Natasha Derezinski-Choo

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Back to School Bucket List: Volunteering & More

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 @ 03:24 PM

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

The end of summer is approaching.  For me, this also means that soon my senior year of high school will begin, and I am troubled by the question, how did we get here? When the topic enters conversation, I find myself reminiscing with friends about the past three years. We are all wondering, how did we get here? and where did all of that time go? However, the most important question is not about how we arrived, but, where do we go from here? and it is this issue that make senior year such a pinnacle part of high school.  So, in beginning to answer the question where do I go from here? I have put together a list of personal, academic, and lifestyle goals for this year.

  1. Be Myself: Personally, high school has been a time where I have explored what it means to be High school students must prioritize their goals.myself. Adolescence is a time when a person begins to become self-conscious, which can at times be difficult if this entails a decrease in confidence or the pressure to conform to social norms. However, when I began high school and started at a new school with new people, I started to shed my shyness and to act more like myself around others rather than follow what I believed was expected of me.  This year, as I finish the last year of high school and begin to make concrete decisions about where do I go from here? I plan to continue to work on being comfortable being myself and deciding how my actions can better reflect the type of person I want to be.

  2. Start a Volunteer-Based Club: Throughout high school, I have been involved in volunteerism, through both school clubs and community organizations.  This year, I am working on starting a club in my own school which will incorporate service work in which students will help each other students in our school community with completing writing assignments and learning proofreading skills. 

  3. Meet Someone New: I am always looking tomeet and interact with new people.  I have been going to school with the same group of people and have many good friends, but there are still people in our school community I do not recognize. Regardless of who your friends are now, new friends can still be made in unexpected ways, and I hope that this year I will continue old friendships and start some new ones too.

  4. Track Volunteer Hours: I began tracking my service-learning hours in high-school because of the service-learning diploma program in our district.  Since then, volunteering as become more than checking off a box. It has become a vital and meaningful part of my life, and hour-tracking is my way of looking at my impact on the community.  I plan to document all my hours before graduation to earn recognition for my service work and to view my progress over four years. 

  5. College Applications: This is pretty daunting process, but now there is no avoiding it.  My goal is to manage my time, submit the best representation of myself possible, and to avoid leaving everything to the last minute.

  6. Read More: Each year, school becomes more difficult and challenging.  I think I spend less and less time reading for leisure because of a demanding schedule.  Sometimes the large amount of reading I do for school takes away from reading I would like to do for myself.  However, I think there are many benefits to reading, and I am usually adding more books to the list of books I want to read than I am reading.  I want to make time for the leisure reading I once had time for daily.  (Check out some of these interesting reads on volunteerism and social good). 

  7. Say Thank You: The person I am today and the path my life will take after senior year is the culmination of the time and attention of many important mentors and teachers.  I intend to express or reiterate my appreciation to these people for helping me have a successful and fulfilling high school experience.

  8. Volunteering can make the school year more meaningful.Give Back: Since freshman year, volunteerismhas become an increasingly important part of my life.This goal goes along with the previous in that volunteering is a way of saying thank you by giving back to the community.  This year will be no different, and I will continue to volunteer and search for new organizations to engage my time with. 

  9. Cope with Stress: School is like a never-ending to-do list, and sometimes there are moments when it does not seem possible to complete everything in the time I have.  I am usually pretty good at managing stress. For me, the best way to manage stress is to realize that being overly anxious does not ameliorate a situation. Time management is also a way I effectively manage stress.  This year I want to expand my management of stress from a mental approach to a physical approach by exercising more and trying to be more balanced health-wise.

  10. Keep in Touch: After graduation, we will all begin to go our separate ways. With today’s technology and social media, keeping in contact with old friends is easier than ever. However, when I say “keep in touch,” I mean more than just the occasional “selfie” in my newsfeed. What I mean by “keep in touch” is having meaningful conversations and making sure not to lose contact with the people close to me. 

  11. Appreciate Each Moment: There are many events, traditions, and milestones that take place in high school; at our school this includes event such as spirit week, prom, senior tea, convocation, graduation, etc.  It will be the last or only chance to savour these memories, and I intend on making the best of each moment. 

What are your goals for this school year?  How do you plan achieve them? to calculate your progress? 
Share in the comments below. 

 

"Schoolgirl with books on head" by CollegeDegrees360 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Must-read books for volunteering & social good

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 @ 10:28 AM

Looking to learn about volunteering, activism and creating social change? Add these books to your reading list to learn more about the different ways you can use your time to help others and create social good.


1. 
Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists by Courtney E. Martin




martin_bookThis book explores the inspiring ways that young people are making a career out of making a difference.  Martin portrays eight young activists both as flawed, relatable people and extraordinary, inspiring, change makers.  She discards the traditional “save the world” and “feel-good” motivations for volunteerism.  Instead she approaches service with one question in mind: “How do you create a meaningful life?”

 

2. Building Powerful Community Organizations: A Personal Guide to Creating Groups that Can Solve Problems and Change the Worldby Michael Jacoby Brown
This guide provides a step-by-step process to starting your own community organization or non-profit, followed by case studies that better illustrate these steps.  In addition to starting a group, the book also explores how to address community issues. Most importantly, this book gives advice on how to be a leader.  From engaging volunteers to organizing meetings and raising funds, this book gives you all the tools and advice needed to empower a group of people to change their community. 

 

3. The (Help!) I-Don't-Have-Enough-Time Guide to Volunteer Management by Susan J. Ellis and Katherine Noyes

This easy-to-follow guide on volunteer management provides information about communicating roles and responsibilities to volunteers, utilizing volunteers’ talents, and building an organization’s success.  This book appeals to the busy lives of many people in the non-profit sector and emphasises time management and efficiency, particularly for volunteer managers whose work with volunteers in their spare time.

 

4. Chicken Soup for the Volunteer's Soul: Stories to Celebrate the Spirit of Courage, Caring and Communityby Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Arline McGraw Oberst, John T. Boal, Tom Lagana, and Laura Lagana

In this instalment of the well-known Chicken Soup for the Soul series, volunteers share their heartfelt stories and experiences. These stories come from everyday people who use their time and talents to impact their community. The volunteers who contributed to this collection work for a variety of organizations and dozens of causes, but a common thread among their stories is the capacity within each of us to care for one another.

 

5. Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, Orlanda Ruthven

This study looks at worldwide poverty and suggests solutions to this problem. Portfolios of the Poor dives into the everyday lives of some of the forty percent of the world’s population living on less than $2 a day.  The study emphasizes the use of microfinance and the solutions to poverty at a grassroots level. The authors attempt to analyze poverty from the point of view of the poor rather than generalized statistics and trends. This book also suggests solutions that non-profits can follow to help the poor help themselves.   

 

6. How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein

This book examines the rise of social entrepreneurship.  It offers case studies, personal stories, and analysis to explain how social entrepreneurship enables an individual to make an impact. In addition to explaining how social entrepreneurship works, Bornstein also explains how it is becoming more popular and why it is so important in our changing world. 

 

7. The Kid's Guide to Service Projects: Over 500 Service Ideas for Young People Who Want to Make a Difference by Barbara A. Lewis
This book is a great resource for educators.  It helps encourage young people to serve and helps those who aren’t sure where to start changing their community.  The book gives hundreds of project ideas and includes references and contacts to help students get started.  This service guide also has a “Ten Steps to Successful Service Projects” to help young people learn the basics of meaningful service and volunteerism. 

 

8. Getting to Maybe: How the World is Changedby Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman, and Michael Patton
This book explores how meaningful change can actually become feasible. The idea of one person affecting large, complex world issues can often seem impossible.  It’s not possible for every person to become a heroic leader in a movement.  However, that doesn’t mean one person cannot make a difference. The authors of this book explore the stories of people working toward visible progress and synthesize these stories and community relationships into guidelines for creating actual social change. 




9. The Insider’s Guide to the Peace Corps: What to Know Before You Go by Dillon Banerjee
Ever wonder what joining the Peace Corps is like?  This book answers nearly every question imaginable, including the application process, packing for your trip, how to adjust to living abroad, and the effectiveness of the Peace Corps as an organization.  The book is written in an easy-to-follow question-answer format and provides all the knowledge you might ever want to know about the Peace Corps from experienced volunteers themselves.



 

10. The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets that Change the Worldby John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan

Elkington and Hartigan argue that social entrepreneurs are helping the world progress by analyzing the stories of unconventional but successful social entrepreneurs. This book provides a look into the sector of the economy teetering between non-profits and businesses.  These companies apply the skills of entrepreneurship to find solutions to social issues. The book explains how these companies are changing the landscape of today’s economy.


 

11. Don't Just Count Your Hours, Make Your Hours Count by Dr. Kristin E. Joos Ph.D., Alana Rush 

The book includes best practices, tips, lists, "How to's", "Don't do's", popular wisdom, academic research, real-life experiences, student volunteer etiquette guides, and more. It is THE essential guide to volunteering & community service for students.

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Get Your Copy!

 

10 TED Talks that demonstrate the power of experiential learning

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 @ 03:55 PM


Service-learning and experiential learning can transform the way students absorb information by integrating real-world experiences with classroom lessons. Check out these TEDx talks that explore how service-learning is helping students understand social issues and empowering them to take action. 

 

  1. How to Learn? From Mistakes— Diana Laufenberg
    November 2011 at TEDxMidAtlantic
     
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    “If we continue to look at education as if it's about coming to school to get the information and not about experiential learning, empowering student voice and embracing failure, we're missing the mark.”

    Diana Laufenberg describes how projects that challenged her students to use what they learned in class to create and interact with the world were the most fruitful parts of their learning.  She describes assignments that she gives students, forcing them to interact with the world as a way of absorbing classroom topics.   In all of these assignments, Laufenberg emphasized the importance of allowing students to make and learn from mistakes as a powerful method of learning.


  1. Secrets of engagement based learning— Gever Tulley
    September 2012 at TEDxBratislava

    “Create a meaningful experience, and the learning will follow”

    Gever Tulley focuses on how education should be redesigned to create experiences rather than curriculum. In Tulley’s school, Brightworks in San Francisco, children learn by creating.  He outlines an experiential learning process: exploring ideas in the real world, creatively expressing their new knowledge, and sharing their learning with others.

 

  1. 3 rules to spark learning— Ramsey Musallam
    April 2013

    Ramsey Musallam is a high school science teacher who believes the role of educators is to spark creativity and inquiry in their students. He advocates for integrating technology into education to facilitate question-driven rather than content-driven learning. In his talk, he outlines three rules for educators: curiosity comes first, embrace the mess, and practice reflection. The learning process is nonlinear, and constant adaptation to students’ needs is necessary.  By following these three rules, educators fulfill the purpose of teaching: cultivating curiosity, inquiry, and imagination. 


  1. Service and schools -- partnership on purpose— Jim Kielsmeier
    August 2013 at TEDxFargo

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    "Meaning and purpose in one's life is not something that's given.  It's earned.  It's something that comes through significant service and contribution."

    Jim Kielsmeier is the Founder and President/CEO of the National Youth Leadership Council, and founder of the Center for Experiential Education and Service-Learning.  He talks about the history of service in American culture, and his work today bringing service to education.  He has dedicated his life to trying to figure out how to make service a ubiquitous part of growing up.  Kielsmeier describes service-learning as “a new way of thinking about young people.” Encouraging young people to enact positive change in their community in service-learning class settings is the “new way” of thinking about education.


  1. Kids, Take Charge— Kiran Sethi
    November 2009 at TEDIndia

    “If learning is embedded in real world context…then children go through a journey of: aware, where they can see the change; enable, be changed; and then empower, lead the change.”

    Kiran Sethi is an educator who inspires her students to live by two simple words: “I can.”  She does this through a teaching process that incorporates service with learning to show children the empowering quality of knowledge.  This style of learning correlates with better performance in school.  In her classes, she saw that “when children are empowered, not only do they do good [in the community], they do well [academically].”  She believes that teachers should challenge students to be positive change makers. In school, children should go from “the teacher told me to I am doing it.”



  2. The life-long learner— Ben Dunlap
    March 2007
    That irrepressible desire to know”

    Ben Dunlap shares how several mentors in his life have influenced him as a learner.  He emphasizes the importance of being a lifelong learner, of always seizing the moment as one that can be learned from.  Learning comes from education, but once a person is finished studying and begins working in the real world, learning continues as an amalgamation of experiences and interactions with the experiences of others.



  3. A camera for experiential learning— Shree Nayar
    November 2014 at TEDxColumbiaEngineeringSchool

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    Shree Nayar talks about a build-it-yourself kit called “Big Shot” to build your own camera.  The learner is exposed to all the scientific processes occurring in the camera from how batteries work to LED lights and from pixels to how the LDC screens displays the picture. It also looks into the steps that lead to capturing a picture with a camera.  Building this camera often leads to a new interest in science, but also leaves the learner with a fully functional camera to capture moments in his or her life.  As Nayar puts it, the product’s greatest asset as a tool for experiential learning is that “it allows you to juxtapose the sciences and the arts in a single learning experience.



  4. Experiential Learning Helps Both Students & Local Businesses— Fernando Padilla
    March 2012 at TEDxAshokaU

    Fernando Padilla describes how his experiences show that local businesses and schools can partner up to better local economies and students’ education. Students are paired with struggling local businesses and volunteer to help the business become more successful.  The local economy is strengthened.  The students bring knowledge and in turn get the satisfaction of helping someone. In addition, students gain valuable professional experience and start building networks—both of which will be useful when they begin searching for jobs after finishing school.



  5. The Future of Education without Coercion— Shawn Cornally
    June 2011 at TEDxEastPrep

    “Lets do something for real. Have them [students] come up with it. Let me help guide them.”

    Shawn Cornally proposes a new way of educating students and assessing their performance.  He believes the role of the teacher should change from one that give information and tests to one who gives a lesson and then challenges students to create something based on the knowledge they have gained.  The teacher acts as a guide for this creative process. Students learn by struggling with the information rather than memorizing it. 



  6. Bring on the learning revolution!— Sir Ken Robinson
    February 2010

    Screen_Shot_2014-07-21_at_2.09.04_PM

    “And every day, everywhere, our children spread their dreams beneath our feet. And we should tread softly.” 

    Sir Ken Robinson argues that education reform is not what we need. What we need is an education revolution.  The current education system is based on a standardized, industrial system.  However, what education should be is one that is personalized to local situations.  Education should follow a grassroots, “agricultural system” where each student can flourish in his or her school.


 

If you're looking to get the most out of experiential learning and service-learning, don't forget to integrate service reflections



 

Finding Fulfillment through Service-Learning Courses

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Jun 26, 2014 @ 01:39 PM

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

Around this time of year, high school graduates throw their graduation caps in the air, parents sob and wonder where the time has gone, and another generation begins their transition into adult life.  For those students whose post high school plans involve higher education, the time to register for classes is quickly approaching.  As students begin this new phase in their life and start thinking about their options for the first semester of college or university, service-learning should be a topic on their mind.  Including service-learning courses in your college experience enhances your knowledge in a subject, benefits the community, and bridges the gap between a university lecture hall and the world waiting outside.  

Students engage in service-learning.

Service-learning differs from plain volunteerism and community service. Unlike volunteerism, service-learning incorporates topics and concepts discussed in the classroom and applies them to real world problems.  Service-learning teaches through experiential learning.  Students are engaged by their teachers both in the course subject area and in the ways they are challenged to use this knowledge in the greater community.  Nazareth College, a place of higher education renowned for its commitment to including service in the education process, defines experiential learning as:

“Experiential learning is the process of making meaning from direct experience in a real world context. Experiential learning is a philosophy and methodology in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills and clarify values.  Facilitated and guided practice, reflection and evaluation are all essential components of this transformative method of learning.”

Service-learning is a unique educational tool and experience because it stimulates critical thinking and problem solving while also asking students to consider the consequences of their knowledge and their involvement in the community.  

Students who opt to take service-learning courses as part of their university experience are more fulfilled and engaged in class.  Students involved in service-learning are happier and more excited about their classes because they are involved in their learning and in critical thinking. Rather than just listening to lectures, students are engaged with the course material, their professors, classmates, and community.  Students are also allowed to explore and act upon their values and beliefs by making an impact in the community.  They develop critical thinking, problem solving, and research skills by using the knowledge they gain in the classroom to tackle real life issues.  By working with others and solving complex social issues, students develop leadership and interpersonal skills, which cannot be taught through lectures and tests.  By engaging students in a variety of settings, service-learning can build knowledge, character, and civic responsibility, which are useful both to the students enrolled in the course and the community they engage with.  

Download the Benefits of Service-Learning Infographic

Communities and organizations that partner with higher education institutions to develop service-learning curriculum benefit from the budding minds and dedication of young people.  Service-learning has a positive place in the community by dealing with unmet needs.  According to Campus Compact, a national coalition of more than 1,100 college and university presidents who are committed to fulfilling the public purpose of higher education, the top issues addressed through university service programs are K-12 education, hunger, housing and homelessness. Through service-learning, students interact with diverse groups of people and other cultures in their community.  By confronting these issues and developing service projects in their classes, students become more aware of social issues and causes.  They consider the causes and symptoms of these issues and how their actions can alleviate different facets of a concern in the community.  In service-learning courses, students are not just asked to consider new ideas in textbooks and notes but also the different viewpoints and positions of people in their community.  This allows them to be more empathetic towards others and to consider the impact that their actions in their personal, scholarly, and professional lives have on different groups in the community. Both in their course work and their free time, students learn to ensure a better future for themselves and take initiative in satisfying unmet needs in their community.  

Service-learning courses can have a positive impact on a student’s future and career.  Service-learning is a way of gaining professional experience, fulfilling university credit requirements, and strengthening one’s resume with service work.  In many service-learning courses, students will be able to get out of the classroom and network with professionals in their field as an integral part of the coursework. Starting to build these networks while still in school can help students find internships and jobs in the future.  The experience gained from service-learning classes provides a head start in the professional field and a valuable set of stories through which can help to demonstrate innovative thinking and dedication in applications or interviews.  Apart from its impact on a person’s professional life, hopefully a service driven education will be a meaningful experience that compels students to continue giving back to the community in the future.  

Congratulations to this year’s high school graduates. If you’re a student interested in service-learning, be sure to consider talking to your university adviser about service-learning courses and opportunities at your school. There are many colleges and universities that are engaged in service learning, and more courses are added every day. Expand the impact of your service-learning by connecting with local organizations and other students interested in creating social change.
Image used under Creative Commons License via Tulane Public Relations
 

 

Topics: service learning

A Case for Volunteering with Family

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Jun 12, 2014 @ 03:49 PM

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

As summer arrives and the school year comes to an end, there is time for families to spend more time together.  Many families look forward to going on vacation, going to the park, relaxing at the pool, or spending more time at home together. But what about spending more time volunteering in the community? This summer, as you put together plans for a fun and relaxing summer, be sure to set aside some time to volunteer as a family.  When families volunteer together, they increase the number of helping hands working to help others while also spending quality time together and strengthening their bond as a family.

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Volunteering as a family provides more help to the community, but it is also full of learning experiences and benefits for your family. When families volunteer together, they are able to gain greater insight into social issues.  Volunteering as a family often leads to more meaningful reflection after and during your volunteer project.  Around the dinner table or in the car ride home, families are more likely to engage in discussions that give perspective on the community issues they hope to tackle and how they can play a role in improving a situation.

Both children and adults can learn new skills from volunteering, or they can use the knowledge they already have and apply it to situations where they can make a positive impact.  By volunteering together, families also work on problem solving skills and communication.  This enables them to accomplish more as volunteers, but also helps families become more supportive as they transfer these conflict-resolution skills to their relationship as a family.  The benefits of volunteering as a family are important for all age groups, but the impact service can have on children also makes it a valuable parenting tool.

Children learn by doing, and volunteering helps reinforce positive behaviours and habits. Children who volunteer and observe their parents volunteering will be more likely to volunteer in the future.  In addition, volunteering has the capacity to enrich children’s learning and development. Volunteering helps improve self-esteem and social skills.  It shows children that they have the ability to make a positive impact. By learning to be comfortable working with others, children become more confident and start establishing leadership while still being humbled by the work they are doing.  They also learn responsibility, as they often will be assigned to work on a particular task during the course of a volunteer project. 

Children can also learn compassion through volunteering; in becoming more confident leaders and responsible individuals, they are compelled to treat others with kindness.  In addition to helping develop emotional health, volunteering can also increase physical health.  Furthermore, children who volunteer are also less likely to engage in at-risk behaviour as they grow up.  Volunteering as a family ensures that the next generation in a community will be both accountable and caring to others. 

When deciding how your family can help out in your community, it is important to find opportunities that interest everyone in the family. Volunteering should not feel like a chore; it should be something everyone enjoys.  To find volunteer opportunities in your community, consider the types of activities your family already enjoys and discuss as a family what important community issues you would like to tackle.  Different volunteer opportunities also serve to teach different lessons.  For example, if your family likes being active outdoors, outdoor clean-ups in parks, rivers, or beaches would be the best fit.  These types of service opportunities reinforce your family’s responsibility to the environment.  If your family is more interested in giving their time to people, working at food banks or homeless shelters and visiting nursing homes helps those in need in your community. 

Alternatively, if your family cannot agree on an opportunity, you can take turns supporting each other.  For example, if one family member wants to participate in a fundraiser, marathon, or sporting event, the other members of the family could find opportunities to help facilitate these events.  If some family members are more active and like to be the organizers and planers of a community project, the other family members can still be supportive by doing little things like stuffing envelopes, folding brochures, passing out flyers, or participating as volunteers on the day of the event.  However, what your family decides to do is not as important as the fact that you are doing it together.

When volunteering as a family, it is also important to have an open mind about your definition of family.  Family does not have to be confined to your immediate family nor to what others may consider to be the definition of family.  There’s no reason grandparents cannot volunteer with grandchildren or cousins cannot volunteer together.  In today’s world the meaning of family is becoming more open and complex than before.  In simple terms, family is the people you love and care about.  Volunteering serves to strengthen these relationships, and when we strengthen the relationships in our families, we reinforce the bonds at the root of our communities.

 

Image used through a Creative Commons License via vastateparksstaff

 

Topics: volunteering, community, opportunities

3 Social Issues Facing Millennials and Future Generations

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Wed, Jun 04, 2014 @ 11:58 AM

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

The lives and futures of Millennials are shaped by technological and environmental factors that no other generation has faced before. The technological advances that brought computers, cell phones, and the Internet into the homes of everyday people have changed the way we live our lives and interact with others. Changes in population and production have increased the standard of living in some countries, while also increasing the gap between the haves and the have-nots. These economic developments, along with advances in technology, have created a more globalized and interconnected world. 

Some of these changes have been positive and others negative, but our ability to meditate on our actions in the context of the future will shape how we expand positive changes and resolve the negative ones.   Though the future is uncertain, we can try to use our knowledge of the present to forecast the changes, advances, and difficulties of tomorrow. When we look into the future, we must consider how these changes and movements will shape the social issues that Millennials and future generations will have to confront.

Inequality: Inequality is a difficult problem that has existed throughout history and can manifest itself in a variety of settings. An article published in the Journal of Future Studies by Lorne Tepperman and James Curtis entitled “Social Problems of the Future” explains that “inequality is firmly entrenched in our society” because ideological, religious, cultural, and regional differences are a constant boundary resulting from generations of social rift. globe-peopleEconomic inequality is the most concerning form of inequality because, and as Tepperman and Curtis explain, in a globalized and industrialized world economy, the gap between the developed and developing world presents the greatest boundary to achievig social equality. Tepperman and Curtis predict that inequality is a virtually insoluble problem.

While it may be true that inequality is one of the most challenging and diverse issues of the future, the Millennial generation does possess some of the tools to tackle the problem of inequality. The Pew Research Center’s report “Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.” found that on the topic of inequality, “[t]he Millennial generation is somewhat more supportive of efforts to ensure equal rights than are members of older age groups.” It is predicted that Generation Z and future generations will be stronger advocates for equality. Given their technological prowess and purpose-driven work ethic, Millennials certainly have the tools, potential, and attitude to reduce inequality in our society.   

Environment: Threats to the safety of our environment are a growing problem. The rising global population and limits of earth’s ability to sustain such a large population is a growing concern for the future. While some regions are able to produce surpluses of food and necessities, others face scarcity and famine. The consequences of pollution and green house gas emissions from industrial activity and transpiration are a threat to the environment. nature-1364893805KIBAs Tepperman and Curtis explain, “Many scientists and theorists believe that unless changes are made today, environmental problems will become more severe and their consequences more intense in the future. Already, the world’s temperature has increased . . . [leading to] more frequent droughts and famines . . . higher rates of skin cancer, and more extreme weather.” Millennials are responsible for making immediate lifestyle changes that are friendly to the environment. Making these changes today will ensure that future generations will still have a planet they can appreciate and care for.

 

Technology: In recent history, technological advances have occurred at one of the fastest rates. From the development of the computer and the Internet to mapping of the human genome, these changes are weighted with both potential and responsibility. In response to recent advancements, Millennials will be faced with redefining ethical boundaries to consider issues such as genetic engineering in humans to internet privacy. Students_work_on_projectTechnology is also widening the amount of information available to people. In the future, it will be important for the next generation to harness technology to make knowledge more accessible, as knowledge is a source of empowerment and a way of reversing inequality. It will also be important to ensure the integrity of information and to make sure that the spread of ideas is not abused and saturated with unreliable or harmful information. In a world of social media, the realms of reality and identity are being challenged, as people are able to redefine themselves in the digital world. It will be important to use these social platforms as a way to increase communication and build healthier relationships rather than become a way of distorting reality and damaging human connection. Future generations will be handed a technology driven world, with the responsibility to use this technology to empower others and solve social issues.

Thinking about the future and trying to foresee its challenges is difficult and inexact task. However, the more we consider how our actions today will affect tomorrow, the more we are able to see that our willingness to implement change and social good will have a direct impact of solving foreseeable problems. Luckily, Millennials value volunteering and purpose-driven work. As one of the most civically engaged and technologically connected generations, Millennials have both the ability and responsibility to create a better world for the future. As Tepperman and Curtis write in their essay predicting issues of the future, “the goal of future studies is only partly to paint a picture of what life may be like for subsequent generations. Its more important task is to imagine a desirable alternative future for people to work towards, a future that is actively shaped by the decisions of people living today.”

Related:
Millennials Look for Meaningful Work

How Service & Service-Learning Spark Social Justice

 

 

Topics: youth impact, millennials, social justice

Why Students Should Track Service Hours

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Mon, May 19, 2014 @ 10:43 AM

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

When you demonstrate how much time you put into something, you show how much of yourself you are willing to give for it.  Tracking hours is the simplest, most efficient, and most accessible way to demonstrate your community engaemenet and show what is important to you.  Hour tracking is a valuable tool for any volunteer because it allows you to keep a record of your progress and hard work.

Students can keep track of their volunteer hours for scholarships, awards, reflection and other purposes.

Particularly for students, hour tracking helps display your volunteerism for college admissions, scholarships, grants, and leadership opportunities.  For students with packed schedules, keeping track of these hours is the easiest way to prevent leaving out your accomplishments on applications.  Additionally, having more hours to show will help you stand out among other applicants, as well as help provide inspiration and substance for application essays. By taking a few minutes to enter each activity, you save yourself time and stress in the long run, as trying to remember and count all your volunteer work after several years is difficult.  Using tools like NobleHour saves you the trouble of having to go through school records or forms to verify your volunteer work.  Once you track your hours online, they are saved and you can share them at anytime.

"There are some hours that I didn’t log, but I did keep track of a lot of them because it made me feel happy for helping out and seeing how much I’ve contributed. I think [tracking hours] is pretty valuable because it allows you to see how much you’re doing, encourage you to work for more, and just be able to be organized about what you are doing.  It’s cool because you can see what you’ve contributed to what area.  For example, I’ve done a lot of service work at nursing homes and with the elderly, but not as much with the youth.  The hour tracking allows me to get a full grasp of that," said Tiffany, a senior at Grimsley High School. Tiffany enjoys volunteering and has tracked 293 hours in the past three years.

Altruistic volunteers may see tracking hours as a mere vanity.  However, this certainly is not the case. For civically engaged young people, service is done to the beating of their hearts not to the ticking of a stopwatch.  Fear that their natural compulsion to serve may be masked by numbers leads some students to feel that counting their service hours cheapens the work they have done.  However, tracking volunteer hours is not egotistic or selfish.  It is simply another way of showing your dedication and commitment to a particular cause or to volunteerism in general.  Sometimes seeing the amount of time put into a cause helps you reflect on why it was important to get involved, who benefited from the time you gave, what you learned from your hours of experience, and why you will continue to serve.  Showing how much time you have put into your community also shows your passion for service, and helps the organization you work with understand its impact.  

9675_72608_Gcvb7SgK5nOIN9K_gcs_impact_400x460_thumb"I am not keeping track of hours for a reward.  I just like to see what areas I have done a lot of work in and areas I could work to improve my community more.  I think tracking hours could definitely be something that people do for an award, but personally, I am able to not think about that.  I’ve received certificates thanking me for service, but hour tracking doesn’t affect meaning.  It allows you to visualize.  It’s truly not about how many hours you do, but how you use them and the difference you make.  I just see the hours tracking as a tool for organization," Tiffany said.

Though you may not feel that you will need to keep track of your hours, you never know down the road when you will need a record of the work you have done.  Even if you have already completed the required number of hours for school or awards, it helps to continue the practice of tracking hours because it shows how you have grown through helping your community and how you continue to pledge your time to others.  Having a holistic record of your volunteer hours attests to your leadership abilities, your investment in the community, and the value of your time and energy. 

Keeping records of volunteer hours allows students to manage their time and reflect on the lessons they have learned from volunteering.  It also keeps students accountable by safeguarding records and verification of the hours completed.  Start tracking your Noble Impact ™ today.

 

Topics: service learning, volunteering, community engagement, college admissions

Stay Sane During Exams! Tips for Students

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Mon, May 12, 2014 @ 01:30 PM

Exams are around the corner. Dreading having to buckle down and study? Here are some tips to keeping sane and doing your very best on those exams.

Of course, the best way to do well on an exam is to work all year or semester to master the material.  By being prepared for class, taking good notes, and regularly reviewing the material, you’ll ensure you won’t have to cram everything just before the exam.  Learning the material in increments is the best way to study.  Ideally, the time right before exams should be used to review everything you’ve learned and to go back over concepts you’ve had difficulty with or don’t remember as well.  It should not be the time to start learning the course material.

A little planning can help students get more from studying.

In the weeks that approach exam time, planning and organizing your time will reduce stress and maximize the time you have to study. Time management is the best way to avoid procrastination and all-night cramming.  Make a calendar of your exam schedule and map out when and where would be the best time to study for each exam.  If you prefer to study in a group, talk with your classmates ahead of time to best plan your study sessions around each other’s schedules.  If you want to have a quiet space to study, consider reserving a space at your library in advance.  Try to give yourself enough time to review for each exam, and consider which classes have been giving you the most trouble – you might want to have extra time to review for those.

Your time isn’t all you should organize. Make sure you have all the materials you need to make the best of your study time. Keeping your notes organized throughout the semester will save a lot of valuable study time.  If you plan on purchasing review books or practice materials, do so in advance as it becomes more difficult to find them during exam time.  Having review materials in advance will prompt you to study in advance, and sometimes getting these materials in the beginning of the course can help you prepare more throughout the semester. 

work

Trying to put together and remember months of information can be overwhelming. Breaking down the information into larger concepts ideas and then narrowing in on the details is the best way to pull together and synthesize everything you have learned.  When reviewing your notes, create an outline of the material. If you are a visual person, create graphic organizers, drawings or flow charts to reorganize your thoughts. Condense each chapter, or (if possible) the entire curriculum, onto one page by naming topics, concepts, or events.  Include key dates, formulas, and vocabulary on your study sheet.  Group common ideas together or color code your review sheet to help you remember the ideas.  Once you have outlined and reviewed all your notes, go back to your outline and star or highlight difficult or important concepts that you need to review again in detail.  This exercise helps you synthesize the information and makes it more accessible by laying it all out on one page.  If you really take your time with this, usually just reorganizing the information can help you to remember it. You may find you won’t have to review your entire outline, but only need to go back over those concepts you identified as needing extra attention. 

Another way to review information is to self-test. Look for practice questions in textbooks, review books, or homework problem sets. The Internet is overflowing with practice questions, sample exams, and online flashcards to test your knowledge.  You could also try writing questions for yourself as you read through your notes. Ask someone to quiz you on the information if you are studying with others. Making flashcards or using flashcard apps like Quizlet.com are other ways to test your knowledge.  Studying with groups can also be helpful.  This gives you the opportunity to ask for help from your peers.  In addition, often the best way to retain information is by teaching it to someone else. Recalling the information, organizing your thoughts, and verbalizing it is the best ways to memorize something. If you prefer to study alone, you should still try this exercise of retelling the information in your own words by grabbing a sibling, friend, or relative to pretend to be your student. Don’t be afraid to try talking to yourself while studying, though you may want to avoid being around other people for this one. 

There is no one definitive way to study, but hopefully some of these tips give you some ideas on how you can approach your next exam. You alone know how you learn best, so try out different ways of studying until you find what combination of review techniques works best for you. 

Exam time can be an overwhelming and stressful time. Creating schedules and managing your is one way to cut down stress.  Shut off phones and social media to help you focus.  There are several apps that you can add to turn off distractions on your computer or phone.  When you know your game plan ahead of time, studying becomes less overwhelming.  If you’re having difficulty with something, step back and focus on something else or take a break.  Exercise can help to reduce stress and clear your head.  Eating a healthy and well balanced diet will keep you energized and help you focus.  Listening to music or talking to someone about your stress can help you cope with stress. Most importantly, avoid comparing yourself to others.  Focus on what you need to do to do your best.

After all your hard work studying, the day of the exam will finally come, and hopefully you feel confident and prepared.  Familiarize yourself with the testing location beforehand if it is not at your school, and give yourself extra time to get there. The night before, check what materials you may need and have these ready ahead of time.  Set your alarm, or perhaps multiple. Get a good night’s sleep and eat a good breakfast. Hydration is also important and can improve your testing performance.  

Trying to cram and review right before an exam will only cause you more anxiety and cause you to forget things.  Sometimes you have to accept that you have done everything you could to prepare yourself, and hopefully you will feel confident entering the exam.  Best of luck!

Topics: education, k12, highered, Exams, Finals

Getting Students Excited for Service

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Apr 29, 2014 @ 10:00 AM

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

A more caring world would be comprised of more people using their time to improve their community.  However many people do not feel motivated to serve.  The best way to overcome this obstacle is to instil a sense of obligation to one’s community at an early age.  Motivating young people to volunteer can seem daunting at first because teens are perceived as being apathetic and selfish.  However, with the correct approach, bringing out the compassionate side in teens is less challenging than it may seem.  To encourage young people to become civically engaged, you must first appeal to their interests by listening and guiding them toward service opportunities that they will learn and grow from the most.  Motivating students to serve is less challenging than it seems.

Becoming influential in young people’s lives means earning their respect. Students will be more open to your ideas if you become relatable without being artificial.  Trying to relate to young people by pretending to be one of them will only have their eyes rolling at you. Treat them as you would anyone else, and be yourself.  Young people want to feel that your energy and enthusiasm is a genuine part of who you are.  They don’t want to hear a sales-pitch type speech about volunteerism that blatantly attempts to appeal a younger generation.  To do this you must break the predisposition that adults don’t trust teens and vice versa.  

Though seemingly counterintuitive, young people will sooner respect and follow you if you treat them as an equal.  Show them you are someone they want to respect and listen to rather than someone they must follow.  An important step in establishing this relationship is so engage them in meaningful conversation. Using authoritative language full of rigid directions and procedures is ineffective because in truth, no one really likes being told what to do.  People like to hear about new ideas and then with their own sense of agency decide to act upon those ideas and movements.  Avoid clichés and present the platform of volunteerism as an exciting, new idea by showing how it can be innovative and meaningful. Once you have earned the trust and respect of a group of young people, you’ll be ready to engage them and help them make the most of their service experiences.  

As an advisor and mentor to young people, encouraging them to serve means being a resource and guide to their service projects.  Students are driven to work for causes that they are interested in, so rather than handing them a project, talk to them and coach them through what they think is needed in the community and how they believe they can help. Though they may be initially motivated by an incentive to volunteer the goal is that gradually students will become more inclined to volunteer out of personal interest and growth - rather than just a reward.  You can help students develop this inclination to volunteer by guiding them to find opportunities that align with their interests.  Listen attentively and show them ways they can become involved with nonprofits or start their own service initiatives that cater to their interests.  Students are impacted personally more by the one-on-one conversations they have with mentors and teachers than large, wholesale speeches and lectures.  Getting to know a student can help you be a better resource to them in finding service opportunities.  

The main goal of motivating students to serve is to make service fit with their lives rather than forcing it on them.  You earn their trust and respect by being genuine, relatable, and an attentive listener. Often students feel unenthusiastic about service because they don’t really feel they can make an impact; they think they do not have a say in the things they’d like to change in their community.  Intrinsically, most students want to exercise their voice in the community, but don’t realize they have the power. Volunteering helps students understand ways they can make a difference.

Additionally, when a student feels stuck, help break down a project into small tasks.  Try to understand what they are interested in changing and show them that this can be achieved by asking them to break up a project into smaller steps.  Short-term goals are easier to digest than big-picture ideas.  Showing students that service is an accessible way to make a difference is one of the best motivators.  Check in with students periodically on the progress of their service projects and remind them that their work is appreciated.  Showing appreciation for a volunteer’s work helps to maintain that trust and respect that was initially built to get them involved.  

Encouraging students to volunteer means first gaining their attention and respect.  Incentives may help catalyze a student’s service, but individualized attention and guidance will help motivate them to become life-long volunteers.  Getting students to work with other people their own age also helps motivate them to serve.  In the end, fostering a culture of service and instilling in each individual the desire to work for something greater than themselves starts with making change-making more accessible.  Showing young people that by applying their knowledge and passion, they already have the tools to make a difference is the best way to ensure volunteerism begins and continues to give them purpose in life.  

Topics: service learning, volunteering, k12, millennials, leadership, engaged learning, social entrepreneurship, higher education, community service coordinators, experiential learning

The power of experience: How service-learning transforms education

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Apr 24, 2014 @ 10:03 AM

 

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


“We have to realize that sitting in a classroom is not the only way you learn, and it’s certainly not the best way you learn.”

 

Recently, I shared how Brenda Elliott-Johnson, along with her Character Development team, is successfully leading a growing service-learning movement in her school district.  Elliott-Johnson is the Executive Director of Student Services and Character Development for Guilford County Schools and the 2014 recipient of the G. Bernard Gill Urban Service-Learning Award.  

 

This week, in part two of my interview, Elliott-Johnson shares the power of service-learning as a tool for educators. In response, I share my experiences as a student involved in service-learning.

 

Natasha: What would you might say to someone who is critical of the value of service-learning?


Elliott-Johnson:
Sometimes the community and the world has a perception that our youth are sitting around playing video games, watching television, going to the mall, or looking in the mirror - caring about themselves. So, I just don’t understand anyone who would be against young people using what they have learned in school to improve their schools and their community. 

One of the things about the service-learning in Guilford County is that it is optional.  We understand that many of our young people have really full, active lives and may not really see this as something that they really have a passion for, or time for.  We have 72,000 children in our school district.  This isn’t going to be the thing that every child wants to do. 

We do believe that our teachers should be using this as an instructional strategy in classrooms because it is a research-based strategy that increases student engagement, reduces discipline and improves attendance. We hope that students that are doing this don’t just want to get an award, but that they have a passion around an issue and they are committed to solving that issue. 

What we try to do in the elementary and middle school levels is build that passion for the [service] work, so it’s natural for them to have a passion for serving their communities in high school.  That’s our goal.  We intentionally made sure it was optional just for that reason.  We didn’t want people to feel obligated to serve.  We wanted people to do this because this is what they are passionate about.   


Natasha: You talked about innovation and problem solving.  Do you remember a specific time or example when you saw a student really grow or something just clicked when they did service-learning?

Elliott-Johnson: We read a lot of the reflections that youth write about their experiences. [At] the middle school down the street, one of their English teachers lead a global awareness project in connecting students to another country that she had actually spent time in as a Peace Corps volunteer.  Those students wrote letters back and forth, and ended up actually writing books for the students there because one of the issues is that they don’t have books. 

Another example - we have students who are developing tutoring programs.  They are helping us address issues of literacy; they are helping us to address achievement gap issues.  [In] one of my favorite projects, we had students lead a senior project called “Malaria Sucks” which was an initiative to purchase and distribute netting in a country with a lot of deaths and illnesses from malaria.  I just see this as the world being opened up to a lot of students.  We have a responsibility as global citizens to help each other.  



Natasha: You described service-learning as an educational tool. Now, this seems to be a point of confusion for some people: the difference between volunteerism and service-learning.  How would you clarify or define what service-learning means?

Elliott-Johnson: When you look at high quality service-learning, when we are talking about service-learning being used as an instructional strategy, we’re talking about a teacher using it as a strategy to teach content in the classroom.  In the classroom it should be a very good balance between the learning and the serving.   

We have to realize that sitting in a classroom is not the only way you learn, and it’s certainly not the best way you learn.  You learn by doing.  Experiential learning is the best learning.  
 


As a student, speaking with Brenda Elliott-Johnson was inspiring. I got to see how educators are finding innovative ways to improve education through service-learning.  She stressed the importance of learning real-world applications and skills through service. Elliott-Johnson believes that service teaches “big picture skills” such as critical thinking and teamwork, and also helps build empathy, reflection, and oral and written communication skills. She sees service as a way to build persistence and global awareness.  Her passion for improving education through service has resulted in the growing success of Guilford County Schools' service-learning program.  For students, this program is opening doors and eyes, which otherwise would remain closed in the classroom. As a student, I personally can attest to the power of learning through service.  

Halfway through grade nine, our guidence counselor visited my English class to talk about opportunities in high school and our future.  What stood out to me most during this session was a story he told about what may happen to a student participating in service-learning.  In the story, a student interested in science starts volunteering at a local hospital.  In time, the student gains insight into the medical field and might even take on a small part time position at the hospital. This experience helps him to grow as an individual and become an engaged member of his community.  With this experience in hand, when the time comes to apply for college, this student has built an interest in medicine upon real-life experiences.  Students engaged in service-learning form connections and learn real-world skills.

After hearing this promising story, I decided to find out more about the service-learning program.  I started with volunteering at the library two hours a week to meet the monthly goals I'd set for myself.  From there, I was exposed to other exciting extracurricular and service-learning opportunities where experience and connections started becoming my most prized tools.  I'd become aware of the possibilities available to me, and my volunteer work became about more than counting hours and a piece of paper at graduation.

Spending a few hours sorting books at the library snowballed a whole new chapter in my life centered around service-learning.  I became involved with other nonprofits and service events, joined youth leadership and service organizations, and learned the value of being an engaged member of the community.  I became more outgoing and a better risk-taker.  While engaged in service, I interact with people from different backgrounds and age groups.  I developed better oral and written communication skills, and the confidence to make myself not just seen, but also heard.  

In short, my life has taken a turn similar to that of the student our counselor described to us.  Because of the work of people like Brenda Elliott-Johnson do in the field of service learning, pushing students to solve community problems and apply themselves to more than just school work, I have grown and matured. I have learned more from the opportunities presented by service-learning than from any other experience in my teen and adolescent years.  
 

How have you seen service-learning change your own live or that of someone else’s? 

 

Download the Benefits of Service-Learning Infographic

 

 

 

Topics: engaged learning, service learning, k12, community engagement, experiential learning, leadership, learning strategies

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