This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.
We have a responsibility to keep the earth healthy. Here are some simple steps you can take each day to improve the environment, and in addition, some ideas and service projects for sharing these changes with your community.
Skip Paper AND Plastic: One of life’s everyday questions: should you take your groceries home in a paper or plastic bag? It’s one of those decisions we routinely make at the check out line, and it’s an example of how our everyday choices can impact the environment. The truth is neither paper nor plastic is better for the environment. A better alternative is to purchase a few reusable grocery bags. These are inexpensive and can be found at almost any grocery store. Stashing a few of these in your car and remembering to bring them into the store with you is one a simple, sustainable way you can be more environmentally conscious.
Service Project Idea: Educate members of your community about the impact of paper and plastic bags on the environment, and encourage them to use reusable bags as an alternative.
Reduce Junk Mail: According to 41pounds.org, “The average adult receives 41 pounds of mail each year. 44% goes to the landfill unopened.” Each year, this process results in 100 million trees cut down, 20 billion gallons of water wasted, and 2 billion tons of carbon emitted to produced and transport junk mail. Adding your name to opt-out lists is a simple way to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. You’ll save time and trees while doing so.
Community Initiative Idea: Work with your local community to see how you can reduce junk mail. Encourage your city to organize a mail preference service so residents can easily opt out of junk mail. Read more about how some cities are helping the environment by reducing junk mail here.
Conserve Water: Water is a precious resource. The water crisis affects the quality of life of millions of people. In developing countries where clean water is scarce, women in particular are impacted because they need to walk for hours to collect clean water and carry it back. This deprives them of time that could be used for education or work. In addition, once water is polluted with chemicals from manufacturing plants and industrial farm fertilizer runoff, it is difficult to separate the clean water from the pollutants. Water.org has more information about the importance of clean water. Conserving water is not just about appreciating having clean water; it is also an important step in making sure our planet can continue to sustain the human population. Imagine a day without water, and you’ll see how important it is to preserve this resource for generations to come.
Improving Your Habits: Take simple small steps in your routine to reduce your water consumption. This might entail taking shorter showers, watering plants only when needed, or plugging the sink to rinse your razor instead of letting the water run. Find over 100 more water-saving tips at wateruseitwisely.com.
Recycle: Recycling seems like a no-brainer when it comes to sustainability. The National Park Service reports that “Americans represent 5% of the world’s population, but generate 30% of the world’s garbage.” Reducing waste improves water and air quality, saves money, and reduces the effects of global warming.
Service Project Idea: While recycling is good, not all materials can be recycled. This depends on the capabilities of your local recycling plant. When the wrong plastic is found in a load of recyclables, the whole batch is sometimes discarded, which defeats the purpose of recycling. Check with your local government and inform yourself on what is and is not accepted in recycling bins. Then, take this information to your community by educating people on how to maximize the benefits of recycling.
Service Project Idea: Construct bat houses around your community in parks and schools to teach students and neighbours about the importance of bats in the ecosystem.
Create Birdhouses: The same idea applies here as with bat houses. Restoring birds’ habitats is a great way to improve your local environment. Here are some resources about starting birdhouses in you backyards, neighborhoods, parks, and schools: http://www.freebirdhouseplans.net/ and http://www.birdsforever.com/.
Service-Learning Application: Incorporate this lesson into classrooms by studying the necessities of nesting and the types of birds found in your area. Then, set up a birdhouse so that students can see these birds first-hand.
Plant Trees: Trees are important to the environment. They clean the air and produce oxygen for us to breathe. Trees are often cut down to build buildings, parking lots, and roads, so restoring trees is important to any environment.
Service Project Idea: Organize a tree-planting day where you and a group of volunteers plant trees in your community.
What do you think is the most important reason to preserve our environment? Share your environmentally-friendly service-initiatives on NobleHour to connect with volunteers, schools and organizations interested helping with your cause.
You enjoyed Thanksgiving with all of your relatives from near and far. Maybe you braved the crowds and lines for Black Friday sales. Then, you managed to squeeze in a few minutes to capture some Cyber Monday deals. But today, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving is the real day to make a difference. I’m not talking about a putting a dent in your gift list with more items on sale. I’m talking about making a real impact in the lives of people and organizations that truly need your help. It’s called #Giving Tuesday. Started by the non-profit community and cultural center, 92nd Street Y (92Y), along with the United Nations Foundation and a core group of founding partners, #GivingTuesday is a national day of giving at the start of the holiday season.
The event builds on the American tradition of giving back by using technology to make a greater impact. The success of last year’s first #Giving Tuesday prompted thousands of international and local non-profits, as well as civic minded corporations to join the movement. By harnessing the power of social media, the day is dedicated to helping everyone realize that they have the power to make a difference in someone’s life - to bring about real change in communities around the world.
More than 7,000 partners in all 50 states and around the world are taking part in the second annual event to refocus on giving thanks and giving back. Partners are large corporations and small businesses, faith-based organizations and secular nonprofits. If you don’t have a specific charity in mind, you can go to the #Giving Tuesday website and sort by the type of organization or look for charities by state. There’s every imaginable charity involved.
You can sort by your interests in arts, culture, animals, health, the environment, education, human services, or research and science. You can also choose to support local community groups, religious organizations, schools and universities, large or small companies, government agencies, and various projects sponsored by groups around the world.
With so many charities competing for your donation, you may want to research the organizations on Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau. Charity Navigator provides an unbiased, objective, numbers-based rating system to assess over 6,000 of America's charities. The non-profit organization also provides a list of giving tips to help you when choosing a charity.
Still not sure where to begin? Think about how you want to make an impact. Believe it or not you can make a difference in a family’s life with $20 or less. Many of the organizations participating have catalogs with gifts ranging in price from $10 to thousands of dollars. Many work to end hunger, supply clean water, provide shelter, or assist people with starting their own business. Some provide disaster relief. Others help protect wildlife.
Here are just ten of the thousands of organizations participating in #Giving Tuesday.
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Their catalog offers choices that make a difference starting at just $16. Gifts include clothing and jewelry that fund small business loans for entrepreneurs; goats that can nourish a hungry family, as well as provide income from surplus milk; and food kits to feed families in need.
Feeding America helps provide fresh, healthy food for people facing hunger every day. Your gift of nutritious food like apples, peanut butter, rice, cheese, broccoli, oatmeal, bananas, and chicken can help families in communities across the country struggling with hunger.
Millennium Promise works to eradicate extreme poverty, hunger, and preventable disease by empowering communities to help themselves. Your donation can provide nutritious meals to children at school, skilled attendants to help mothers giving birth, clean water supplies, and it can help farmers grow more food to eat and sell.
The American Red Cross provides disaster relief around the world. Their catalog includes items like hot meals, blankets, emergency shelter, vaccinations and first aid workers for those affected by disaster.
Mercy Corps helps people survive crises in some of the world’s toughest places. They help those affected confront and turn their situations into opportunities to thrive. Gifts in the Mercy Corps catalog range in price from under $50 to over $200 and help men and women in villages around the world earn an income. For as little as $18, you can buy a mosquito net or buy seeds for a family. You can give a sewing machine, outfit a classroom, fund a mobile health unit, or help start a fish hatchery. You can even buy a Yak, which can carry loads in mountainous areas, and produce valuable milk, as well as wool for blankets and clothing.
Save the Children gives children in the U.S. and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. Give joy and lasting change to a child when you choose from over 60 gifts in seven different categories, ranging from health and emergency relief, to animals, sports and education, and water and agriculture.
World Wildlife Fund is an international organization that works in collaboration with existing conservation groups to bring substantial financial support to the conservation movement on a worldwide scale. Their catalog includes t-shirts, calendars, greeting cards, ornaments, etc. For $50, you can symbolically adopt a species. Your gift supports WWF's global efforts to protect wild animals and their habitats.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to save and improve children's lives. Help save children’s lives by giving blankets, vaccinations, purifying water tablets and gifts that support causes like emergencies, food, school transportation, and winter survival packs. Items as low as $6.72 include The Eat & Run bundle that combines Micronutrient Powder and a Soccer Ball to keep a vulnerable child healthy and happy. Gifts under $25 include vaccine carriers that can keep dozens of vaccine vials at the right temperature for 38 hours, even in scorching hot weather.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is on the ground in more than 40 countries, including the U.S., providing emergency relief, relocating refugees, and rebuilding lives in the wake of disaster. Their rescue gifts include providing a year of education for a young girl for only $56, clean water for $110, a honeybee harvest kit for $72 and for only $45 you can comfort children caught in crisis by sending them teddy bears.
If you want to volunteer in addition to donating funds, but not sure where to start, visit NobleHour, a small company with a big mission to provide an online platform that enables and facilitates community engagement. Companies can create free profiles for their organization and get the word out about themselves, as well as find help by posting volunteer opportunities for free. NobleHour helps school districts, colleges, universities, non-profits, and businesses throughout the US and Canada track and measure service-learning, volunteering, and community service initiatives.
The company was started in 2005 by a student looking for a way to find service opportunities in his area. It grew from a simple online database of service opportunities to over 35,000 active users, over 3,000 organizations, and over 3,000 opportunity listings. Since their relaunch in 2012, users have tracked close to three million service hours, with an economic impact of $62,000,000.
So whether you just want to donate in your name, you’re looking for the perfect gift for someone who has everything, or you want to volunteer, #Giving Tuesday is the perfect opportunity to be generous with others and embrace the true meaning of the holidays. What are you going to give today? Share your gift list with us!
The holidays are upon us. As we approach the days of festive get-togethers, parties, and dinners, we sometimes complain that we overindulge. However, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), shockingly there are approximately 49 million people in the United States, including nearly 16 million children, who live at risk of hunger everyday.
According to the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD), the faces of hunger are changing. Often those in need are employed, are veterans, children and seniors. In Cook County alone, the numbers are startling. One in six Chicagoans faces hunger every day. Thirty seven percent of the people GCFD serves are children under 18. Six percent are the homeless.
It is getting harder for families to make ends meet. Some are skipping meals or cutting back on the quality or quantity of food they purchase. In fact, the GCFD reports 47% of households say they have to choose between paying for food and utilities, while another 44% report choosing between paying for food and rent or mortgage.
This time of year, there’s a big push to increase food donations for the holidays. Students in elementary and high schools, as well as universities throughout the country are coming together to collect thousands and thousands of pounds of non-perishable items.
In Chicago, the NBA Bulls, along with sponsors Vienna Beef and Midway Moving and Storage, host a food drive contest for Chicago Public Schools. The contest runs the month of November and benefits the Greater Chicago Food Depository. The overall goal is to raise 50,000 pounds of food. According to Hillary Thomas, Community Relations Coordinator for the Chicago Bulls, the school collecting the highest weight will receive 100 tickets to the Chicago Bulls versus Orlando Magic game.
Area food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens rely heavily on the GCFD. Their campaign, No One Should Go Hungry is a simple, yet powerful message, highlighting the fact they have just 1 Goal, 1 Mission - To Fight Hunger 1 Dollar, 1 Meal, 1 Person at a Time, until the day that no one goes hungry. This year’s One City, One Food Drive goal is to collect one million pounds of food.
Food depositories cannot accomplish their goals alone. They need active volunteers of all ages to help in their mission. At the GCFD, volunteers are always needed to load trucks, pick up and deliver produce, check orders, help out with special events and help pick up and deliver donations from food shows. They can also volunteer at member pantries or soup kitchens.
While students are home for break or off for the holidays, a great community service activity is to volunteer at the food depository. School groups, service clubs, and individuals can help repack bulk food products into individual/family sizes. The food depository posts their volunteer schedule four months in advance so groups can plan ahead to sign up. Participants must be at least 14. If you want to get your children involved at an early age, younger kids can participate on special “kids days” with adult supervision.
Feeding America, a leading domestic hunger-relief charity, works to feed the country’s hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks. They are teaming up with The United Nation’s World Food Programme and the new Hunger Games Catching Fire release this month to #IgniteThe Fight against hunger.
The Hunger Games website educates fans about global hunger and encourages donations for both organizations. Fans can help by sharing the information through social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or they can Tweet about hunger using #IgniteTheFight.
In addition, Feeding America encourages community engagement by using social media in a variety of ways. One unique option is to be a virtual volunteer. Students can "spread the word" and promote social good and awareness through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and You Tube.
Make sure to also visit the Child Hunger Ends Here/ Most Thankful State Facebook page. For each card created through 12/31/13 the ConAgra Foods Foundation will make a monetary donation to provide one meal (up to a maximum of 500,000 meals) through Feeding America's network of food banks. The state that creates the most cards will receive an additional food donation equivalent to $50,000.
In keeping with the virtual theme, today’s tech savvy kids and young adults, can also host virtual food drives. Whether your son or daughter needs to complete a community service project or their club wants to highlight their community engagement, the Virtual Food Drive is simple to coordinate and through the use of social media, students create awareness about the issue of hunger, as well as raise funds to support Feeding America. Just set a fundraising goal, create a page by answering a few simple questions and ask others to donate using the online tools provided.
The virtual food drive is a great way for colleges to get their students involved. For the sixth year in a row, Cal State San Marcos, UC San Diego and San Diego State University students teamed up with the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego to gather money and food donations for needy families as part of the "Colleges Rock Hunger" food drive. All three universities used virtual food drives, along with traditional methods of collecting food. This year, students gathered nearly 245,000 pounds of food to donate to the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank which feeds more than 340,000 San Diego residents every month.
The event is a great way for students to give back to the community and make a difference. Even college students can afford one can of food or a $1 donation. The California students worked with different groups on campus to encourage everyone to participate. They also coordinated efforts with existing events, like homecoming and gave students incentives for participating like “cut the line" for free food, giveaways, preferred seating, or immediate access to games and activities. In addition, student organizers reached out to the local business community for support.
If you prefer the traditional hands-on route of volunteering, Feeding America encourages volunteers to check out local community service opportunities. There are food banks in just about every city in America. The Feeding America website offers a nationwide food bank locator. You can search by zip code or state to find the nearest food bank. In addition to helping local food banks repackage donated food for use at food pantries, and transporting food to charitable agencies, you can also help tutor young children at their local Kids Café programs.
As we’ve witnessed recently, disaster can strike without rhyme or reason. Feeding America also needs volunteers across the country to support survivors of disaster-affected communities. Sort, box, and repackage donated food to be directed where it's needed most.
Whether it’s a virtual food drive or a traditional one, students have the power to make a difference. This holiday season, get involved and support your local food bank. What do you do as a family to help with the fight against hunger? Share your story with us.
This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.
Since we started making turkey-themed crafts in kindergarten, we’ve been taught that being grateful is important. However, this year I challenge you not just to share your gratitude at Thanksgiving dinner, but to also be proactive with your thanks by expressing it to those you appreciate most. The word “Thanksgiving” does after all imply giving thanks not just saying thanks. Here are some ways individuals and organizations can give thanks through kindness and volunteerism:
Say Thanks to Friends and Family: Here’s an interesting exercise. Take out a piece of paper and write down the names of one hundred people you know and interact with. These don’t have to be the people closest to you or the people you know best. The idea is simply to write continuously, so this means writing down the names of whoever comes to mind regardless of their importance. The only requirement is they are a person who has made it into your life at some point. Don’t overthink it and don’t read over the list right away. Leave it for a few days, and then return to read over the list.
Now, reread your list and star the people most important to you. You may find yourself erasing some names from the list or adding ones you forgot, but don’t feel guilty about erasing or forgetting. Perhaps your list is short, or perhaps it is rather extensive. The length is not important, but the thought put into it is. The objective to keep in mind is not to rank your friends’ importance to you, but rather pinpoint who has had a significant impact on you. This Thanksgiving, instead of generically saying you are thankful for your friends and family, try to reflect on exactly how and why you are thankful for them. What is it about each person on your list that makes them important, and how might your list need to change? Finally, express your thanks by telling these people how much you appreciate them. This might be by sending an email, writing a letter or short note, or giving them a call. It’s important to surround yourself with people who are helping you life a happier life, so hopefully this exercise will help you reflect on the importance of others in your life.
Say Thanks to Your Community: One of the best ways to show your thanks for all that you have in life is to help those less fortunate than you. This is a great way to spur a service-learning project. Contemplate some basic things you have to be thankful for, such as food, a home, good health, and a job, just to name a few. Now, how can you show your appreciation for material things? Share them with others. Consider this example:
UNEP reports that roughly a third of the food produced for human consumption every year is wasted. In the United States, 30% of food is thrown away accounting for the second highest source of waste in landfills. At the same time, according to Feeding America almost 15% of households in America are food insecure. Clearly this is a problem with a feasible solution; that solution is simply being thrown in the trash. In your local community, you could contact local restaurants and grocery stores to find out how much of their food is wasted and how that food could be repurposed to help others. This basic formula could be applied to myriad situations. By doing this, you are showing your gratitude and using this as an occasion to help others.
For Organizations and Communities
Say Thanks to Volunteers: Volunteers do so much good, and they do it without expecting repayment, but that doesn’t mean their work should go unnoticed. If you are an Organization, Group, or Community, there are several ways to thanks volunteers. Showing your appreciation could be as simple as saying “thank you” and letting volunteers know they and their time aren’t taken for granted. Once a year, take the time to write thank you notes to each of your volunteers. You might also consider planning a volunteer appreciation event like a luncheon, dinner, or awards ceremony. Thanking volunteers is not just the right thing to do, but it also a good strategy for keeping volunteers interested and involved in your cause.
Say Thanks to Donors: If your organization or service project relies on an outside source of funding, make sure you take the opportunity this Thanksgiving to thank whoever has contributed financially to your cause. Applying for a grant or asking for donations is usually the first obstacle in turning an idea into a reality. This may come from individual donors, grants, or a combination of the tow. Call, email, or write a letter expressing sincere gratitude for their aid. Let them know how the project is going and how their money has contributed to its success.
This Thanksgiving, reflect on what you are grateful for by making a conscious effort to express your thanks. Remind yourself to be thankful all year, not just once a year. What are your favorite ways to give back?
The images are heartbreaking. Many of us in warm and safe households can’t imagine the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan. Yet, there are plenty who know first hand the ravages of natural disasters. Within the U.S., we’ve seen what the forces of nature can do to our neighborhoods – tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and floods have all taken their toll. And, each time, we come together as a nation to volunteer and help those in need. We come together as a community to gather and distribute food, clothing, medical and housing supplies. After Hurricane Katrina and Super storm Sandy, many students spent holiday breaks volunteering to help rebuild devastated neighborhoods.
Right now in the Philippines though, with communications wiped out, limited security and roads blocked, only experienced disaster relief aid workers are allowed in. How do we help those so far away who are in desperate need of food, water, medical attention, sanitation and shelter? There are plenty of opportunities to help including donating money, organizing fundraisers and giving blood.
For now, Meredith Brandt, communications manager for the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region said financial donations are the most efficient way to help meet the emergency needs of those affected by Typhoon Haiyan.
As of November 16, the American Red Cross has committed $11 million to support their global response to the disaster. Funds will be used to distribute relief items, repair and rebuild shelters, provide healthcare and ensure access to clean water and sanitation systems.
“We don’t send in unaffiliated volunteers,” said Brandt. We have subject matter experts that go to help with disaster relief.”
These specialized emergency response teams are experts in logistics, disaster assessment, shelter, health, water and sanitation. They will assist the Philippine Red Cross with rescue efforts and relief operations.
Brandt emphasized that financial aid will go a long way to help rebuild and recover and said that individuals and groups may also consider fundraising for the Red Cross.
In fact, many college student organizations are doing that now. Their desire to help has resulted in a number of creative and tried and true ideas to raise funds for the relief effort.
From using social media to engage their community and collect donations to organizing fundraisers and selling t-shirts , students everywhere are volunteering at home to make a difference.
For the last 15 years, the Philippine Student Association at Texas A&M University has organized a talent show to help promote diversity among the state’s universities. This year they decided to donate 100% of their ticket sales, as well as any other additional donations collected during the event. “We decided to change focus and donate all of the money raised to the typhoon relief effort,” said Trung Mai, vice president of Texas A&M’s Philippine Student Association. “We wanted to make the event more about our mission statement and what we are all about.”
Mai said they accomplished their goal this year to get more schools involved in the program. “We were sold out and packed all 500 seats in the auditorium. We had six or seven other universities support us, including the University of Texas at Arlington, San Antonio, Dallas, North Texas, and the University of Houston. We raised about $2,500.”
The group decided to donate their funds to the Philippine-based humanitarian organization, Gawad Kalinga.
Mai said they looked at different relief organizations. “We decided to work with Gawad Kalinga. It’s an organization that has a lot of credibility within the Philippines. You can go to their website to donate. There are plenty of choices of how to use your donations. You can also help by keeping them in your prayers.”
The Cornell Filipino Association in Ithaca, New York, is utilizing existing events to raise funds. They’ve also planned a bake sale and a cooking competition, So, You Think You Can Adobo on November 22. The competition emphasizes the delicious diversity of the Philippines' national dish. For only $5, attendees can sample and judge the tastiest variation of Chicken Adobo. Their proceeds will go to Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization working to create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice.
The Cornell University group used the website Charity Navigator to determine where they would direct their funds. The nonprofit evaluates the financial health, accountability and transparency of nearly 7,000 charities.
The Philippine Student Association at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign held a bake sale and fundraiser this past weekend. Funds raised will be directed to the Philippine Red Cross.
In addition to volunteering to raise funds, students can also support relief efforts by donating blood or organizing a blood drive.
Most people don’t think about donating blood until a disaster strikes. It’s important to ensure a sufficient blood supply and it’s also a great opportunity for community engagement.
While you may not be able to travel the globe now to help with disaster relief, Brandt suggests that students check out their local Red Cross chapter for volunteer opportunities within their own community. Individuals 13 years and older can volunteer.
If you want to be ready to help with disaster relief in the future, then consider disaster response training. Most disaster responders must be 18 years or older. Each local chapter can provide additional information about volunteer opportunities.
“We encourage people who want to help with disaster relief to become affiliated with the Red Cross and be trained,” said Brandt. “So, if the next disaster occurs, you are trained and ready to go either nationally or internationally.”
If you are organizing a fundraiser or would like to personally help fund relief efforts, here is a partial listing of organizations, in addition to ones previously listed, working to help those affected by the typhoon. What are you doing to help those affected by disasters? Share your stories.
Catholic Relief Services
Habitat for Humanity
International Medical Corps
International Rescue Committee (IRC)
Salvation Army (Text TYPHOON to 80888 to donate $10.)
Save the Children
World Food Programme (WFP) (Text AID to 27722 to donate $10.)
World Vision http://www.worldvision.org
This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.
Service-learning is something I’m involved in on a daily basis. I find that sometimes students and parents are ill-informed on the distinction between volunteerism and service-learning, and this can lead to confusion. A common misconception is that service-learning is just an impressive way of saying volunteerism. Luckily, the concept is both easy to follow and implement once it is understood. The National Service-Learning Clearinghouse gives a very comprehensive definition of service-learning: “Service-Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.” What sets service-learning apart is its connection to education. Service-learning is about applying skills and knowledge learned in the classroom to real-life experiences that benefit the community.
Accounting students at the University of Texas at Austin are engaging in service-learning by filing tax returns for low-income residents (Source: What Really Counts in a Service-Learning Accounting Class). In Accounting 366P, students learn how federal tax codes work. They also study issues affecting low-income residents such as “socio-economic issues, housing and immigration policy, and economic development.” Then the practice what they have learned by partnering with a nonprofit called the Community Tax Center to help low-income families get the most out of their tax return. Instructor Brian Lendecky says that, “The most important part of the learning process is actually applying your trade.” In this class, students learned information vital to their careers, applying that knowledge, and helping members of the community.
Many students recount that the best lessons came from the stories they heard from their clients. When completing their 55-hour service requirement for the course, they engaged in the very issues they’d heard about in their lectures. One student describes a single mother who put six children through college debt-free. This type of determination can’t be taught in books; it has to be found in experience. Another remembers a woman who was hearing impaired and needed her mother to translate. This prompted the student to learn sign language so he could communicate with more people. In one year, 200 students filed 18,310 tax returns and helped get their clients over $31 million in returns. This is much-needed money for families to pay bills, buy groceries, and pay off debts. What the students gain from the course is not just how to file tax returns, but the power to use their knowledge to elevate others.
In Morris, Minn., students are completing a service-learning project that will help to restore local history. These students are getting down in the dirt—literally—in some eerie places, but they are doing it for the right reasons. Lead by University of Minnesota Morris Associate Professor of Anthropology, Rebecca Dean, students will be excavating, cataloging and restoring a local cemetery that has been destroyed. The cemetery holds immense importance to local history. The Boerners’ family plot of 12 graves dates back to the late 1800s. The site ties back to the pioneers who originally settled in the area. As part of this project, students will be using the archeological skills they have studied in class to gain hands-on experience. Dean says the project’s close vicinity to the university also makes it an accessible project to her students, in contrast to excavations abroad she has preformed that are a larger financial and time commitment for students. In addition to being a great lesson plan, the project will give back a historical site to the community. Students will not only be prompted to master their skills, but also to consider carefully the implications of excavating a site and the importance of being delicate to local history. (Source: Morris Sun Tribute)
In another service-learning project, students of Environmental Science at Tennessee Wesleyan College conducted research on local wildlife to help the community. This project went beyond your typical lab assignment. Students worked to assess a piece of property belonging to the City of Athens, Tenn. that will soon be developed into a new hiking trail. Each group of students conducted observations of an area of the property and collected data about plants, insects, animals, soil, pollution and erosion. They compiled the data and determined the effect of building the trail on the environment. They delivered their recommendations to the city to help them in building the trail. Assistant Professor Caroline Young described the objectives of the initiative: “It is my hope that by involving students in environmental projects through service-learning, they will see how the issues we discuss in the classroom directly impact our own city, and they will then understand that their efforts make an important difference in the world . . . I hope to foster a spirit of caring for the Earth in my students that will last long after my class is over.” These students engaged in the material in their classrooms and were able to help the community with their research. As a follow up to the project, the students plan to plant trees in areas of the property where their data revealed a need for more plants. (Source: Knox News)
These examples show different ways that service-learning helps engage students in their studies. Service-learning is becoming an increasingly popular tool in education because it encourages students to interact with their learning by applying their talents and knowledge to helping the community. Check out local opportunities for ideas on how to incorporate service-learning in your classrooms.
How do kids begin the process of choosing a college major? For some it’s an easy decision. Often, it starts with a specific interest or maybe they are exceptional in a particular subject. I remember in high school completing some sort of career questionnaire. It said my interests would align with communications or public relations. I figured, great! I like people and I like to talk. For me, communications was a great fit, but looking back, I do wish I had done more research about career paths for my major.
Kids today have access to so much more information. College majors seem more defined and specialized now. When I went to college, I went in thinking I had at least two years to figure out my major. Many students now declare their major during the college admissions process. But how does an 18 year old really know what they want to do? How do they figure out all the potential careers one major can offer?
One way to help them figure it out is to volunteer. Community engagement can provide high school and college students with an opportunity to explore their interests or try something new.
“Kids who do community service see how they can apply their skills in different areas,” said Dan Van Dyke, a high school counselor for De La Salle Institute in Chicago, IL.
Van Dyke said when he asks students why they want to pursue a specific major; they usually reply that they are good in that subject. For example, a student good in Math wants to study Engineering, but he may not look further than the obvious career path. They don’t think about all the different options for their particular set of skills. Many students just don’t want to do the research.
However, Van Dyke said students who perform community service seem to have a better idea of what majors they want to pursue and will research them as part of their college admissions process. “I’ve seen kids who work at the Greater Chicago Food Depository or help the homeless, and they become interested in public policy or social work. They want to know how they can use their talents for social good. They are more motivated to do research about colleges and majors because they are exposed to different career options.”
Van Dyke has also seen students avoid certain majors because they don’t think it will lead to a career with a lucrative salary. Through student volunteering, they realize there are other rewards for specific careers. “Students that do community service with kids, come back with a feeling of accomplishment. They can see that they can make a difference and it’s very rewarding.”
Jennifer Walker, Director of Programs for Madison House, the student volunteer center at the University of Virginia, has seen similar circumstances with college students. “Some of our students want to pursue volunteering that is in their professional field of interest. For example, prospective teachers may want to get a better sense of what it is like to be in the classroom before they apply to graduate programs for teaching.”
For Allison and Sally-Rose Cragin, volunteering has always been a family affair. Their mom, Louise, instilled a love of helping others at an early age by encouraging them to volunteer at Krewe de Camp (http://www.friendshelpingkids.org/index.htm), an annual, one-week camp for children with special needs in Covington, Louisiana.
Allison’s volunteer work at the camp and throughout high school not only confirmed her desire to work in medicine, but also influenced her decision to become a pediatrician. A 2012 graduate of Louisiana State University School of Medicine, Allison is currently in the UAB Pediatrics Residency Program, and continues to volunteer. “I was always interested in becoming a doctor, but I thought I would pursue surgery or research,” said Cragin. “Now I hope to be a pediatrician for children with special healthcare needs. The projects I did in college were definitely geared toward my interest in medicine.”
Sally-Rose’s decision to pursue her major was also a direct result of her experiences volunteering at Krewe de Camp. She is a junior at Rochester Institute of Technology studying American Sign Language Interpreter Education.
“Every year, since before I can remember, my mom brought me to help her at Krewe de Camp. When I was 8 years old, I met a girl named Katie who had Cerebral Palsy. She couldn't use her voice to speak so she used sign language. As soon as camp was over I asked my mom for some sign language books and dictionaries so I could learn how to communicate with Katie for the next summer. I can trace back my decision to go to RIT for interpreting to that day. I loved the feeling of being able to communicate with someone through a visual language and I wanted to be able to facilitate communication between people like Katie and other people who don't know her language.”
Sally-Rose said her favorite part of high school was the community service work she was able to do during high school with Boys Hope Girls Hope of New Orleans and summer camps like Camp Sertoma and Meadowood Springs Speech and Hearing Camp.
“When I graduate in May of 2015, I would love to do Educational Interpreting in some of the younger grades. I would really like to go to graduate school for a Masters Degree in Special Education with a focus in Deaf Education.”
Walker thinks it’s never too soon to begin student volunteering in the community. “It can provide an easy and free way for students to get an idea about their potential career path.”
What are your children’s interests? Are they student volunteering in areas they want to study in college? Let us know about their experiences.
By NobleHour Special Contributor, Dolly Duplantier
Look at any college admissions application and once you get past the demographics, the next top sections comprise grades, standardized test scores and activities.
While extracurricular activities and leadership skills have always been a part of the admissions process, universities are now looking more closely at an applicant’s community engagement and student volunteering record. However, before your high schooler starts racking up miscellaneous hours for some magical number, keep in mind that today’s college admissions counselors aren’t just looking for quantitative data. They want to know why your student is doing service work.
“We are seeing more and more high schools and middle schools require service hours,” said Vincent Ilustre, founding executive director of Tulane University's Center for Public Service (CPS). “We’re looking beyond that, for stellar community service activities.”
Ilustre said they make a distinction between filling a high school quota of 100-200 hours and long term sustained involvement. “We are looking for more depth in how they frame their activities. What is the rhyme and reason? Why did the student take on a particular project? We look into what they do, but it’s not the only thing that dictates if they get in.”
Tulane is nationally known for its own service curriculum. “We are a leader in terms of how we look at public service and what our students do here,” said Faye Tydlaska, the school’s director of undergraduate admissions. “We award approximately 20 Community Service Scholarships each year, and those students go on to be Fellows in our Center for Public Service once they are at Tulane.”
Tulane created CPS in response to the numerous community projects going on after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. University officials understood first hand that public service rooted in an academic context would contribute to the development of student civic engagement. Tulane has won numerous awards for their efforts to serve the New Orleans community.
“Most higher educational institutions now have offices similar to Tulane’s Center for Public Service,” said Ilustre.
According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities personal and social responsibility are core elements of a 21st century education. A recent survey of its nearly 1,300 members revealed that many institutions are placing more emphasis on civic education.
Tydlaska agrees that more and more of Tulane’s peers are focusing on public service. For student volunteering to have a true impact, Tulane looks for deep, ongoing community engagement. Students concentrating on one or two projects for a couple of years will get noticed as opposed to those just completing tasks for service hour requirements.
“We make a distinction between requirements for school and something above and beyond,” she said. “We look at their level of involvement in their projects. For example, are they organizing a can drive or just collecting cans?”
“Most students going to elite universities are coming from high schools that require service,” said Ilustre. “So you have to be able to synthesize why.”
Ilustre would like to see high schools encourage their students to be more reflective about their projects. It’s not just about reporting hours anymore. Students who stand out are able to talk more about what they are learning. They can reflect on their activities, discuss the impact of their service and why it is important to them and their community. A deeper level of community service will make them stand out.”
Many factors come into play in determining whether or not an applicant is accepted. “We look at how much interest a student shows in the university, why they want to attend Tulane, and letters of recommendation among other things,” said Tydlaska.
Student volunteering could potentially help an applicant that is on the fence. If two students are academically the same, Ilustre said the one dedicated to community service would have a better chance of being admitted.
Tydlaska suggested that if students are interested in volunteering, they should look for opportunities involving their own interests. The first year or two of high school are a good time to explore different topics. “Start early on and then focus on one or two main issues or projects.”
Ilustre agreed. “Freshman year is a great opportunity to explore what’s out there. Students should sample different types of activities or topics that really interest them and then take it a step further. “
As students mature, they should find a specific project or issue that is important to them. They should research organizations that support their interests. Students who want to stand out will delve deeper and get more excited about their community engagement.
Ilustre also believes being passionate about a specific cause or issue could help students determine where they want to go to college and what they want to study. “If you have a particular interest, see if there are colleges that can support your passion.”
Tydlaska has seen all sorts of civic engagement in the applications that cross her desk - from students working locally with Habitat for Humanity (http://www.habitat.org) to going abroad to help children and adults in need.
”You don’t need to go across the world. What’s important is that you find what you are passionate about. Go with your passion whether it’s local, regional, national or international.” - Faye Tydlaska, Tulane University
Both Tydlaska and Ilustre agree that it’s not necessarily important where you do your community service. ”You don’t need to go across the world,” he said. “What’s important is that you find what you are passionate about. Go with your passion whether it’s local, regional, national or international.”
Tydlaska adds that whatever type of student volunteering is chosen, it should be authentic. “If it’s not authentic, don’t pursue it. If your passion is sports, writing, music, etc. - pursue your talent in those areas.”
“It’s really heartwarming and encouraging to see so many students engaged in community service and wanting to make a difference,” said Tydlaska. “We see some extraordinary students. They’ve done a host of incredible things. Some have started non-profit races for specific causes. These are fully civic engaged students.”
Do you want to help your son or daughter become more engaged in student volunteering and community service? Check out the NobleHour website for service opportunities, as well as ways to track hours and reflect on volunteering experiences. Has your high school student’s community engagement made a difference in his or her college applications? Tell us how.
This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.
Over the last quarter of a millennium, humans have moved indoors. Beginning in 1750 with the first wave of the Industrial Revolution, a gross migration began to occur when people from rural, outdoor, farming communities moved to cities. Now, more than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. In the early stages of industrialization, people were moving to cities for factory work. Now, in the post-industrial economies of the developed world, people have moved up from the factories and are working in office spaces, living stationary lifestyles under fluorescent lights.
With the invention of universal education that came with industrialization, children have also been brought inside. Education inflation has caused young people not only to spend school hours inside, but also to spend more time inside studying, with everyone sinking down in front of the TV or computer when the long, tiring day is over. Today, we see less-developed countries experiencing the same lifestyle shift that brought us indoors.
Now, I’m not romanticising life before the “Great Indoor Migration”, because I think it has ultimately improved our lives. Without this shift I would probably be spending my day harvesting crops, cleaning the house, and thinking about getting married in five years. Instead, I’m going to school and hoping in five years to start a life and career for myself. The fact of the matter is that we are now living indoors more, and it’s time to spend a little time being active outside.
The fun, animated video “What if You Stopped Going Outside?” describes health risks and problems that could arise from not spending enough time outside - including osteoporosis, depression, and even cancers.
Furthermore, the Harvard Health Letter gives some of the benefits of spending time outside. These benefits include getting more vitamin D, more exercise, a happier life, better concentration, and a better healing time in the event of injury (you can read more about how sunshine and fresh air help these processes). Being outside feels good and is good for you. Being outside and being active go hand in hand with being healthier and happier, but the main problem facing most people is finding time to be more active. Volunteering outdoors is a great way to merge outdoor activities with community engagement. You will be impacting the community by volunteering and helping yourself by being active.
While out in nature, you are inevitably active. Hiking, climbing, and running are all ways we interact with nature while being active. It is also important to protect the environment around us so it can sustain us and an active lifestyle. Volunteering with organizations concerned with the environment is a great way to get active and volunteer. Some outdoor environmental projects could entail planting a community or urban garden or helping clean up a river, beach, highway, or nearby park. To find these types of opportunities, look up local parks and environmental organizations. Remember not only to keep it outdoorsy and active, but to keep it local too. Part of being more active is also getting out of those cars and using your legs as transportation. Cars pollute the environment, so if you are trying to improve the environment and enjoy your time outdoors, do your best not to pollute it even more. Plus, you’ll have a direct impact on your own local community.
Sports are another way people enjoy their time outdoors. Walks and marathons are common fundraising events, and nonprofits are always in need of volunteers to register runners, hand out water, stand along the route and encourage the racers. For example, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in the States are two runs held to support breast cancer research and breast cancer survivors. Right now, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but the events are held year round. Local organizations may also hold fundraising races for local causes. In Greensboro, NC, an event call the Chicken Walk will take place next month to raise money to help the Interactive Resource Center, a local resource that helps people experiencing homelessness, keep its doors open. A fantastic woman named Amy Murphy began the project by taking chicken that restaurants were throwing away, and feeding it to the homeless, who she refers to as her “friends downtown.” If you are in the area, find out more about this year’s inaugural Chicken Walk. Volunteering with athletics is a great way to help with an important cause, but volunteering actively can also mean supporting the cause of physical activity and exercise itself.
Volunteer coaching or hosting a field day are both great ways to get outdoors. Not only will you be active, get outside, and have fun, but you’ll also bring the importance of being active to children growing up in the “Great Indoor Migration”. You’ll become a positive mentor and leader to the kids you work with. You can inspire them to lead healthier lives, develop sportsmanship, and enjoy just being a kid. To find these kinds of opportunities, team up with local schools, parks, and recreation centres to get involved or to pioneer your own program geared toward fitness.
What are some ways you are tracking your Noble Impact™ by getting active outdoors?
Classroom image via FotoPedia
This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.
The season’s spookiest holiday is just around the corner, but let’s not forget that the scariest things in life don’t come out on Halloween night. Can you imagine what it would be like to not have have a house, to not have food, to not have clean water, to not have a school to go to, or not to have a family? Facing life’s toughest challenges and uncertainties is scary. This Halloween, apart from the ghosts and the jack-o'-lanterns, try to imagine what really scares you and find ways to impact your community and help people in dire situations. Why not celebrate this year with these service ideas?
Costume Event Fundraiser: Host a Halloween party and ask your friends to each bring a small donation for a local nonprofit. If your school doesn’t allow costumes, see if this year the rules can be broken for a good cause. Talk to your principal about letting students come in their spooky attire provided they donate to your fundraiser. If every student in your school donated a dollar, or even a quarter, how much could you raise while still having fun? You could even expand the event by having a whole week of fundraising with a Halloween-related theme for each day.
Neighborhood Trick-or-Treat Food Drive: Trick-or-treating is a precious memory. For me, I always remember my cousins and I precariously huddled together, walking up to the houses with the scaries decorations (and the best candy) only to run back down the driveway screaming at whatever creature had popped out as us. However, it was all worth it when we returned home with sacks of candy. But with all those bags of candy, I never finished them all. Instead of collecting candy for yourself, help someone in need by asking your neighbors to give you canned and dried food when you come knocking on their doors. Try to get as many peers to participate in your efforts to greater the collective impact of just one night of trick-or-treating. For tips on how to start a program like this in your neighborhood, read about Free the Children’s We Scare Hunger Program.
Donate a Costume: Bring the fun and scares of Halloween to someone in need by donating old or outgrown costumes that you don’t need anymore.
Pumpkin Crafts: A fun way to celebrate Halloween is by decorating pumpkins. Share this experience with others by volunteering to help children carve their own Jack-o-Lantern. You could read stories to the children about Halloween and make Halloween decorations out of construction paper if the pumpkins are too messy. You could also volunteer at a senior citizen home and decorate pumpkins with them. These crafts could be carving up the pumpkin to create a traditional jack-o'-lantern, or just decorating pumpkins on the outside with paint, glitter, ribbons, etc. and putting them in the seniors’ rooms. Paint half your pumpkins black and create a large checkers board to play pumpkin checkers. The smaller pumpkins are ideal for these types of projects because they are easier to work with, less expensive, and everyone can have one.
“Trick or Treating for UNICEF”: Beginning in 1950, children have been collecting spare change on Halloween night to collect money to help UNICEF provide basic needs for children worldwide. The first campaign, started by a group of schoolchildren in Philadelphia, raised $17, but in the 60+ years of the program, children trick-or-treating in the United States have raised almost $160 million. The program has not only been successful to help children abroad, but it educates children on global issues; participating in the program “has given US children, along with their parents and teachers, the opportunity to learn about their peers worldwide who are truly in need” of necessities such as “ medicine, better nutrition, safe water, education, [and] emergency relief.” This program is about children helping other children in the world. To find out how to volunteer this Halloween through this program, click here.
Halloween Safety: Halloween is fun, but it’s also important for children, especially younger ones, to be aware of how to be safe while walking in the streets at night. Educate youngsters by creating a fun presentation about Halloween safety. Perhaps design a skit about what to do and what not to do. Be sure to emphasize points like staying in a group, crossing the streets carefully, denying invitations into people’s houses, and staying on streets you are familiar with. Plan a safe Halloween event by hosting Halloween events where children can have fun, be scared, and stay safe. Here’s an example of a project done by one high school: “With the goal of providing a safe environment for children to go trick-or-treating, Sycamore (Ill.) High School Student Council hosts a unique activity on Halloween. They contact a local retirement center and arrange to have trick-or-treaters visit on Halloween. Student council members provide candy to participating residents and decorate their doors to indicate which rooms children may visit. The trick-or-treaters are escorted around the building by council members.” Similar project ideas can be found here.
What volunteer service projects will you participate in this Halloween?