Universities Engage Students & Community at Day of Service Events

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Tue, Nov 11, 2014 @ 08:03 AM

When I look back on my college days, I have very fond memories. I remember going to classes, and hanging on the quad with friends, as well as attending football and basketball games, concerts, and events.  While I was very active in service organizations in high school, for some reason I didn’t really pursue it in college. I volunteered with my sorority, helped at a few campus-related events, and also took part in a number of unpaid internships, but service wasn’t a major component back in my day, at least for me. I do remember my university had a service club, but I never really explored it. However, over the last decade or so, I’ve noticed a transformation occurring in students and the universities they attend. Students are more focused on volunteering and universities are working hard to engage them, as well as provide them with opportunities to serve the surrounding community.

Many schools now incorporate days of service with freshmen orientation or at the start of the school year. PIttservesWhat a great way to get students involved with their school and the neighboring community.  Let’s face it, a lot of young people who attend out of state schools never really get a chance to learn about the city they reside in for the next four years. Offering a day of service broadens their horizon and makes them realize there is a much bigger community just outside campus. Not only does the day of service  provide young adults with an opportunity to learn more about the needs of their college town, but it can also help them develop a greater sense of pride and accomplishment from using their skills to help their community. In addition to introducing new students to the value of service, it’s a perfect way to get to know other people with similar interests.

While I thought these campus-wide service events were a fairly new concept, I’ve learned otherwise. In the mid 1980’s, college students were sometimes portrayed as materialistic, self-absorbed, and more interested in making money than helping others. (Hmm, I did graduate in the mid-80’s!) However, a group of university presidents disagreed with this description and created Campus Compact, a coalition of college and university presidents committed to fulfilling the public purpose of education.  They believed that many students on campus were involved in community service and more would participate if proper encouragement and supportive structures were provided.

Boy, were they right. Colleges throughout the U.S. now have departments dedicated to engaging their students to perform public service with neighboring community partners. Take a look at any university’s club listing and you’ll also see a large number of student organizations dedicated just to service. Check out their calendar and you’ll find multiple volunteer events organized over the course of the school year, including campus-wide days of service where hundreds of students come together and share their time and talent throughout their city.

For the past 20 years, Nazareth College has held their Orientation Day of Service program to educate newNazareth_College students about the school’s mission and tradition of community engagement and to encourage students to be active members of the community. The event brought together 550 volunteers who traveled to one of 25 service sites in the Rochester area and performed 1,650 service hours. The students also learned about the community’s challenges and resources and how they could give back by providing needed services.

“We have an ongoing relationship with many of our partners,” said Adam Lewandowski, associate director for the college’s Center for Civic Engagement. “The Orientation Day of Service is an introduction for our students. It’s just one piece of our relationship.”

Of the 550 student volunteers, Lewandowski said 93% are expected to participate again in some form of service with their partner organizations, many of which also offer work-study or service-learning programs.

The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. held its 6th annual Freshman Day of Service in September. Students, faculty, and staff logged over 8,000 community service hours in one day! More than 2,400 freshmen worked alongside 44 local partners throughout the metropolitan D.C. area. Volunteers participated in community projects focusing on environmental sustainability, veterans’ affairs, community beautification, and healthy living. The goal was to introduce students to a variety of service opportunities.

In 2012, the University of Pittsburgh implemented their Orientation Day of Service to start the school year off with service and have a positive impact on their community.

“Each year we welcome hundreds of incoming students to participate in an afternoon of service to their community,” said Misti McKeehen, director of PittServes, a university-wide initiative to help build the culture of service within their campus and community.

According to McKeehen, approximately 667 new students performed over 2,000 service hours for over 20 organizations before even stepping foot in the classroom! While students typically learn about the university and their new campus during orientation activities, the day of service provided an opportunity to also hear about their community.

McKeehen said the orientation event acts as a catalyst and sets the act of service in motion for students to be committed to helping their community and gaining personal, academic, and career experience through volunteerism. Students have the opportunity to learn about new organizations and may be motivated to continue volunteering with that group during the year. “It allows them to see a different part of the Pittsburgh community in a different way. To see this before school even starts is huge.”

The University of Pittsburgh continues its’ mission of service throughout the school year. On October 18, IMG_3988they held their 7th annual Pitt Make A Difference Day, a University-wide service day held with 3,274 students serving over 115 organizations throughout southwestern Pennsylvania. Volunteers logged more than 13,000 hours in one day!

This event also kicked-off the school’s first annual Make A Difference Month to highlight the school’s ongoing commitment to service. “We want to engage the students so they can see their impact,” said McKeehen, who hopes volunteers using NobleHour to track their service will log over 1,000 hours by the end of the month-long event.

As an added incentive to participating, McKeehen said the student with the highest number of tracked hours will be able to make a service grant to the student organization of their choice. In addition, the student group with the highest average number of hours per member will also receive a grant to continue service.

Like many other universities, McKeehen said PittServes will also participate in the MLK Day of Service next semester, as well as a number of school-wide volunteer events in the spring. She believes the rise in public service is a result of a more connected world. “We see more and do more.”

When students get together with friends to help with disaster relief, or volunteer at a shelter or food bank, they share that experience on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. All of a sudden, 500 people know about their positive experience and wish they had been a part of it or maybe they will want to participate next time.

It’s like that old shampoo commercial – You tell two friends and then they’ll tell two friends and so on and so on. But now, it’s telling hundreds of friends and so on. According to Campus Connect, during the 2011-2012 academic year, 44% of students participated in some form of community engagement. These community engagement activities contributed to an estimated $9.7 billion in service to their communities. Let’s hope universities keep engaging their students and volunteers keep sharing their impact!

Does your school have a campus-wide day of service? Tell us about the Noble Impact you’re making in your community.

photos courtesy of University of PIttsburgh and Nazareth College

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Topics: volunteering, community engagement, community service, service, Orientation, Day of Service, campus-wide service, Orientation Day of Service, MakeADifferenceDay

How Community Engagement and Public Service Work Together

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

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

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

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

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

Students engaged in service-learning.

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


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

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

 

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

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

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

NobleHour Launches National Volunteer Week Scavenger Hunt

Posted by Keara Ziegerer on Sun, Apr 06, 2014 @ 07:00 AM

In celebration of National Volunteer Month, NobleHour is launching a virtual scavenger hunt to inspire participants to serve.  On each day of National Volunteer Week, April 6-12, NobleHour will use Instagram and Twitter to share clues or questions related to volunteering and community engagement. Participants that Tweet the correct answer to @noblehour with the hashtag #NobleNVM will be entered to win daily prizes and the grand prize of an iPad Mini. NobleHour celebrates National Volunteer Month with a Scavenger Hunt.

In addition to hosting the scavenger hunt, NobleHour will be sharing volunteer tips, exclusive service-learning blog posts, volunteer opportunities, and inspirational service quotes all month long.

“We believe in celebrating service every day, but we get especially excited for National Volunteer Month,” said Keara Ziegerer, NobleHour’s User Engagement Manager.

“The Strides in Service Scavenger Hunt is a fun way we can connect with volunteers, while rewarding them for their commitment to community engagement.”

Members of the NobleHour team will also connect with volunteers at the 2014 National Service-Learning Conference, MONUMENTAL. The conference runs from April 9-12, ending with Global Youth Service Day – the largest service event in the world. 

For more information about the Strides in Service Scavenger Hunt and NobleHour’s National Volunteer Month celebration, visit info.noblehour.com/nvm.  

 

About NobleHour:

We are a small company with a big mission to provide an online platform that enables and facilitates community engagement. NobleHour is a network of online communities that focuses on community engagement by offering a suite of tools for tracking and measuring service-learning, volunteering, and community service initiatives. Our online communities offer hour tracking, opportunity and event listings, and hour reporting tools that are used by school districts, colleges, universities, non-profits, and businesses throughout the US and most recently Canada. We have an interesting back story: NobleHour was started by a student back in 2005 who was looking for a way to find service opportunities in his area. It grew from a simple online database of service-learning opportunities to what we are today, with over 35,000 active users, over 3,000 organizations, and over 3,000 opportunity listings. Since the day of our official re-launch in January of 2012, our users have tracked close to 3 million service hours, with an economic impact of over $62,000,000

Topics: volunteering, community service, Monumental, community engagement, NYLC, National Volunteer Month, NVW14

“Empowering NobleLeaders” at the National Service-Learning Conference

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

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

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

Students engaged in volunteer service.

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

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

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

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

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

Planting the Seeds for a Successful Service-Learning Program

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Apr 03, 2014 @ 08:35 AM

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

“Students are always asking, 'when will I ever use this,' and so service-learning, for me as an educator, has always answered that question by giving them opportunities to solve problems.”

– Brenda Elliott-Johnson, Executive Director of Student Services and Character Development for Guilford County Schools

The 25th annual National Service-Learning Conference will be held in Washington, D.C. this year from April 9-12.  This conference invites educators and students from across the nation to attend workshops, hear keynote speakers, and engage in service. The event brings together civically engaged young people to share the impact of service-learning and volunteerism. This year the conference will focus on teaching leadership, advocating for service-learning on Capitol Hill, and service opportunities across the globe.

One of the conference presenters is Brenda Elliott-Johnson, the Executive Director of Student Services and Character Development for Guilford County Schools and 2014 recipient of the G. Bernard Gill Urban Service-Learning Award. I sat down with Elliott-Johnson to learn how a successful service-learning program is started in schools and to learn how service-learning can serve as a tool for educators.

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Natasha:
How did you become involved in service-learning. Where did it all start?

Elliott-Johnson: I started with service-learning as a teacher, and so that would have been almost twenty years ago. I just really tried to figure out ways to take what students were learning in school to some real world examples. Students are always asking, “when will I ever use this,” and so service-learning, for me as an educator, has always answered that question by giving them opportunities to solve problems.  

In Nashville I was still really involved a lot of organizations.  I was a Student Council sponsor at my high school. I was involved in a program which helps young people think of ways to address bias, bigotry, and discrimination.  We had a lot different ways that we were helping young people solve community problems.  

I was a science teacher and we had a group of young people—I taught at a predominantly African American school—and there was a concern about the lack of African Americans going into the field of science.  Our students developed a website to promote African American students into the fields of science by highlighting local people who were working in those different areas.

As a principal, I also served on a number of community boards including a Youth Holding Power project that I helped to sponsor, which was a national project that had youth leading school reform efforts, and a Youth Impact Project.

Natasha: You’ve won an award and you will be attending the National Service-Learning Conference. Can you tell me a little about that?

Elliott-Johnson: The National Youth Leadership Council holds an annual National Service-Learning Conference, which bring together students, teachers, and researchers in the field of service-learning. This is our third year, as a school district, to participate. The last three years we have been able to bring students so they can see what other students are doing around the country in the field of service-learning, as well as share our practices and learn about other opportunities for service-learning.

We are glad to be able to do that this year. It’s going to be a big deal, and one of the events includes is a visit to our elected officials – to actually go on Capitol Hill and talk about the importance of this type of learning.

Natasha: Can you tell me about the evolution of service-learning here in Guilford County?

Elliott-Johnson: Our superintendent, when he came in 2008, did listening tours around the city. What he heard over and over again was that something was missing from the education of our students. Whether he talked to parents, students, community, or teachers, they all said the same thing. They felt that it was character—that our students needed to have good character and they also needed to make a positive difference in their community, not just when they graduated.  So out of that came our district’s Character Development Service-Learning Initiative, back in 2008.  

Our original goal was to expand character development and service-learning district-wide. We’ve had some tremendous work happen, including in the last three years for our high school seniors to document more than 600,000 hours of service and more than 2000 of our graduates to earn service-learning recognition. We have a lot of youth that are engaged.  More than 10,000 have been engaged in service-learning in communities and schools. I’m just so excited about it. We’re just beginning to measure the footprint that our youth are leaving in our community: that 600,000 hours is more than a $14 million impact. They [youth] have a lot of innovativeness that we could benefit from as a community.   

To clarify, students in Guilford County School’s service-learning program can earn recognition for their service in two forms.  They can earn an Exemplary Award by tracking at least 100 hours of service-learning using NobleHour, or they can earn a Service-Learning Diploma by completing at least 250 hours of service-learning. 

To keep track of all the hours students complete for their service-learning recognitions, Guilford County schools turned to NobleHour to help make this process easier and more efficient.  As Brenda explains, to fulfill the superintendent’s vision of service-learning “…we had to find a system that we could easily use to capture these hours. We looked at a lot of different products, and NobleHour seemed to be the one that really stood out for us and has helped us to be able to capture that data.”  The impact of these hours is changing the lives of students and community members.  Educators in Guilford County have started a successful service-learning program that is growing and taking learning beyond the classrooms and into the real world.  

Topics: service learning, volunteering, community engagement, youth impact, millennials, engagement, high school, service learning, k12, experiential learning, NYLC, National Volunteer Month

Service Reflections: Tips for Faculty and Students

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

Empowering NobleLeaders: Service Reflections

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

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

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

How to do Service Reflections: 

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

Get started with three easy questions:

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

What? 

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

So What? 

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

Now what? 

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

How to promote service reflections and service learning for faculty: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Students are encouraged to reflect on their experience and:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Community Service: Helping Students Understand the Benefits

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

Empowering NobleLeaders: Helping Students Understand the Benefits of Community Service 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UNCG, NobleHour.com announce software development licensing agreement

Posted by Pia Simeoni on Wed, Feb 05, 2014 @ 11:12 AM

The Community Engagement Collaboratory tracks partnership and public-service activities between universities and communities.

 

UNCG’s Institute for Community and Economic Engagement (ICEE) announced today that they have signed a software licensing agreement with NobleHour.com, LLC. UNCG will collaborate with NobleHour over the next year to develop the next version of the Community Engagement Collaboratory™ (The Collaboratory™), a web-based software application that tracks partnership and public service activities between universities and communities. The Collaboratory will facilitate measurement of activities, identify patterns of engagement, and provide ongoing data collection to convene people and resources around important community priorities.

“We created the software system to satisfy UNCG needs – to know who is doing what where when and with whom for what purposes – but sought a commercial partner to help us get it onto a shareable platform because of the many requests we received from colleagues across the US and world who had seen our tool and asked us to share it with them,” says Emily Janke, director of ICEE. “They saw our unique ability to keep track of and get the word out about hundreds of activities and relationships for planning, research, and recognition purposes.” Janke and Kristin Medlin (ICEE communications and partnerships manager), along with Barbara Holland (ICEE senior scholar), are co-inventors of The Collaboratory, which uses a web-facing database to create a portrait of community engagement and public service for planning, research and recognition. 

“Understanding the portrait of an institutions’ engagement with communities is essential for schools, institutions of higher education, and communities to move from accidental, coincidental, or random service activities of individuals to intentional and coordinated agendas of institutions with their communities,” says Holland. “This tool will allow us to work more systematically to effect significant and positive changes in our communities.”

UNCG will serve as the home for the Collaboratory Research Program that will facilitate “big data” types of scholarship on community engagement and public service. “We chose to collaborate with NobleHour because of their great reputation. We knew that they could provide ongoing, secure, and high quality services, which is critical to our larger goal of transforming the practice, scholarship, and outcomes of community engagement, here in the region, but also state-wide, nationally, and internationally,” says Medlin.

“NobleHour is honored to share its core vision with quality educational leaders such as UNCG. In an attempt to enable valuable strategic partnerships, NobleHour will endeavor to create and sustain an international repository dedicated to research that furthers community engagement, professional development, and student learning,” said NobleHour Managing Partner, Scott Fore.

Based out of Lakeland, Florida and with a nationwide staff, NobleHour provides web-based software that helps any type of organization manage service-learning, intern, employee, volunteer, and community service initiatives. NobleHour.com offers hour tracking, opportunity and event listings, and hour reporting tools that are used by notable school districts and higher education institutions such as Guilford County Schools, The George Washington University, and UC San Diego. NobleHour, started by a student in 2005, grew from a simple online database of service-learning opportunities to a strong presence with over 125,000 users, and over 4,500 organizations with thousands of opportunity listings. Since January of 2012, NobleHour users have tracked over 3 million service hours, with an economic impact of over $73,000,000. 

The current version of the Collaboratory is viewable online at http://communityengagement.uncg.edu/advanced-search.aspx, and contains information on more than 250 ongoing or completed community-university projects. A commercial version of the Community Engagement Collaboratory is expected to be available for purchase in late 2014. More information can be found at www.CEcollaboratory.com.

For more information, please contact Kristin Medlin, communications and partnerships manager, at (336) 334-4661 or kdbuchne@uncg.edu.

The UNCG Institute for Community and Economic Engagement encourages, supports, elevates, and amplifies faculty, staff, student, and community colleagues from across all sectors who are involved in teaching, learning, research, creative activity, and service in ways that promote strategic goals of the university and address pressing issues which have important implications to communities across the Piedmont Triad, state, nation, and world.
 

Topics: service, highered, community engagement, service learning, community-based learning, community-engaged learning, carnegie classification, partnerships, collaboration, engaged learning, collaboratory, community engagement collaboratory, cecollaboratory

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