with curriculum focusing on who, what, where, and why. Because food insecurity is such a multifaceted issue, it lends itself to easily being incorporated in different areas of study. Below is a list of curriculum ideas for starting discussion and research projects (please keep in mind many of the topics below are not exclusive to the subject they are listed under as there is much intersection between the issues:

  • Health
    • Research effects of malnutrition, obesity, diabetes.
    • Compare rates of obesity in countries around the world with rates of malnutrition/hunger.
    • Examine nutritional value verse cost of food.
    • Look at MyPlate and USDA to understand what makes a healthy diet.
    • Create a healthy menu of one week for a family of four, price how much it cost to eat healthy.
  • Geography
    • Define and examine the characteristics of food deserts.
    • Identify the causes and consequences of food deserts.
    • How does the neighborhood influence the choices made about health.
    • Analyze the top five states with greatest food insecurity.
  • Economics
    • Research SNAP and the Farm Bill.
    • Create a formula to address the income needed to eliminate hunger; how much does it cost each week for a family of four to eat healthy? A single person?
    • Define the 2014 poverty guidelines.
    • Create a budget for a set area (include housing, electricity, water, transportation, insurances, phone, internet); using the area’s minimum wage at forty hours a week as income, analyze how much is left over for food; discuss how unforeseen circumstances (sickness, school expenses, etc.) can affect food purchases.
    • Determine what a family of four at poverty level would receive in government assistance, could they feed their family healthily for this amount? If so, for how long? What income is needed?
    • Have students track their own health budget for a week, compare to various income levels and assistance programs.
  • Social Sciences
    • Study laws and policies impacting rate of hunger, poverty, and lack of access to healthy food in America. Are new policies needed?
    • Compare current rates of hunger in the US to rates during the 1980s and 1990s.
    • Conduct comparative study for how others (various religions, cultures, ethnic groups, countries) approach the process of providing “charity” to the needy.
    • Comparative study on who is hungry (rural vs urban, ethnic groups, age, etc.)

ACTION

Now the fun part of service learning: taking action! Engage your students in a meaningful service project to enhance their learning and provide guided practice in social responsibility. Don’t just let the food drive end when sufficient amount of cans are collected, connect the students to the community. Finding a food bank to work with will probably be the easiest part out of everything; there are food banks all across the nation. Feeding America is one of the largest food bank networks providing over 3.3 billion meals trough food pantries and meal programs. They have 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries serving more than 46 million people each year. Feeding America has a search on their website to help you find you’re your local food bank. Conducting a food drive will require a little planning. Youth Service America provides an in-depth, mainly logistical guide to running a food drive, appropriate for the high school level. No Kid Hungry also has a guide to integrating service learning and eating healthy for classrooms. Please note that both of these materials can be adapted to fit students of different ages.

A FINAL THOUGHT

Canned food drives can be seen as placing a “Band-Aid” on the issues of hunger and food inequity. Service learning projects are the chance for a cure – an emerging generation of socially conscious students dedicated to empowering others, as well as themselves.

“My motto in life is 'If you think it, you can do it' and if we all apply that thought we can end hunger the world over.” (Dionne Warwick)


[1] http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-32-fall-2007/feature/beyond-canned-food-drive

[2] http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/impact-of-hunger/hunger-and-poverty/hunger-and-poverty-fact-sheet.html

Photo courtesy of Dolly Duplantier

Topics: Thanksgiving, Food Banks, Food Pantries, service learning, food drive, service learning projects

Teaching Kindness Through Compassion & Service

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Nov 11, 2014 @ 03:11 PM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.


This week is World Kindness Week.  The movement is simple: it encourages people to do something kind for someone else. Everyone has the capacity to be kind, but people can also be self-centered and hateful. For our compassion to win over our vanity, we have to develop the habit of being kind. We have to be reminded why it is important to be kind. To begin the process of developing kindness as a character trait, it is important to learn it from a young age.  For this reason, I believe that educators should teach kindness alongside regular school curriculum.

Teaching kindness helps create connected communitiesFostering kindness between students helps build character by training students to think of the feelings of others before acting negatively. Some teachers hold regular class discussions relating to kindness and empathy. Sometimes, simply taking the time to ask students to talk about themselves can bring out kindness in their peers. Such discussions can be prompted by questions as simple as How are you? or What are you doing this weekend?

I believe that when educators create an environment in which students can share freely and voluntarily about themselves, it can bring a group of people together. When you begin to learn about another person and respect their time to speak and share in the discussion, it becomes more difficult to be judgemental or negative towards them.  

Teachers find that this technique works well among younger students. Engineering social relationships to focus on seeing one’s peers as people, rather than objects of criticism, promotes kindness. They become more inclined to help one another, even in simple ways such as holding open doors or complimenting each other. Elementary-aged students who participate in regular discussions to get to know one another develop better cooperation, empathy, and self-control in group work activities. When students become kinder to their peers, they are better equipped to care about strangers and their community. 

When it comes to teaching students to be kind to the community, service-learning and volunteering can be valuable tools. Taking students on a service-learning field trip can help them see how their actions can have a positive impact on others. Holding school-wide events to fundraise or collect items for donation will open students’ eyes to the problems facing others.

Service-learning projects can easily tie into a number of academic subjects. Students can read literature related to a particular issue, gather statistics surrounding a cause, study the history and progress of similar social issues, and gain research skills from cultivating this information. When students first learn how a problem is impacting the lives of others, they develop empathy and want to formulate solutions for these issues. Service-learning and volunteering teaches kindness by allowing students to discover the kindness within themselves. This is more effective than being instructed on what kindness is. At the end of a service project, students can not only say that their service was helpful to others, but they can feel the growth of their own creativity, imagination, and inner compassion. 

Students serve and build compassion.

Most importantly, educators can teach kindness by leading by example. Teachers play an important role in forming both a student’s intellectual and emotional abilities. By showing kindness to students, teachers can be more encouraging and help students develop better self-esteem. Being understanding toward students teaches them to be understanding towards their peers.  Rather than punishing students for failing to meet expectations, teachers should be willing to open a dialogue about why a problem is occurring and what can be done to fix it. Sometimes a student may simply be preoccupied because of something at home, a problem with their friends, or difficulty understanding the material. These small conversations can help solve the root cause of an issue and prevent it from happening again. Students remember the compassion of teachers who help them to succeed, and will mimic the same compassion toward the people they encounter in the future. 

If we all make conscious efforts to be kind, we can build stronger and more meaningful relationships with individuals, our communities, and the world.  What actions will you take to celebrate World Kindness Week?

 

Topics: kindness, bullying prevention, service

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