Getting Students Excited for Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The power of experience: How service-learning transforms education

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

 

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


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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Download the Benefits of Service-Learning Infographic

 

 

 

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

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

Random Acts of Kindness Week - A Great Way to Warm Up

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Tue, Feb 11, 2014 @ 10:52 AM

This post was updated on 1/21/2015

Last February, Chicago marked at least 22 days of temperatures at zero degrees or colder. While winter winterneighborhoodisn't as bitter as last year, we’ve still got a long way to go with no end in sight. And, we are not alone! Even Southern states are dealing with frigid cold temperatures, ice storms, ridiculous wind chills and hazardous driving conditions. The only people enjoying this crazy weather are the students receiving snow days. The cold days and grey skies take their toll. It’s not easy to be bright and cheery when you’re covered head to toe in fleece, wool and long underwear. It’s just really hard to be nice when you can’t feel your toes.

However, there is something that may help thaw your hardened dispositions and warm your hearts! It's the upcoming Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week, February 9 – 15, 2015. Considering Valentine's Day is celebrated during the week, it really is a great time to share love and kindness.

According to Brooke Jones, vice president of the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, RAK officially began in 2000 and is now celebrated by millions of people worldwide. 

“The week was created as a way to celebrate the everyday kindnesses we experience, but sometimes don't recognize,” said Jones. “RAK Week reminds us what it means to be kind with every word we speak and every action we take.” 

The non-profit foundation was started in 1995 and is dedicated to inspiring people to practiceRAK kindness and pass it on to others. Their goals are to:

1.)  Inspire others to be kind.

2.)  Legitimize kindness as a way to improve society.

3.)  Be a highly regarded, visible social and emotional learning education program.

The organization promotes unique opportunities for all types of organizations, groups and individuals by providing free online resources to encourage acts of kindness across the globe, specifically in school communities. Educators can visit their website for lesson plans, projects, resources and research. In addition, their website lists kindness ideas for the home, office, and school.

“When going to a University of over 40,000 students it is easy to get caught up in all the small stresses of everyday life,” said Varshini Kumar, a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Kumar saw a need for RAK at the end of her sophomore year and started a chapter at her school in August, 2013. “Random Acts of Kindness, as an organization, serves as a reminder for the campus that at the end of the day kindness is a cyclical thing - the more you are kind to those around you, the happier you are as a person. I think RAK week is a great opportunity for students to get together and create something positive for the campus, as well as spread awareness about the kindness movement that RAK seeks to inspire.”

Kumar’s RAK chapter uses Facebook and social media to post sources of inspiration for performing random acts of kindness.

The Bone Student Center at Illinois State University provided free treats and giveaways during RAK week last year. The school’s Division of Student Affairs promoted new acts of kindness each day and encouraged the community to pass it on.

At the University of New Mexico, the Division of Student Affairs planned a variety of activities to celebrate RAK, including their “Pit of Kindness” where students could “Take a seat, Make a Friend” in a ball pit! Students also donated new teddy bears and made Valentine’s Day cards for children at the UNM Children’s Hospital Trauma Center and Regional Burn Center. At their student union, students enjoyed free kind words, candy, “Be Kind” buttons and take part in a kindness flash mob. Their RAK flyer encouraged student to smile a lot, send a handwritten note, volunteer at a shelter, pick up trash, or give someone a compliment.

The University of Alabama’s RAK chapter created a Daily Challenge Sheet for students to do something each day hoping to inspire, encourage and cheer on their community to make a difference on campus. Challenges included encouraging students to introduce themselves to someone new, tell people thank you, pay for someone’s food or drink, and spend time with and listen to friends. The UA chapter planned events all week and worked with other university clubs and groups to “create a community of kindness.” 

RAK encourages everyone to step out of normal routines and perform a new random act of kindness each day of the week.  Are you ready to get in on the act? Here are 20 simple tips from the RAK Foundation to get you started this week. Who knows, you may want to keep it going all year long!

  1. Give someone a compliment.
  2. Post a positive comment on social media.
  3. Donate old towels or blankets to an animal shelter
  4. Do a chore without being asked (Moms will really love this one!!).
  5. Eat lunch with someone new.
  6. Say good morning to people on your way to school or work.
  7. Send a thank you note to a friend, student, teacher, custodian or co-worker.
  8. Visit a senior citizen home or volunteer at a shelter.
  9. Walk a neighbor’s dogWalking the dog
  10. Students can start a kindness chain and add a link for every new act of kindness.
  11. Put up “Kindness Zone” signs at the entrance of classrooms to remind people to practice Random Acts of Kindness.
  12. Hold the door open or hold the elevator for someone.
  13. Babysit for a friend or neighbor.
  14. Bring a treat to a friend who is tired or has had a long week.
  15. Surprise your team or study group with coffee or snacks.
  16. Make an extra sandwich in the morning to give to a homeless person.
  17. Prevent road rage and let the car in front of you merge.
  18. Pass out hand warmers or an extra pair of gloves to the homeless.
  19. Shovel a neighbor’s driveway or sidewalk.
  20. Smile!

So, as we prepare for the final long months of winter weather, don’t despair. Warm up your home, your office, or your campus with a simple act of kindness. It won’t cost you a thing, but the return could be priceless. Here’s one more act of kindness – come back and share your stories with us!

Want to continue performing acts of kindness all year round? Visit NobleHour for a complete listing of volunteer opportunities!

 

 Photos: Dolly Duplantier

Topics: engaged learning, kindness, service learning, education, volunteering, community service, service, community, civic engagement, random acts of kindness, random acts of kindness week, opportunities, involvement, social media, active

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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