Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan

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How Community Engagement and Public Service Work Together

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan on Wed, May 28, 2014 @ 07:58 AM

“Empowering NobleLeaders”- How Community Engagement and Public Service Work Together

We believe when high school and college curriculum incorporate service, community involvement, and social issues, students become more engaged in their learning as well as develop a strong foundation to be active, informed, and changemaking citizens in their communities both now and in the future. Learning about civic engagement and serving with community organizations helps expose students to the diversity in their community, the diverse problems that affect certain groups, and the interrelated barriers to solutions. This new knowledge becomes power for many students who find their passion, niche/personal cause, or career choice through service activities, and also through learning about (hopefully while simultaneously being motivated by) related social, cultural, and economic factors during class lectures and discussion.

A service-learning model is perfect for solidifying classroom material through community service and engagement. Though there are several ways to promote civic engagement among high school and college students, service-learning includes key components of reflection and demonstration so that students can process their community engagement experience and then effectively share with classmates what they learned. When students become informed, active, and passionate about their community at a young age, they are more likely to continue to be active citizens throughout their lives. Research shows that students involved in service-learning are more likely to be involved in local, state, and federal elections, in addition to working for and supporting the issues or government candidates they care about as young professionals, later as parents, and much later as retirees. Not only are students with a community service or service learning background more inclined to be continued active community members, they are also better equipped to serve and be a leader in their community through public or government office. 

Community Engagement and Public Service are sometimes used as synonyms, but they are not identical. Community or civic engagement can take several forms, but generally includes individual and collective actions designed to recognize and take on issues of public concern through political and non-political processes. Civic engagement is also at the root of democratic governance, for which citizens have the right and protection to define the public good, to establish the methods for promoting public good, and the opportunity to change institutions that do not align. Public service typically refers to being a leader in one’s community and running for public office or a government position. Public service candidates with experience in civic engagement or a history of community service will not only be more successful during an election, but also more effective at leading their jurisdiction and initiating policies that improve their quality of life.

Students engaged in service-learning.

Citizens who volunteer in the community, are involved with nonprofit organizations, or participate in local, state, or national elections know the value and necessity of community engagement— awareness of community issues and needs, using their skills and knowledge to make a difference, and voting for candidates and policies that address public concerns. The most effective way to engage more citizens in society is to engage people of all ages in their community through service, educate them on the social, cultural, economic, and political barriers to the public good, as well as provide them the tools and encouragement to be informed and active during elections. Paul Loeb, a social and political activist and author dedicated to student civic engagement, urges it is educators “responsibility to use our classrooms to explore the difficult issues of our time.” Our country and world needs students who are knowledgeable and passionate about community problems in addition to being committed to making a difference and finding solutions to complex challenges.


Campus Compact is a nonprofit higher education association that compiles resources for and supports all forms of civic engagement on college and university campuses. Campus Compact constantly gathers tools for educators, celebrates volunteers, and develops programs for higher education all for the ultimate goal of increasing civic engagement and community service across every institution. Their vision for the future includes the belief “that our country cannot afford to educate a generation that acquires knowledge without understanding how it can benefit society or influence democratic decision-making… We recognize that higher education must respond to community needs and democratic responsibilities with the intellectual and professional capacities demanded by today’s challenges.” NobleHour.com is also a great place for people to find opportunities for involvement and resources for empowerment. 

Community engagement is very important for all involved-- the community group or underserved persons, the student, partnering organizations, and the school or institution must be encouraged by college presidents, professors, school administrators, and teachers. Society needs an educated, motivated, socially conscious, and engaged public with a strong background in civic engagement ready to continually serve and work for the public good. Civic engagement as a student at a young age leads to a life of active citizenship and service.

 

Topics: service learning, community engagement, community service, higher education

How Service & Service-Learning Spark Social Justice

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan on Tue, May 20, 2014 @ 07:30 AM


"Empowering NobleLeaders": How Service & Service-Learning Spark Social Justice

As mentioned in our last “Empowering NobleLeaders” post where we highlighted this year’s 25th annual National Service Learning Conference as well as the Global Youth Service Day, the numbers of students, faculty, administrators, and community organizers who take volunteerism to the next level with service learning and active civic engagement are incredible, increasing, and very much needed in our society today. Not only are the opportunities to serve one’s community plentiful and diverse, so are the issues surrounding poverty, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability, civil rights and immigration status in Students combat social problems through service. our local and global communities[i]. In our society, where it seems resources are increasingly scarce, the need for students to learn about and take action towards social and environmental problems is critical for the future of a just & peaceful society, and it contributes towards the ability for any person from any background to realize their potential in the society where they live and work.

More and more, teachers of a variety of grade levels, including K-12 and higher education, are employing service learning curriculum to guide students in addressing and reflecting on complex social issues while learning about course material and earning grades. Service learning cultivates social awareness, community engagement, problem-solving skills, and initiative for both learning and taking action. Service learning can provide the ultimate experiential education--- motivating students to explore the complexity of intertwined community needs, use their knowledge to do something about them, and continue to work for change even after a final grade is made. According to Cathryn Berger Kaye and Maureen Connolly, two innovative leaders in curriculum for service learning, in their article Social Justice and Service Learning,

“The issues we face as a planet have risen to a level that calls us all into action. We can all be engaged in learning about and addressing critical interrelated issues-- hunger, potable water, climate change, population migration, loss of habitat, illiteracy, gun violence, war-- while contributing to the betterment of ourselves and others.”[ii]

Service learning creates meaningful connections between people, helping us to feel invested in our community and emphatic for less fortunate people all over world. Through helping others, students gain valuable social and self awareness. When service is part of academic curriculum, there is great potential for significant civic engagement, enhanced active learning, and using classroom knowledge for a public purpose or community impact. Berger Kaye has found that service learning, when effectively engaged, leads to the development of students into change agents who are aware and passionate about lessening the inequities and injustices created by social structures in their communities[iii] – the foundation for the ability of service to spark social justice.

 Students of all ages often complain that the material they learn in certain classes is not useful and thus focus only on short term memorization for the final exam. 

Discover even more benefits of service-learning Service learning curriculum directly combats this occurrence through an initial survey of student interests, skills, and talents in addition to a social analysis of the community issues and needs being studied in relation to course material. If students feel connected to or personalize a community issue, they are more motivated to learn about and improve the situation. It is important for service learning educators to always consider the community needs first to create the most useful solutions as well as to emphasize for their students the importance of collective social justice and well-being.

Social justice is both a process and a goal. The process focuses on the understanding and change of social structures that create inequality. The goal is a global community with social responsibility toward and with others, where resources are equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure.[iv]

Service learning is the key to educating students and preparing them to live purposeful, civically engaged, and socially responsible lives in the 21st century. General guidelines and more detailed service learning resources for both educators and students can be found in Don’t Just Count Your Hours, Make Your Hours Count. Not only is it in the students’ best interest to explore community engagement for both altruistic and practical reasons, today it is an educator's responsibility to provide what is needed for students to recognize, understand, and ultimately address the real life social issues learned in the classroom. The world needs innovative leaders to solve complex national and social issues and students deserve an education that will prepare them for changemaker roles. It is no longer enough to keep students engaged in class-- they must become engaged in their communities in ways that both alleviate suffering or inequality for others as well as bring meaning to the articles, books, and historical accounts read throughout the course. This takes special preparation and commitment, but truly makes the classroom experience more enjoyable for students and teachers alike. Service Learning for Social Change: A Curriculum Development Workbook is a wonderful tool for teachers exploring how to incorporate service learning created by the Service Learning Institute at California State University, Monterey Bay.

As Helen Keller said, “Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.” Today this critical pursuit must start with the education and service of students.

 

[i]
[i] Berger Kaye, Cathryn & Connolly, Maureen. “Social Justice and Service Learning.”CBK Associates, 2013.

[ii][ii] Berger Kaye, Cathryn & Connolly, Maureen. “Social Justice and Service Learning.”CBK Associates, 2013.

[iii][iii] Berger Kaye, Cathryn & Connolly, Maureen. “Social Justice and Service Learning.”CBK Associates, 2013.

[iv][iv]http://studentactivities.tamu.edu/site_files/Definitions%20Related%20to%20Service.pdf. Texas A&M Department of Student Activities, 2009.

 

Start measuring the impact of your service-learning initiatives.

Topics: service learning, volunteering, social justice

“Empowering NobleLeaders” at the National Service-Learning Conference

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan on Thu, Apr 03, 2014 @ 08:53 AM

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For the past quarter century, the National Youth Leadership Council has brought together youth and adults from all over the world and all different disciplines to share ideas, skills, passions, and their service-learning experiences at the National Service-Learning Conference. The yearly conferences are held in various host cities, with different co-host organizations, and continues to grow in participant number as well as prestige of keynote speaker and program leaders every year. This years 25th annual MONUMENTAL conference April 9th to 12th will prove to be one of the biggest and most exciting yet. The conference will be held for the first time in Washington D.C., a city whose international network and incredible civic engagement has been a major motivation for this year’s MONUMENTAL theme. The conference will take full advantage of the unique service, programming, and networking opportunities our nation’s capitol has to offer.  

All conference workshops and plenary sessions will take place at the historic Washington Marriott Wardman park, unless otherwise indicated in the posted schedule. Various keynote speakers include Sandra Day O’Connor, retired Supreme Court Justice, Arne Duncan, ninth U.S. Secretary of Education, and Minh Dang, White House Champion of Change as a national leader and in human trafficking and child abuse. Youth leaders in service are equally involved in the preparation and participation as their adult counterparts and the conference will spotlight some of the most inspirational, motivated, and change-making young people as featured speakers, program organizers, and session leaders. Highlighted conference events include Capitol Hill Day, a truly unique opportunity for adult and student leaders to advocate for youth as solutions to today’s toughest challenges at home and abroad by meeting with legislators and Congress members. The goal of NYLC and Capitol Hill Day is to convene hundreds of youth advocates, as well as provide them the support and opportunity to meet with Congressional offices, to educate policy-makers about the importance of collaborating with young people to incite real change in their communities.

Students engaged in volunteer service.

Another highlighted event of this year’s conference is the Day of Service: A Celebration of Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) on Saturday April 12th. All attendees are encouraged to give back to the D.C. community and put into practice some of the service learning skills and initiatives they have just learned about in the days prior at the NSLC. The Day of Service will be held on the National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial steps and includes several different ways to become engaged and have fun, including direct service projects, networking with community members and local nonprofits, and opportunities to hear from community leaders. Partnering organizations such as the Peace Corps, D.C. Habitat for Humanity, Earth Force, generationOn, and Special Olympics Project UNIFY will be present to hone the energy and inspiration cultivated by all conference attendees, speakers, and leaders. Youth Service America (YSA) is the founder and chief organizer of GYSD, the largest service event in the world and the only day of service dedicated to children and youth, which is held each year over a weekend in April (April 11th to 13th for 2014) in more than 100 countries on six continents. As the conference’s co-host, YSA aims to bring this monumental and international service event to the 2014 MONUMENTAL NSLC and Washington D.C. in order to address environmental issues, health and inclusion needs, and educational disconnects of the surrounding community. GYSD is both a celebration and mobilization of service-oriented youth, sharing the same focus and motivation as the annual National Service Learning Conference.

Whether you are a returning conference attendee or newcomer, young person or adult, student or teacher, administrator or non-profit organization, researcher or consultant on service learning and youth leadership, the NSLC’s multiple day and concurrent program schedule enables any type of attendee to personalize their conference and design experiences tailored to their own needs and passions. The educational sessions, discussion groups, interactive workshops, and featured speakers will provide both youth and adults the tools, resources, ideas, and motivation to enhance their service learning practices as well as improve their school, organization, and community. With the wide variety of program topics and types, anyone can become engaged in and inspired by the NSLC.

NobleHour is pleased to again be a sponsor of this year’s National Service Learning Conference. And we are excited to present an interactive discussion-based workshop on how to use service learning to empower students to become Changemakers will certainly prove beneficial for coordinators, teachers, and students to increase their understanding and value of applying what is learned in the classroom to the community. We will focus on how to effectively implement service learning projects with high school and college students to teach Social Entrepreneurship, Civic Engagement, and Student Leadership. Through group discussion and interactive presentation, we plan to facilitate the sharing of service learning experiences among participants. We hope to share our expertise and experience with the audience and together discuss effective strategies to increase students’ engagement, and enhance their learning, in the classroom and beyond.

You don’t want to miss this year’s National Service Learning Conference in Washington D.C. or the Global Youth Service Day taking place all over the world. Find out how to get involved with one of the hundreds of projects or if GYSD is already coming to a region near you. Even if you cannot attend this year’s exciting conference, there are many ways to stay connected and informed of the NSLC’s happenings through facebook, twitter, or the soon to be available NSLC mobile app.

Topics: service learning, volunteering, community service, social entrepreneurship, Monumental, outreach, community engagement, k12

Service Reflections: Tips for Faculty and Students

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 @ 09:47 AM

Empowering NobleLeaders: Service Reflections

Thank you for joining us for another “Empowering NobleLeaders” Blog with Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan.

Reflection in life, especially when positive, is almost always beneficial. The act of reflection can increase feelings of self-perception personal purpose, and community awareness, as well as increase understanding as to one's role in the greater community. We would like to share with you the importance of reflection on service experiences and offer some insight for both faculty and students on how to do service reflections.  Reflection is an integral component of volunteer service.

While a student is volunteering, the service experience can become more meaningful through constant questioning of motivations, asking why one is helping, and keeping those ideas at the forefront of their mind. A student may maintain their motivation to help by keeping track of both the work they do, as well as their initial and ongoing reactions to their service activities. Reflection before, during, and after a service experience is key, to set goals, and to remember and document observations, emotions, and activities. The most important reflection may come after when the student connects their individual experience to the bigger picture, whether it’s a wider community or national/international issue, cultural or environmental cause, or institutional motive. With reflection and further research, a student will gain deeper understanding of oneself, their community, and society. The more one reflects on their volunteer experiences, the more one knows what they like, dislike, and can identify personal strengths. Additionally, students can then use their service reflections to decide how to channel their experiences into greater action or next steps, which can be beneficial both for the individual (e.g., explore new passions or possible career choices) and the community (e.g., organizing one river clean-up to be an ongoing project with other students and community members in the area). 

How to do Service Reflections: 

For students volunteering, it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day routine. As you begin to look back on your work, here are some helpful ways to take stock and connect to the bigger picture. 

Get started with three easy questions:

What? So what? and Now what? These questions are commonly paired with community service to help participants think about how to channel their experiences into action or next steps. Answer them on your own or with other volunteers. 

What? 

How would you describe the actual work you’ve been doing? What different types of situations have you been involved in and learned from? Whether it’s playing with kids or talking to an elderly person or filing hospital records, describe your day-to-day work. 

So What? 

What did these actions mean? Who did they impact? How did they impact you? How did they affect the community you worked with? How did they contribute to the larger impact your organization (or you) is making? 

Now what? 

Now that you’ve done your service, what are you going to do next? Are there other channels of involvement? What else would you like to know about your site or issue? How will you take this experience and put it to use helping others? What ripple effect will your experiences make for yourself and others? 

How to promote service reflections and service learning for faculty: 

Reflection is a key component of service learning in and out of the classroom. It can be accomplished in many different avenues that students can choose for themselves to fit their learning and creative styles. Encourage students to explore these styles and decide how they would like to record and reflect on their volunteer experience

Each time a student volunteers, it is beneficial to take a few minutes to make notes about what they did, what they learned, and how the experience impacted them. These notes will be useful for future reflecting on experiences as well as for possible use in creating a final presentation for a class. NobleHour has an work reflection tool for students exactly for this purpose.  

Engaging in conversation with others (e.g., friends, professors, family) to explain what the student has been doing and why it is important to them is another way to reflect. With a volunteer supervisor’s permission, a student may be able to take photos and document their adventures in service (there may be strict rules requiring permission and releases) and use these visuals later for reflection and sharing. NobleHour enables students to share their photos, videos, and reflections using the Contribute and Share tool.  Faculty members should encourage student reflection.

One of the main goals of service learning is that students will continue or expand upon their community service even after the final project is done. If students are interested in learning more about their cause or organization, people at the volunteer site are great resources for other contacts and groups that are doing similar work and organizing similar events. 

To maximize the service learning curriculum, components of reflection throughout the semester for students should be interspersed in the syllabus. Class discussion, journal entry writing, online posts, article critiques on surrounding service topics, and a final demonstration or project of the students’ volunteer experiences are wonderful and diverse ways to get students engaged and thinking about their experiences.  

Teachers can guide students' reflection processes in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to: discussion, role play, and journaling

Students are encouraged to reflect on their experience and:

  • Describe what happened.
  • Examine the difference made.
  • Discuss thoughts and feelings.
  • Place experience in a larger contect.
  • Consider project improvements.
  • Generate ideas.
  • Identify questions.
  • Encourage comments from partners and recipients.
  • Receive feedback.

To fulfill one of her global health minor requirements in college, Liz took a course called Core Issues in Global Health: Community Health Practice for Refugees. The professor employed a Community Based Service Learning syllabus guideline which included student-led discussions, lectures, presentations, several community guest speakers, papers, posters, and a community engagement project. The class concluded with each student creating a material (paper, art, video, or article) that described their community refugee experience and also would benefit the organization. The professor made it a class requirement to get out into the surrounding community and see for themselves the information they learned about. Liz's work as an after school tutor with Fugee’s Family outside of Emory every week for one semester created meaning for the statistics and health disparities they were learning about for refugee populations in America. She is now able to look back over her paper and final project, and remember how engaged she felt both in class and with the young refugee soccer players at the Fugee’s school house. 

Service learning and service reflections are valuable student and teacher tools and provide numerous opportunities for personal growth and community service. The more these ideas and actions are incorporated into classrooms, from K-12 to higher education, the better students, communities, and the world will be.

Tune in next time for a discussion of the power of volunteering in diverse environments and with diverse people.

 

"Writing in the Rapids" by Julie Jordan Scott is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Topics: service learning, volunteering, experience, abroad, community engagement, outreach, higher ed, high school, community service, engaged learning, learning strategies, community connections, alternative spring breaks, reflection

Alternative Spring Breaks: Tips and Resources

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan on Mon, Feb 24, 2014 @ 01:00 PM

Tips and Resources for Alternative Spring Breaks

Thank you for joining us for another “Empowering NobleLeaders” Blog with Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan.

alternative spring breakGiven that spring break is only a few weeks away for many students, today we hope to offer some advice to help you encourage students to participate in, as well as prepare for, alternative spring break trips centered on service. Service trips can be both personally transforming and potentially life-changing experiences for students. They need guidance in finding and preparing for such “alternative spring breaks.” Here are some tips to promote spring break service trips to students, inform them of the lasting benefits, and prepare them to get the most out of their (perhaps not so restful) “break.”

Alternative spring breaks are both a way to do meaningful work as well as step out of one’s comfort zone. Research is helpful when exploring the various options and programs. Students should be encouraged to consider their passions and interests, the time and travel commitment, cost and qualifications needed for each option. For college students, their community-service or student leadership centers/offices are often great resources for finding spring break volunteer opportunities that are both affiliated with the school or are in the surrounding area. Programs and trips offered through a university are sometimes free, or inexpensive as they are often subsidized by the college. For example, here at the University of Florida, our Center for Leadership & Service is organizing 11 different spring break trips for 2014, three of which are international, focusing on a variety of different social and environmental issues.

Students can also look for spring break opportunities on their own--we recommend both online searches and word of mouth. Religious centers, like churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples can also be great resources for service trips both locally and abroad. Typically, one does not have to be a member in order to participate in their activities. Campus Compact is a fabulous organization that promotes campus-based civic engagement, public and community service to develop students’ citizenship skills, and provides tools and training for faculty to empower their students. Additionally, they have an initiative and search engine for Global Citizenship opportunities that is a great tool for both students and faculty/staff/administrators.

alternative spring break beach cleanupEncourage students to explore the resources around them when searching for something to do over spring break. With some effort, students can find opportunities that provide both a fun and productive week, a new vehicle for their interests, a way to meet friends and network with others, and the opportunity to make a difference. I (Liz) traveled to the surrounding areas of Tegucigalpa, Honduras during the spring break of my Sophomore year with the Emory University Medical chapter of Global Brigades, a student-led nonprofit health and sustainable organization aimed at holistic development in Honduras, Panama, and Ghana. There are more than 6,000 volunteers from 100 university chapters from the United States, in addition to Canada and Europe, that organize and participate in trips, or “brigades,” with programs focused on architecture, business, dental, environmental, human rights, medical, microfinance, public health, or water. I was able to practice my Spanish, raise funds for needed medicine and supplies, obtain a leadership position for my second trip as a junior, and eventually receive a letter of recommendation for Medical School from our club faculty advisor. My entire experience with Global Brigades was safe, impactful, and resulted in many friendships, networking connections, and meaningful memories. The benefits from service trips are widespread and inevitable. If your students have the opportunity to do a service trip abroad, they should take advantage!

Tips for preparation:

  • Encourage your students to connect with supervisors, faculty advisors, or leading students before the trip as it is very helpful to engage in team-building activities prior to the start of the trip.  Valuable information about the volunteer location (especially if in a foreign country), what to bring and pack, travel arrangements if applicable, and the volunteers’ duties is very useful to have several months prior to spring break. If student’s service trip is domestic, there is even greater reason to explore the location as it would be easier to become familiar with the route, surroundings, and community beforehand. At some schools, student participants and/or site-leaders enroll in courses the semester prior to or the semester of their spring break trip in order to devote time in their busy schedules to important preparation.
  • The lasting impact of a volunteer experience can suffer without proper reflection before, during, and after. It is important for a student to set goals for their trip’s experience, even if it just to keep an open mind and write in their journal every night. There are many ways and vehicles to reflect, through photo’s and video’s (with the organizations permission first), journal writing, jotting down daily notes and observations, and sharing stories with classmates and teachers once spring break is over. Preparing and guiding a student to constantly reflect is critical for students to live in the moment while securing the lasting benefits of their transformative service. We will talk more about the importance of service reflections (and offer tips for best practices) in our next post.
  • Encourage an open mind and community-awareness with students preparing to spend spring break doing service. The week-long experience allows for increased immersion, continual reflection, and a potentially greater impact due to the length of time. Emphasizing open-mindedness and cultivating an attitude of curiosity are key for students about to undertake the service trip adventure. Having knowledgeable anticipation can lead to a fulfilling, organized, and productive end-result.

Resources

Information for students or faculty who want to create new alternative spring break experiences found at www.serve.gov.

America’s Natural & Cultural Resources Volunteer Portal- www. volunteer.gov/gov.

United Way lets college students spend spring break in Biloxi, MS in the United Way National Alternative Spring Break experience program.

Habitat for Humanity With their Collegiate Challenge, college students work during spring break helping to eliminate poverty housing.

Cross Cultural Solutions lets students immerse themselves in a variety of life changing experiences across the globe. Insight Abroad is their one-week trip program.

Projects Abroad provides students with meaningful spring break experiences in project areas ranging from construction to performing arts to archeology.

IERCEF- North Carolina database of study abroad service programs for students of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the state.

NobleHour - empowers students to connect with their communities. Currently there are no specfic “Alternative Spring Break” service opportunities, but there are many listings that students could engage in over their break, creating their own experience.

What are your plans for spring break?

Community Service: Helping Students Understand the Benefits

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan on Thu, Feb 20, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

Empowering NobleLeaders: Helping Students Understand the Benefits of Community Service 

Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan come together again to help lessen the disconnect between one-time Service Plunges (like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) and long-term community service and involvement. Given that hundreds of thousands of Americans participated in service on MLK day, “A Day On, Not a Day Off,” including many college students across the nation, we thought it might be helpful to discuss some tips and strategies for how to leverage the enthusiasm of such events. 

Helping students to understand the benefits of community service can be a great way to sustain their involvement. Community engagement has has the potential for deep reciprocal benefits as students learn to create positive change in the world, and make personal changes in the process.

For example, when I was in high school, I had volunteer experience that was so impactful that it led to my career choice. When I was 17 years old, a junior in high school, I thought I wanted to go into sports medicine or be a big time athletic trainer. In order to gain more service experience and with my mother’s encouragement, I traveled to Nicaragua on a medical service trip with a local church (that I had been to before but was not a member of) for spring break. Every year, the church organizes a Spring Break Youth Medical Mission and allows anyone in the community interested to come on the trip as long as there is room. I had never been out of the country nor had any health care experience, and had no idea what to expect. We stayed in Matagalpa, Nicaragua and traveled one to three hours daily to various rural communities to set up a daily, mobile clinic that consisted of a triage area, doctor and patient tables, pharmacy, and dental clinic. Fortunately, one of my high school soccer teammates was on the trip with me. We were able to bring down soccer balls and play with the kids at the end of each clinic day.

Throughout the week, I practiced my Spanish in triage, shadowed and assisted physicians during their patient interviews, sorted and collected prescriptions in the pharmacy, and witnessed universal gestures of graciousness that transcended language and cultural barriers. The physicians, nurses, and pharmacists on the team were incredible people and role models. They encouraged all the young people to pursue their dreams always with serving others in mind, as well as opened my eyes to the wonders of medicine. When I returned home I told my parents, “I’m going to be a physician in the United States for six months and practice medicine in a developing country the other six months.” That one week in Nicaragua changed my life. It gave me perspective and knowledge about how the majority of the world lives, in poverty without access to essential resources, not only to improve their well-being, but even just to survive. I realized how fortunate I was for my family, my access to education, and to live in the United States. I felt so energized and open at the end of the week, and determined to be a doctor so I could have experiences like that for the rest of my life and hopefully improve the well-being of many diverse people.

The feelings that I experienced while helping people in a healthcare setting seemed almost addictive, I became compelled to want to do more service and to devote my professional career to serving others. Since that first trip, I have been on four medical service trips to Central America and highly recommend any type of service trip (Medical, Construction, Public Health, Education, Environmental, Microfinance, Human Rights, Water) to a developing country to all students. Week-long service trips take volunteering to the next level, in fact, in our next post, we will discuss Spring Break Service Trips (also known as “alternative Spring Breaks”), specifically focusing on encouraging students to get involved and helping them to prepare for these potentially life-changing experiences.

One of the most effective approaches to transforming one-time-volunteers into students-committed-to-service is through reflection. In future posts we will be talking about the process of service reflection in much more detail. Today, though, we'd like to offer three quick tips for faculty to share with service-plunge students, in hopes of leading to their experiencing the same compelling draw towards service, as we've had (and we assume many of you have had as well, as that's likely a big part of why you are involved in service learning as part of your career).

  1. Each time you volunteer, take a few minutes to make notes about what you did, what you learned, and how the experience impacted you. This can be done on scraps of paper, in a personal journal, on your blog (if you have one), posted on social media sites (like Facebook), and NobleHour even has a “journal” feature for students to record their reflections.
  2. Engage in conversation with others to explain what you’ve been doing and why it’s important.  If you are in to photography, ask your supervisor if it’s okay for you to take photos while volunteering (as there may be strict rules requiring permission and releases) and if permitted, enjoy documenting your adventures in service. Again, if you are given permission, you may have fun posting these photos on your own website or blog, on a social media site (like Instagram), or using the “share” tool in NobleHour.
  3. Seek to learn more! Ask people at your volunteer site or service learning faculty at your school about opportunities for you to do similar work-- seek them out and get to know the people involved (attend events, set up informational interviews, and take the leap to attend other service activities).

For more information about how to help students to transform from participants of a one-time service plunge into long-term committed volunteers, leading lives of service, can be found in Don’t Just Count Your Hours, Make Your Hours Count: The Essential Guide to Volunteering and Community Service and by continuing to read our blog. Please be on the lookout for our next post discussing how to help students get involved in and prepare for Spring Break Service Trips.

Topics: service learning, volunteering, community engagement, higher ed, engagement, community service, MLK Day, MLK Day of Service, community service programs, higher education, alternative spring breaks

Empowering Noble Leaders: Service Learning and Community Engagement

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan on Mon, Feb 17, 2014 @ 01:00 PM

Empowering NobleLeaders through Service Learning and Community Engagement

Hello NobleHour community! We're happy to announce that Dr. Kristin Joos, UF faculty-member, and recent college graduate and service-oriented young professional, Liz Harlan, have teamed up to write for our new “Empowering NobleLeaders” blog series. They both found their passions through service learning and community engagement and are eager to educate, inspire, and empower others to do the same. This first post introduces Kristin and Liz, as well as the topics they'll be covering in upcoming blog posts. We're excited to have them on board. Welcome, Kristin and Liz!

A bit about Kristin:

I am the Coordinator of the Innovative Sustainability & Social Impact Initiative in the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation in the Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida. I also direct the Young Entrepreneurs for Leadership & Sustainability High School Summer Program at UF, the only summer program in existence where college-bound high school students learn and practice the skills of successful business and community leaders, while being inspired to solve social, environmental, and economic problems. 

As a high school student I participated in a youth organization where I learned the importance of community engagement; I was inspired by the director, a social entrepreneur, who challenged youth to risk their dreams and make a positive impact on society. We were exposed to a plethora of social problems and were encouraged to be part of the solutions. When I was 16 years old I was asked to speak in front of an audience of 2000+ people. I opened my speech with “So many times there is no peace outside our windows: extinction, pollution, unemployment, homelessness, racism, discrimination, disease, neglect, abuse... in our society the list goes on and on...” After early-admitting to college later that year, I decided not only did I want to learn how to solve social problems, I could have a bigger impact on the world if I educated others to do so as well.

I first learned of Social Entrepreneurship in 2000 when attending a conference for an international NGO, and met an Ashoka Fellow. At the time, I was completing my dissertation and studying high achieving teenagers who aspired to make a difference in their communities and the world. From then on, I was committed to dedicating my professional career to educating, inspiring, and empowering students to become changemakers. In 2005, I brought Social Entrepreneurship to UF. My current research and applied interests center around social entrepreneurship, sustainability, corporate social responsibility, service learning and community service, civic engagement, and creating positive social change. I am passionate about teaching and empowering students to use the skills and strategies of business to create innovative and sustainable solutions to social, environmental, and economic problems locally and around the world.

In 2006, I had the pleasure of being named Service Learning Professor of the Year at UF, because of the community service completed by my students. In fact, each year my students complete more than 1⁄4 of the UF President’s Goal of 1 Million minutes of service for all UF students. I am the author of Don't Just Count Your Hours, Make Your Hours Count: The Essential Guide to Volunteering & Community Service, a valuable resource for both service learning students and faculty and greatly appreciate the help of folks at the Corporation for National & Community Service, Campus Compact, and the National Youth Leadership Council.

I believe that education is a life-long process. In 2012 I participated in the International Social Entrepreneurship Programme at INSEAD. In 2013 I graduated from the AACSB PostDoc Bridge Program and was awarded Academic Scholar status. This spring, I will complete a Certificate in Social Entrepreneurship, sponsored by USASBE and the Kauffman Foundation and will also attend the Executive Program in Social Entrepreneurship at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

I delight in living in a historic home built in 1912. I find happiness in checking items off my never-ending to-do lists, practicing yoga, reading The Sun Magazine, supporting local farmers, learning to standup paddle board, and collecting quotable cards.

A bit about Liz:

I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Joos in high school with her Windows of Opportunity college and career advising program. In May of 2012, I graduated from Emory University with a B.S. in Anthropology and Human Biology and a minor in Global Health, Culture, & Society, and could not be more grateful to Dr. Joos for helping me in my acceptance to the perfect college fit.

My introduction to service began as a young child with two parents in the military. When I was not playing sports as a teenager, I loved to volunteer at my local library, homeless shelter, or middle school science summer camp. These volunteer experiences soon turned into ongoing community service activities. My mother believed spring breaks at the beach were too luxurious for high schoolers, so I traveled to Nicaragua on a medical service trip with a local church. I fell in love with medicine, other cultures, and decided I wanted to be a doctor. This led me to study Pre-Med and choose my major and minor at Emory, with professors who emphasized community engagement, taught courses in Community Based Service Learning, and urged us to reflect on everything from all perspectives. I was very involved in community service in Atlanta, as well as in Honduras and South Africa.

I value community service for the connections and relationships they create between people. All of my volunteer, internship, and community experiences recently helped grant me acceptance at the University of Florida College of Medicine. I am passionate about my future career of service. I balance work, family, traveling and staying active with helping at the Catholic Worker House in downtown Gainesville, Florida. As an independent and frugal adult, I am pursuing sustainable, local, and free ways to be fully immersed and involved in my community… and loving it!

A bit about the Empowering NobleLeaders Blog Series

We are thrilled to be working with NobleHour to help service learning faculty and community service coordinators find ways to get their students excited about volunteering, the benefits of long-term involvement in community service, and the personal transformation that often occurs. We will explore various topics, learning strategies, and community service programs on this blog, including social entrepreneurship, community service in higher education, how service helps both in college and a career, and leveraging community partnerships. Be on the lookout for our next blog coming soon highlighting how to leverage enthusiasm from MLK-Day service activities (or other Service Plunges) to maintain and sustain long-term involvement.

We're excited to launch this blog series and hope it helps you achieve your goals of engaging students with the community. Please let us know your favorite topics in the comments!

Topics: service learning, service, community service, sustainability, learning strategies, community service programs, social entrepreneurship, higher education, college, career, community partnerships, community service coordinators, community connections

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