3 Social Issues Facing Millennials and Future Generations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Related:
Millennials Look for Meaningful Work

How Service & Service-Learning Spark Social Justice

 

 

Topics: youth impact, millennials, social justice

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

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

Carrying a Torch for Service: Volunteerism in the Olympic Games

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Feb 27, 2014 @ 11:00 AM

Volunteers are an integral part of the Olympic Games.


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

The Olympic Games mark an exciting time of fierce competition and teamwork.  Both deep-rooted rivalries and camaraderie accompany the competition and sportsmanship that make the Olympics so special.  It is a time of national pride and of international friendship. Scarcely there comes a time, except during the Olympics, when classes or work will slow and the streets will quiet, but inside the cheers will roar in front of television screens.  For example, many classes and businesses stopped in both countries to witness the heated rivalry in last week’s Canada vs. USA men’s hockey game.  


One does not need to be an athlete to appreciate the Olympics.  Personally, I have not set foot on a track since running for a, thankfully singular, required physical education class. Watching sports on television typically results in my falling asleep, but I make one exception when the Olympics are on.  The Olympics have been a personal fascination of mine since childhood.  As a child I would imitate, albeit clumsily, the figure skaters on the television screen, seeing the Olympic stage as the realization of dreams.  However, Olympic dreams are made possible by more than just athleticism; volunteers facilitate the events, and in many ways volunteerism is a way anyone can make it to the Olympic stage.  


The tradition of volunteerism at the Olympics and Paralympics began in the London 1948 Olympics.  In recent history, 70,000 volunteer “Game Makers” assisted in the London 2012 Summer Olympics, donating 8 million hours of their time to make the games possible.  More than 25,000 volunteers helped at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.  Volunteers come to the Olympics to experience one of the biggest international sporting events, and their hard work reflects what I think is the most important elements of the Olympics: the altruistic spirit that together we can make dreams come true.


This past month in Sochi, 25,000 volunteers helped facilitate the Olympic games from start to finish.  They performed an impressive number of tasks to help the Olympics run smoothly.  In addition to their behind the scenes jobs at each sports event, volunteers in Sochi provided an air of hospitality to guests from around the world. Volunteers were present at airports to welcome guests, helped guests find transportation to their hotels and carried their month’s worth of luggage. They helped direct visitors, greet spectators at events, and ensure events ran on schedule. Brightly clad in the colourful jackets, which were the volunteers’ uniform for the games, they carried out all these jobs with both beaming smiles and excitement.


Sochi Olympic volunteers represent a uniquely young group.  Russian history has not always left space for the culture of volunteerism, and the Olympics represents a new tide of young people willing to come from near and far to give their time to helping others.  The average age of volunteers was 23, with 80 percent of volunteers younger than 30.  Many are university students.  Note that the average age of volunteers in the London 2012 Summer Olympics was 44 and in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics was 45. In addition to the exhilarating experience of taking part in the Olympics, these young volunteers have also gained some skills and knowledge from their training prior to the games. Before the Olympics, most people in Sochi did not speak English, but every volunteer underwent basic language training in order to communicate with visitors.  


Volunteers for each Olympic event are selected by an application process.  Hundreds of thousands of applications roll in one to two years in advance.  The process pays special attention to language skills, problem solving, and other skills that might be helpful to facilitating the Olympics.  For example, medical skills may prove advantageous to help run drug screening for athletes.  However, being an Olympic volunteer does not require special skill sets, and volunteerism is a way in which anyone can be part of the Olympics, even if it means simply directing traffic and welcoming guests with a smile.  A large majority of volunteers, regardless of their assignments, reported that the experience of just being in the Olympics was unforgettable.


In Sochi and across Russia, many hope that a culture of volunteerism will continue to thrive after the Olympics.  The Olympic games are one of the best examples of how volunteerism can make an impact on the world.  Although the games have come to a finish for this year, I must say that the team I cheer for the most at each event is the vast team of volunteers.  


In a local sense, you can also take part in the spirit of Olympic volunteerism.  Volunteers are always in need for Special Olympics events in each state. Find opportunities on NobleHour and then come back to log your volunteer hours.

 

Image via Atos International

Topics: volunteering, opportunities, youth impact, millennials, community service, development, olympics

The Future of MOOCs & Online Learning: A Student Perspective

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Feb 06, 2014 @ 03:00 PM

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

The evolution of online learning poses many questions about the future of education. Is online learning effective? Do online courses provide the same quality of education as traditional classrooms? Will online classes someday make classroom teachers obsolete? Like many innovations in the digital world, online learning is constantly being reviewed and modified. But I don’t feel that online education is a threat to the traditional classroom. Rather, it is another way the Internet spreads ideas, creates opportunity, and facilitates connectivity between people.

MOOCs and online courses can provide students with many different experiences.

My experience with online classes has been at times both fulfilling and disastrous. The first online course I experienced was a writing course. When the books arrived

in the mail and I received my username and password, I knew little about formal writing. However, by the end of the course I had learned basic structure, techniques, and editing tools that compelled me to continue improving my writing. I learned more from this class than any other English course I had taken in school. Because I enjoyed it so much, the following semester, I signed up for a second writing course in the program. These courses challenged me not only in my writing but also in becoming an independent learner. In both cases, I acquired knowledge and skills related to my writing, and I also gained experience in time management, a strong work ethic, and practice in adaptability as a student by facing a different form of learning.  

However, not all online classes are created equally. A couple years later, I signed up for a summer math course to earn an additional math credit. The program for this course was different, and I did not enjoy learning the material. The course consisted of reading the material and answering questions about it. I finished the course with good grades, but I did not feel that I had personally gained anything from this experience.  The difference in this course was that it lacked the feeling of a regular classroom.  In the writing courses I took, my instructor communicated regularly with me, continuously provided feedback, and engaged in live chat conversations with the class. I also interacted with my fellow students in class discussions and peer review. However, in the less enjoyable math course, a lack in human interaction with my teacher made the class unrewarding. My experience is not a critique of any particular course, but rather an insight into the nature of quality online education. For online courses to truly benefit students there must be a seamless liaison between teacher and student. In my opinion, the only significant difference between a successful online course and a traditional one is that the teacher and pupils are in different rooms. Online courses should facilitate typical class discussion, lessons, and feedback.

A popular format for online learning is the readily available Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). MOOCs are free online course accessible by anyone, unique for their unlimited enrolment. In a typical MOOC, a professor will upload a video of the lecture, reading materials, practice problems, and assignments comparable to those the professor would provide in the course he or she teaches. A computer typically grades assignments, and completion of the course does not usually entail university credit. In 2012, MOOCs gained attention when Ivy League universities began uploading full courses free of cost to the public. Some popular MOOC websites include Udacity, edX, and Coursera. The spirit of MOOCs is one of equality in education—the idea that wider access to higher education promotes connectivity, collaboration, and equal opportunity.  MOOCs were developed to solve the problem of higher education by making it available to anyone at little to no cost.  However, they are still young and not as fool-proof as they seem.  The challenges educators face in achieving the accessibility and quality of learning that MOOCs attempt to provide represent the evolving state of online education. 

Online learning can make higher education more accessible.

MOOCs are often less successful than anticipated by their creators because the unlimited enrolment of the course means little human interaction between the student and the instructor.  The instructor merely provides lectures and materials, but learning the content is left up to the student. Educators find that the students most successful in these types of courses are already high-achieving, educated, motivated students. MOOC developers and professors originally envisioned the MOOC as a way to bridge the education gap by making higher education accessible and affordable, but this has not been the case.  Millions of dollars have been invested into MOOCs.  Millions of students enroll, but only a fraction actually complete the course.  MOOCs’ shortcomings are partially due to the lack of human connection between the teacher and the student.  Without the ability to personally engage with an instructor students often find their experience with MOOCs to be less enriching than they had expected.  Instead, MOOCs often prove mechanistic and unfulfilling.  The teacher simply is irreplaceable in the classroom.  MOOCs remain an experimental area of online education, and perhaps someday they will become a pathway for a universally accessible higher education experience.  For the time being though, the mishaps of the MOOC show that quality education to the masses cannot be achieved without investment in the human connection between teacher and student.

The future of online education is exciting. It presents the opportunity for wider access to higher education.  However, online courses cannot supplement traditional classrooms without considering the latter’s experience.  For an online course to be comparable to a conventional classroom, the student’s learning experience must be one that mimics the ways in which teachers bring out students’ potential. 

 

images via: CollegeDegrees360, velkr0

Topics: highered, opportunities, millennials, high school, college admissions, online learning, elearning, MOOC

Get Outdoors: Active Volunteering Helps Everyone

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Fri, Oct 25, 2013 @ 09:30 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

Over the last quarter of a millennium, humans have moved indoors.  Beginning in 1750 with the first wave of the Industrial Revolution, a gross migration began to occur when people from rural, outdoor, farming communities moved to cities.  Now, more than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. In the early stages of industrialization, people were moving to cities for factory work. Now, in the post-industrial economies of the developed world, people have moved up from the factories and are working in office spaces, living stationary lifestyles under fluorescent lights.  Students spend most of the school day inside.

With the invention of universal education that came with industrialization, children have also been brought inside. Education inflation has caused young people not only to spend school hours inside, but also to spend more time inside studying, with everyone sinking down in front of the TV or computer when the long, tiring day is over.  Today, we see less-developed countries experiencing the same lifestyle shift that brought us indoors.  

Now, I’m not romanticising life before the “Great Indoor Migration”, because I think it has ultimately improved our lives.  Without this shift I would probably be spending my day harvesting crops, cleaning the house, and thinking about getting married in five years. Instead, I’m going to school and hoping in five years to start a life and career for myself.  The fact of the matter is that we are now living indoors more, and it’s time to spend a little time being active outside.

The fun, animated video “What if You Stopped Going Outside?” describes health risks and problems that could arise from not spending enough time outside - including osteoporosis, depression, and even cancers. 

Furthermore, the Harvard Health Letter gives some of the benefits of spending time outside. These benefits include getting more vitamin D, more exercise, a happier life, better concentration, and a better healing time in the event of injury (you can read more about how sunshine and fresh air help these processes). Being outside feels good and is good for you. Being outside and being active go hand in hand with being healthier and happier, but the main problem facing most people is finding time to be more active.  Volunteering outdoors is a great way to merge outdoor activities with community engagement. You will be impacting the community by volunteering and helping yourself by being active.

A nature trail is a great place to volunteer.

While out in nature, you are inevitably active.  Hiking, climbing, and running are all ways we interact with nature while being active.  It is also important to protect the environment around us so it can sustain us and an active lifestyle. Volunteering with organizations concerned with the environment is a great way to get active and volunteer. Some outdoor environmental projects could entail planting a community or urban garden or helping clean up a river, beach, highway, or nearby park. To find these types of opportunities, look up local parks and environmental organizations. Remember not only to keep it outdoorsy and active, but to keep it local too. Part of being more active is also getting out of those cars and using your legs as transportation.  Cars pollute the environment, so if you are trying to improve the environment and enjoy your time outdoors, do your best not to pollute it even more.  Plus, you’ll have a direct impact on your own local community.  

Sports are another way people enjoy their time outdoors.  Walks and marathons are common fundraising events, and nonprofits are always in need of volunteers to register runners, hand out water, stand along the route and encourage the racers.  For example, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in the States are two runs held to support breast cancer research and breast cancer survivors.  Right now, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but the events are held year round. Local organizations may also hold fundraising races for local causes. In Greensboro, NC, an event call the Chicken Walk will take place next month to raise money to help the Interactive Resource Center, a local resource that helps people experiencing homelessness, keep its doors open.  A fantastic woman named Amy Murphy began the project by taking chicken that restaurants were throwing away, and feeding it to the homeless, who she refers to as her “friends downtown.”  If you are in the area, find out more about this year’s inaugural Chicken Walk. Volunteering with athletics is a great way to help with an important cause, but volunteering actively can also mean supporting the cause of physical activity and exercise itself.  

Volunteer coaching is a great way to stay active and make a difference in your local community.

Volunteer coaching or hosting a field day are both great ways to get outdoors.  Not only will you be active, get outside, and have fun, but you’ll also bring the importance of being active to children growing up in the “Great Indoor Migration”. You’ll become a positive mentor and leader to the kids you work with. You can inspire them to lead healthier lives, develop sportsmanship, and enjoy just being a kid.  To find these kinds of opportunities, team up with local schools, parks, and recreation centres to get involved or to pioneer your own program geared toward fitness.  


What are some ways you are tracking your Noble Impact™ by getting active outdoors? 


Classroom image via FotoPedia

Topics: service learning, volunteering, community, America, civic engagement, community engagement, opportunities, youth impact, millennials, social, involvement, outdoors, active

6 Service Ideas for Halloween

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Oct 22, 2013 @ 09:30 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

The season’s spookiest holiday is just around the corner, but let’s not forget that the scariest things in life don’t come out on Halloween night.  Can you imagine what it would be like to not have have a house, to not have food, to not have clean water, to not have a school to go to, or not to have a family?  Facing life’s toughest challenges and uncertainties is scary.  This Halloween, apart from the ghosts and the jack-o'-lanterns, try to imagine what really scares you and find ways to impact your community and help people in dire situations. Why not celebrate this year with these service ideas

Pumpkins carved for Halloween.

  1. Costume Event Fundraiser:  Host a Halloween party and ask your friends to each bring a small donation for a local nonprofit.  If your school doesn’t allow costumes, see if this year the rules can be broken for a good cause.  Talk to your principal about letting students come in their spooky attire provided they donate to your fundraiser.  If every student in your school donated a dollar, or even a quarter, how much could you raise while still having fun? You could even expand the event by having a whole week of fundraising with a Halloween-related theme for each day.  

  2. Neighborhood Trick-or-Treat Food Drive:  Trick-or-treating is a precious memory.  For me, I always remember my cousins and I precariously huddled together, walking up to the houses with the scaries decorations (and the best candy) only to run back down the driveway screaming at whatever creature had popped out as us. However, it was all worth it when we returned home with sacks of candy.  But with all those bags of candy, I never finished them all.  Instead of collecting candy for yourself, help someone in need by asking your neighbors to give you canned and dried food when you come knocking on their doors.  Try to get as many peers to participate in your efforts to greater the collective impact of just one night of trick-or-treating.  For tips on how to start a program like this in your neighborhood, read about Free the Children’s We Scare Hunger Program. 

  3. Donate a Costume: Bring the fun and scares of Halloween to someone in need by donating old or outgrown costumes that you don’t need anymore.

  4. Pumpkin Crafts: A fun way to celebrate Halloween is by decorating pumpkins.  Share this experience with others by volunteering to help children carve their own Jack-o-Lantern. You could read stories to the children about Halloween and make Halloween decorations out of construction paper if the pumpkins are too messy.  You could also volunteer at a senior citizen home and decorate pumpkins with them.  These crafts could be carving up the pumpkin to create a traditional jack-o'-lantern, or just decorating pumpkins on the outside with paint, glitter, ribbons, etc. and putting them in the seniors’ rooms.  Paint half your pumpkins black and create a large checkers board to play pumpkin checkers.  The smaller pumpkins are ideal for these types of projects because they are easier to work with,  less expensive, and everyone can have one.  

  5. “Trick or Treating for UNICEF”: Beginning in 1950, children have been collecting spare change on Halloween night to collect money to help UNICEF provide basic needs for children worldwide. The first campaign, started by a group of schoolchildren in Philadelphia, raised $17, but in the 60+ years of the program, children trick-or-treating in the United States have raised almost $160 million.  The program has not only been successful to help children abroad, but it educates children on global issues; participating in the program “has given US children, along with their parents and teachers, the opportunity to learn about their peers worldwide who are truly in need” of necessities such as “ medicine, better nutrition, safe water, education, [and] emergency relief.”  This program is about children helping other children in the world.  To find out how to volunteer this Halloween through this program, click here.  

    Halloween Candy

  6. Halloween Safety:  Halloween is fun, but it’s also important for children, especially younger ones, to be aware of how to be safe while walking in the streets at night.  Educate youngsters by creating a fun presentation about Halloween safety.  Perhaps design a skit about what to do and what not to do.  Be sure to emphasize points like staying in a group, crossing the streets carefully, denying invitations into people’s houses, and staying on streets you are familiar with.  Plan a safe Halloween event by hosting Halloween events where children can have fun, be scared, and stay safe.  Here’s an example of a project done by one high school: “With the goal of providing a safe environment for children to go trick-or-treating, Sycamore (Ill.) High School Student Council hosts a unique activity on Halloween. They contact a local retirement center and arrange to have trick-or-treaters visit on Halloween. Student council members provide candy to participating residents and decorate their doors to indicate which rooms children may visit. The trick-or-treaters are escorted around the building by council members.”  Similar project ideas can be found here.  

What volunteer service projects will you participate in this Halloween?


Image Attribution:

Pumpkins
Candy Corn

Topics: service learning, service, volunteering, community engagement, opportunities, youth impact, millennials, involvement, halloween, trick-or-treat

Students Advocate Service-Learning in North Carolina Schools

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Sat, Oct 05, 2013 @ 10:30 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

What does it take to get teenagers to come to school on a Saturday morning?  After spending approximately forty hours at school each week plus time after school doing homework, I like having Saturdays for myself, and I think most students would agree.  In the average Millennials’ world, plagued by educational inflation and constant mantras to work harder, become smarter, and test better to get into college, free time is golden.  So golden, you’d think young people would keep it all to themselves, but of course young people are also using their time to do a world of good.  Which is why on a Saturday morning students representing high schools across Guilford County woke up early and came to school to learn about service learning.  

The Guilford County Schools (GCS) Character Education Department and the GCS Service-Learning Youth Council hosted the event, held at Ragsdale High School in Jamestown, NC—just outside of Greensboro, NC—.  In Guilford County, students are strongly encouraged to engage in service learning.  If, over the course of high school, students log 100 service learning hours they receive an Exemplary Award upon graduation, and if students track 250 hours they receive a Service-Learning Diploma.  This program encourages young people to play an active role in their community.  Service-learning is not only important for these students while in high school, but also to build experience when applying to universities and living better lives after graduation

Service-Learning Ambassadors Track Service Hours with NobleHourSaturday’s Service-Learning Ambassador Training was focused on educating students on how to be Service-Learning Ambassadors.  Of the 25+ high schools in Guilford County, each school was invited to send up to five of their most dedicated students to learn about advocating for service learning among their peers. Additionally, schools could send two students who’d already been trained as Service-Learning Ambassadors to facilitate the training and workshops.  

Students learned how to engage in service learning and how meaningful volunteerism can facilitate a more well-rounded educational experience.  Students rotated in groups to attend several workshops to help them bring service learning back to their schools.  Organizations such as the Poetry Project, Habitat for Humanity, Horsepower, and many other local non-profits met with students to tell them about exciting opportunities they can get involved with.  Students also learned about the importance of youth voice in their actions and words.  Youth empowerment was an important focus of this particular workshop, demonstrating to young people the power and change they can unleash by engaging in volunteerism.  Working together, the Character-Education Department, experienced Service-Learning Ambassadors, and NobleHour’s own Keara Ziegerer trained students in the use of NobleHour’s hour-tracking software to help them track their impact in the community and progress toward their Service-Learning Diplomas. However, the goal of the program was not only to educate students about service learning, but also for them to take this knowledge back to their schools and cultivate service programs, hence the name Service-Learning Ambassadors.  As Ambassadors, students are not only working to be active in their community for their diplomas but are also active in their schools helping other students become more aware of the importance of service.

Guilford County students display their service-learning projects.

After the seven-hour program, students were tired and exhausted, but better for it.  Students ended the day reflecting on what they’d learned.  Senior Meredith Wettach commented, “I was so inspired to see all the students that are truly dedicated to giving back to our community.”  This week all these students will return to school—though probably not on Saturday for quite some time—and try to better themselves and peers.  They will become leaders.  

Last year, when I attended the training for the first time, it was in the early beginnings of my journey of committing to volunteerism.  As I reflect on the past year, I realize I have grown the most as a person in that time, and becoming a more confident leader and better individual are definitely in part the result of my service learning projects.

I’m inspired to see so many students taking initiative not only in their communities and schools but also in their own education.  Particularly, with the political unrest over budget cuts here in North Carolina, I’m glad to see that service learning has not been forgotten, and I wish more aspects of a complete, well rounded education were preserved for our generation in the face of economic hardship.  

At the end of the day, my hope is that students did not only come out of the training with a simple understanding of service learning and how hours are tracked, but with the knowledge that their time is as good as gold and that the number of hours one puts in is immeasurable compared to committing yourself to reach your own potential.   

Topics: service learning, volunteering, experience, community, civic engagement, community engagement, youth impact, millennials, volunteer management

The Power of Unity: Communities Connect to Prevent Bullying

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Oct 01, 2013 @ 11:00 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

Unity - What does it mean to you?  Can a group form cohesively without some underlying unity between them? Probably not, and they can’t bind together entirely by choice either.  Unity is the reconciliation between what is instinctual and what is intentional within a group of people. Perhaps unity comes from the natural connection between people, and becoming mutually conscious of our connections is what we call unity. Can—and do—we choose unity, or is unity something that only happens when we look into the yearnings of others and find ourselves? No matter the answer,  it is clear that unity has power.

PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center has been using the power of unity to to unite students, parents, teachers, and communityUnite Against Bullying members against bullying.  They started and have been celebrating National Bullying Prevention Month each October since 2006, and in 2011 created Unity Day on October 9th. PACER (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights) is an organization, created in 1977, dedicated to helping improve the quality of life of disabled children and helping create a support system for parents with disabled children.  In 2006 PACER created the National Bullying Prevention Center in response to concerns and fears of parents with disabled children who were bullied in school.  Today, the organization has grown and provides a host of educational materials for schools, communities, and parents to help with bullying prevention programs.  

Unity Day is celebrated both online and offline in a show of support of students struggling with the stigma of being bullied.  To participate in Unity Day, schools and communities are encouraged to wear the color orange, write UNITY somewhere visible on their person or belongings, hang banners displaying the event, and wear an orange unity ribbon.  Participants can purchase their own unity banner on the PACER website; however, to make the event more inclusive and interactive, schools could consider discussing the issue of bullying and students could create their own unity banners reflecting how they believe they can take actions.  Instructions and details about the unity ribbon and about getting involved can be found here.  

Unity Day also takes place online.  Participating in Unity Day could mean sharing it via social media because social media can spread information faster and farther than anything else.  The National Bullying Prevention Center recommends changing one’s Facebook status to “UNITY DAY, October 9th.  Join the movement to make it orange and make it end!  If you are being bullied, you are not alone. Unite and be a champion against bullying!”  However, students could go beyond a generic phrase and harness the power of social media by posting their words of encouragement and support for October 9th.  Joining the Unity Day Facebook event and posting picture wearing orange and creating posters are some other ways to get involved online and share the fight against bullying via social media.  With these basic activities, anyone can get involved in Unity Day and reflect upon the challenges faced by students bullied in school.

Schools can go the extra mile in celebrating Unity Day by addressing bullying with the student body.  Serious class discussions and forums could take place to get students’ feedback about how they’ve experienced bullying, what their thoughts are about it, and how it should be dealt with.  The National Bullying Prevention Center also has instructions for hosting a Unity Dance accompanied by optional music and choreography to the song “You Can’t Take That Away from Me” by Nashville musicians Tim Akers and Libby Weavers.  PACER also has an online petition for students to sign in support of students being bullied and in hope of ending bullying.  Students can also get involved by using their artistic abilities to talk about bullying and design a way to symbolically represent unity.

Additionally,  “The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin” is an accessible way to teach younger students about bullying.  The story, available in both movie and storybook format, tells about a Spookley who is a square pumpkin living in a patch of round pumpkin.  The story and its accompanying lesson plans can help teachers engage their students in a discussion about bullying by using a simple story and applying it to reality.  To fully benefit from the message and objective of embracing Unity Day, schools and students should attempt to really involve participants in the event and draw attention to both the problem and solution.  More information and resources to help spark a celebration of Unity Day can be found here.

Unity has power, and harnessing that power is the goal of Unity Day.  Uniting people online and offline is like one big petition against bullying.  People are called upon to petition their support in the colours they wear, the things they share online, the discussions they have about conflict resolution, and in the form of an actual petition to sign.  We think of the purpose of petition as a unified group compelling someone to change by a show of support for the issue.  Spreading awareness is a big part of Unity Day, but awareness is only useful if it promotes action.  Though Unity Day is an annual event, hopefully one year it will not be necessary.  

About PACER's Bullying Prevention Center

Every year 13 million kids in America are bullied. PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center unites, engages, and educates communities nationwide to prevent bullying through the use of creative, interactive resources. It has three helpful websites that offer a wide variety of free resources teachers, students, and families can use to address bullying in schools, the community, and online:

KidsAgainstBullying.org is for elementary school children.

TeensAgainstBullying.org is for middle school and high school students.

PACER.org/bullying is for parents, educators, and other concerned adults.

Topics: education, community, community engagement, policy, bullying, youth impact, millennials, bullying prevention

5 Back-to-School Tips for Success

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Wed, Aug 28, 2013 @ 10:55 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

On the first day of kindergarten, there are always the kids crying and clinging to their parents not wanting to go inside, and then there are some who march in without a second thought.  Every year after that, it’s still the same except less tears and clinging to parents.  For some students, the first day can be nerve-racking.  They don’t know what to expect from their teachers and peers, and fill their heads with every worst-case possibility from not having anyone to play with during recess to getting lost between classes.  A little nervousness is normal, but by lunchtime most students have forgotten all their worries.  

nh backtoschool spot resized 600

When returning to school, kick some of the nervousness by being prepared.  Consider how last year went, and decide what went well and what you’d like to do differently.  Here are some tips for kicking bad habits of schooldays past, and starting the year anew ready to improve.  

  1. Hit the Ground Running: Don’t wait for the first report card to improve your habits.  A new year with new teachers and classes means a fresh start for students.  It’s the opportunity to do better and break old habits.  Each year there are courses more challenging from the last, so think ahead as to what subjects you may need to give more attention to this year.  Study and review a little each day so you know all the material so you aren’t cramming.  Pull yourself out of the ease of summer and start on homework the day you receive it—yes, even on the first day—to break any old habits of procrastination.  Don’t fall behind on the first week, or it will just become more and more difficult to catch up.

  2. Stay Organized:  One of the worst feelings is having done an assignment but having left it at home on the day it’s due.  Devise a system of organization on the first week.  Know what belongs in each binder, notebook, or folder so that by midterms you aren’t searching to find notes among a pile of papers haphazardly thrown into your backpack.  If your teacher allows it, periodically discard old papers you don’t need, but never through out notes and study materials you may need later.  Instead store those at home so you don’t have to carry around weight that you won’t need for class on a day-to-day basis, but you’ll still have them come finals.  One year my teacher had a poster reading, “Organization is the key to success” above her blackboard, and it’s true.  Instead of spending time looking for things, you can use your time on the things that really matter.  

  3. Manage Your Time:  In addition to managing books and papers you’ve got to manage your time.  If you’ve ever found yourself up at 2 a.m. gluing together a history project, regretting the time you spent not working on it earlier, you’ve learned the hard way the importance of using your time wisely.  Always keep in mind what the week ahead looks like.  Consider how your days with practices, games, meetings, or other extracurricular activities could conflict with tests or major deadlines, and get ahead on assignment or studying you won’t have time for later in the week.  This way you can keep doing your fun activities without sacrificing academics.  If your school doesn’t provide you with one, think about picking up a weekly planner to write down all your assignments, tests, and activities.  If you let assignments pile up you won’t be able to do your best. Managing your time properly alleviates stress and allows you more free time to do the things you love.  

  4. Get Involved:  At school there are many opportunities to be involved with clubs and sports.  This is the chance to do something you enjoy and meet people with similar interests.  You’ll make friends, gain experience, and get more out of you education.  It’ll also boost applications or resumes.  The hardest part for some students is knowing where to start.  Make sure you take advantage of any club fairs or interest meetings your school may host so you know what might interest you.  Talk to the teachers who help organize, coach, or advise for different clubs and athletics. If you’re still lacking some confidence, talk to another student involved or bring a friend along.  

  5. Ask Your Teachers for Help:  Teachers are there to help you, so don’t be shy to ask.  If you find yourself in a tough spot with the material, talk to your teacher after class to get advice on getting some extra help.  If on a particular week you’re stressed despite your time management with lots of assignments or tests coincidentally at the same time, explain to your teachers the situation ahead of time to see if you can get an extension, but don’t make a habit of it, and I wouldn’t advise coming the day before with excuses.  Teachers should be interested in your success, so don’t be afraid to ask for their advice and help when you need it.  

Learning is the most important part of school.  As you return to school, consider trading in bad habits from last year for better ones this year.  This process of learning about your own capabilities should continue throughout the year.  Constantly evaluate what techniques are working that you should keep up with, and what’s not helping and needs to be changed or improved.  Here are just a few tips, but each individual must understand his or her own learning style in order to achieve.  Good luck in the new school year!  

Topics: education, k12, millennials, back to school, higher ed

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