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.

______________________________________________________________________________


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

This Summer, Students Become Changemakers at UF: Apply Now!

Posted by Pia Simeoni on Mon, Mar 24, 2014 @ 03:55 PM

This post was updated on 3/3/2015 

social entrepreneur summer camp

Apply now to be a part of the 2015 UF Young Entrepreneurs for Leadership & Sustainability (YELS) Summer Program.

YELS teaches students about Entrepreneurship, Social Entrepreneurship, Leadership, and Sustainability through academic courses, community service, activities, events, and field trips, and campus life.

Students will complete over 75 hours of community service (towards the requirement for Bright Futures Scholarships or the service portion of IB CAS hours). After class each afternoon, students work in teams volunteering with local nonprofit organizations. On Saturdays, we begin the day with service plunges and then have fun-in-the-sun in the afternoon. Past projects have included: tutoring & mentoring at-risk students, planting community gardens, renovating the homes of low-income disabled and elderly folks, playing with preschoolers & building a playground, conducting home-energy audits to lower the utilities bills of disadvantaged families, removing invasive species from local waterways, weeding and pruning at an organic blueberry farm, and building a butterfly garden. By participating in YELS this summer, you really can, as Gandhi said, “be the change you wish to see in the world.


Please share this info with anyone who might be interested:

The University of Florida’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) is pleased to announce our 9th Annual Pre-College Summer Program for High School Students: UF Young Entrepreneurs for Leadership & Sustainability Summer (YELS) Program.

This program is for motivated, college-bound rising juniors and seniors who are interested in Entrepreneurship, Social Entrepreneurship, Leadership, and Sustainability.

From June 21 through July 24, 2015, program participants will take two college-level courses at UF: ENT4934 - Exploring Entrepreneurship & SYG2010 - Social Problems & Solutions.
Participants will also complete 75+ hours of community service (towards the requirement for Bright Futures Scholarships + IB CAS hours). Students will participate in evening and weekend programing including a Speaker Series, mentor partnerships with Entrepreneurs and Nonprofit Leaders, field trips, visits with Gator Athletes, and other exciting events and activities. The program will culminate with an awards lunch on the final day, recognizing the students for their leadership and entrepreneurial spirit.

Students will work, eat, play, and sleep on campus during the five week program. They will be housed in Beaty Towers, near other high school students attending summer science & engineering programs. Participants will have access to the university's facilities including a newly renovated library, student union and arts center, and many state of the art recreation and sports facilities (including three fitness facilities, nine fields, two pools, six outdoor court facilities, and a gym).

Applications are NOW AVAILABLE

We encourage you to submit your application as soon as possible, as we are processing applications on a rolling basis, with a deadline of March 1st.

Detailed information, including the application materials and scholarship applications are available on our website. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us, quickest replies will come by email.

For more information:

http://www.ufyoungentrepreneurs.org/

Contact:

social impact and social entrepreneurship at UF

Dr. Kristin Joos, Director
info@ufyoungentrepreneurs.org
352-273-0355


YELS was developed in Partnership with UF Center for Precollegiate Education & Training, UF Office of Youth Conference Services, UF Center for Leadership & Service, the UF Office of Sustainability, and the UF Innovation Academy.

Topics: summer, socent, college credit, volunteering, youth impact, college admissions, college applications, social entrepreneurship, scholarships

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

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

Community Service: Helping Students Understand the Benefits

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

Empowering NobleLeaders: Helping Students Understand the Benefits of Community Service 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volunteering on Valentine's Day

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Feb 13, 2014 @ 09:04 AM

volunteer on valentine's dayValentine’s Day is coming up, and the best way to show your love for others is volunteering. Usually when we think of Valentine’s Day, things like chocolates, flowers, and cards come to mind, but this year why not extend Valentine’s Day to caring for others, perhaps total strangers, who are in need of some kindness.  There are countless people in need in our communities and abroad, and this February 14th I encourage you to show your love in a unique manner.  Giving time and thought into improving your community is a true measure of compassion.  To demonstrate how Valentine’s Day is such a great excuse to volunteer, I spoke with a high school student whose Valentine’s Day themed service initiative is encouraging her peers to help others.  Then, I thought of a few other Valentine’s Day service projects that you might adopt in your community.  

Zainab Hasan, a high school senior and president of the Global Citizens Corps club at Grimsley High School, shared with me how her “Spread the Love” campaign celebrates Valentine’s Day with service.  Around fifteen students are involved in the project.  The group is collecting jars of peanut butter to donate to Food Assistance, a local organization that helps low income senior citizens.  

Zainab explains, “One specific preferred item was peanut butter, so Grimsley Global Citizen Corps decided to do a peanut butter collection, calling it the ‘Spread the Love’ campaign since it's in February . . . Food Assistance helps out 450 families each month and 20% of senior citizens live at [the] poverty level.”  Grimsley Global Citizen Corps’ peanut butter collection is one of their many service projects carried out each year.  The club has also collected shoes and glasses to send abroad to children in need.  

I asked Zainab why the peanut butter collection was important to her, and she said, “I like to know that I'm able to help out people in my community. I've been to countries outside of the US, and I see how poverty stricken those places are. One day I'd like to help them as well, but we have to start out small to eventually span out and make a larger difference.”

My final question for Zainab was to describe how she thinks Valentine’s Day and service relate: “Most people on Valentine’s Day tend to celebrate themselves and their friends . . . its important to put that love towards others as well. The less fortunate senior citizens don't really have anyone to visit them, and [they benefit from] a small amount of food or money to make the holiday something memorable for themselves. If we can give them something, even if it is just peanut butter, it shows them that they're not alone, that there is someone out there who cares about them. It may not be a whole lot but its more than enough to make someone smile and feel loved.”

If you want to make people in your community feel loved through acts of service, here are a few suggestions for Valentine’s Day service ideas:

Random Acts of Kindness

Send Volunteer Valentines:  For nonprofits, sending thank you notes or cards to volunteers is a nice way to remind them you value their commitment.  Volunteers who are appreciated will feel that the time and effort they put into an organization is worthwhile.  Developing a relationship with volunteers will build a reputation of respect and commitment that will encourage community members to take interest in your organization.  

Advocate Love: What are some causes you feel passionately about?  What would you like to see changed or improved in the world?  Who do you feel society should approach with more kindness?  Raising awareness about issues and advocating change is an important part of civic engagement.  Make people aware of the issue you are focusing on through posters, social media, and presentations.  Celebrate Valentine’s Day by showing where change is needed and striving for a world with people who are more considerate of each other.

Bake Some Sweet Treats: Bake sales are a fun way to fundraise for your favorite nonprofit.  Make your cookies, cupcakes, and other treats festive with pink and red frosting and sprinkles.  Get other people involved to help you decorate your baked goods and plan the event.  


This Valentine’s Day, we can all show a little more love for each other through acts of kindness and service.  Perhaps it's no coincidence that it's also "Random Acts of Kindness Week." To find ways to volunteer, search for local opportunities and organizations on NobleHour.  Find a friend and ask him or her to “be your volunteer” this Valentine’s Day, and share this holiday of love with those in need of it most.  

 

Topics: volunteering, community service, random acts of kindness, random acts of kindness week, valentine's day

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

Super Bowl Scores with Community Service

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Thu, Jan 30, 2014 @ 09:00 AM


jersey caresSuper Bowl XLVIII
is less than a week away. Approximately 108 million people are expected to watch. Not only will it be an economic boom for the New York/New Jersey area, but for
thousands and thousands of take-out and delivery restaurants, establishments with big screen televisions, as well as snack, liquor and beverage distributors throughout the country.

Apparently Super Bowl Sunday is considered the second biggest eating day of the year after Thanksgiving. A few statistics show why. According to the National Chicken Council’s 2014 Wing Report, an estimated 1.25 billion wings will be devoured during the Super Bowl. Domino’s Pizza will sell more than 11 million slices of pizza this Sunday. And, according to the Nielson Company, nine out of ten people will watch the game at their home or a friend’s house. It’s one of the biggest events for friends and family to come together.

This got me thinking. Why can’t we enjoy this event and use it to spark a movement to help others? With this being the National Football League’s first cold-weather, outdoor Super Bowl, it could be the highest-profile game in the event’s history. Fortunately, I’m not the only one who thinks we can use this opportunity do social good as well!

The NFL and the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee are harnessing the excitement of Super Bowl XLVIII to organize a number of community events and donation drives to provide support to those in need. The Snowflake Youth Foundation, a charity initiative of the Host Committee, was created to raise money and support for a number of local community projects, including the rehabilitation of after-school centers, support for the Super Community Blood Drives, and various environmental works. The foundation and its partner organizations have raised more than $11 million to support 50 projects to improve after-school facilities in New York and New Jersey communities.

“As this work illustrates, when the power of the world’s greatest sporting event is combined with the generosity of the New York and New Jersey region, an indisputable difference can be made in the lives of our youth.” Said Jonathan Tisch, Host Committee Co-Chairman in a recent statement issued by the foundation. 

Kickoff to Rebuild is also an annual NFL sanctioned event. Hosted by Rebuilding Together, the organization partners with the NFL in Super Bowl cities across the country, rebuilding houses and bringing together neighborhoods, home by home, block by block. This month, they mobilized hundreds of volunteers, including past and present NFL players, community leaders, celebrities, and local and national sponsors to complete critical home repairs for thirteen local low-income homeowners. The repairs will improve the safety and health of homes for local residents in Bergen County, New Jersey, including seniors and families who were devastated by flooding from Superstorm Sandy.

Another event to capitalize on the excitement of the Super Bowl is the Super Community Coat Drive, which runs through February 7. Organized by the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee, along with New York Cares, Jersey Cares, and other local organizations, individuals can donate gently used and freshly laundered coats at hundreds of locations throughout New York and New Jersey.

“The Super Community Coat Drive is an initiative that fits perfectly into the Host Committee’s mission to give back to the communities of New Jersey and New York,” said NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee President and CEO Al Kelly.

Throughout the 2013-14 season, the National Football League’s Taste of NFL asked fans to raise money online through their Kick Hunger Challenge. Fans from all 32 NFL teams and Brooklyn competed against each other all season by raising money online for food banks in NFL communities around the country. The funds raised will directly impact the donation of thousands of meals to food banks in each team’s community. Fans can go online till January 31, 2014, to make donations in the name of their favorite NFL team. The winning team gets an additional $10,000.

Dr. Melony Samuels is executive director and founder of Bed-Stuy Campaign Againstsuper pantry3 Hunger, one of the designated food banks to receive funds. “They (NFL) created a team for us to raise money.  It’s called Brooklyn, New York. We want to get everyone in New York to back us. We are fighting hunger for a good cause. We are one of the largest, if not the largest, emergency feeding program in New York City. We served 2.9 million meals to 338,951 individuals last year. We will continue to meet that need.”

In addition to the Kick Hunger Campaign, the NFL hosts Party with a Purpose®, a food and wine event in the host city on the eve of the Super Bowl. Chefs from each NFL city, provide food and wine pairings for guests to sample. Proceeds from the event also benefit food banks in each of the NFL cities.

So, why let the NFL have all the fun? People all over the country are planning Super Bowl parties this weekend. Samuels encourages everyone to have their own canned food drives. “Tell their guests to bring a can or two to donate to an emergency feeding program.”

She also encourages schools and colleges to start a buzz in their different communities; to have clubs and organizations compete against each other and raise money for their local food banks. Samuels said one of the easiest ways to find your nearest emergency feeding program is to call 311 or the Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3Hungry. She also suggests contacting your local city hall or city council. “Local people know what is going on in the community,” said Samuels. “They can easily tell you where the programs are.  When families are hungry, it’s not a secret.”

According to figures from the Department of Agriculture, approximately 48 million people in the U.S., including 17 million children, lack access to adequate food. “If every group just donated $20, it could help many families,” said Samuels. “We could purchase at least 15 meals with $20. Sometimes if we get good prices, we can get $1 a meal.”

While 48 million may seem insurmountable, just imagine if everyone of the over 100 million viewers donated $10 to their local food bank or donated a can of food or a gently used coat, hat or set of gloves to their Super Bowl party. Or, imagine if we decided that the following Sunday, we would get together with friends and family and volunteer our time to a local community organization. It might not be an economic boom, but it would be a positive one. How will you watch the Super Bowl this Sunday? Join in the excitement and support your community!

Topics: service, volunteering, volunteering nonprofit, community, community engagement, opportunities, economy, engagement, community service, fundraising, Food Banks, Food Pantries, Food Drives.

Opportunity Spotlight: Habitat for Humanity

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Jan 23, 2014 @ 02:54 PM

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

Habitat for Humanity is a worldwide non-profit organization that works to bring “simple, decent, affordable housing” to families around the world. In developing countries, Habitat for Humanity works to provide housing for the world’s poor. Locally, Habitat affiliates and their volunteers build houses for low-income families. Homeowners repay interest-free loans for the material cost of their homes.

Volunteering at Habitat for Humanity is an accessible opportunity for people of all ages.  Youth volunteers must be at least sixteen years old to work on a construction site, but Habitat still encourages involvement from volunteers as young as five to engage in other areas of the organization’s work.  Some areas for young people to volunteer include:

  • Youth volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.Youth United is a program within Habitat that encourages and guides student-lead fundraising to help build Habitat homes in their communities.

  • Act! Speak! Build! Week is an advocacy group for a student-initiated week of awareness about the importance of addressing housing issues.

  • Campus Chapters are student organizations at high schools and colleges with four goals: build, fundraise, advocate, and educate.  Any student can start a Campus Chapter, provided your school does not already have one, by contacting their local Habitat affiliate for an application.

  • Collegiate Challenge is the opportunity for teams of young people aged 16 and up to donate a week of their school break to help end poverty housing.

Volunteer opportunities at Habitat are the chance to take part in solving the global housing crisis. Volunteers of all ages are invited to engage in their community via Habitat. In addition to volunteering locally, Habitat volunteers also work at long-term positions abroad or elsewhere in the United States. To get involved, contact your local Habitat affiliate to find our more about helping provide much needed housing to people in your local community.

Topics: volunteering, volunteering nonprofit, community engagement, youth impact, connecting communities, housing, habitat, development

Choosing a Community Engaged College

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 @ 08:39 AM

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

College decision deadlines are fast approaching, and there are many factors to weigh when narrowing down the prospects. Academic strength, value, proximity, and student life are some typical considerations to keep in mind. However, many students find success and satisfaction at institutions dedicated to community engagement and service. 

Community engagement and public outreach are priorities at many colleges and universities.In addition to researching service initiatives and community projects, students can find service-oriented schools by referencing The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. The President’s Honor Roll recognizes colleges and universities with strong community connections that encourage students to pursue civic engagement and solve community problems. Schools that receive this award are encouraging their students to excel both in academics and in committing to meaningful service.  

Here is a list of some acclaimed universities whose programs have gained attention for their commitment to service:
 

Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton, Fla.
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll

FAU has been encouraging its students to engage in service since 1996 when Associate professor Daniel Weppner urged the university to encourage its students to pair learning with volunteerism.  In 1996 the Campus Volunteer Center (CVC) was opened to provide resources to students.  Since its inception, the CVC has aided in establishing several service-oriented student organizations. The aim of service-learning at FAU is to create meaningful partnerships between the university and the community in order to connect students’ education with service.  In 2007 the CVC was renamed the Dr. Daniel Weppner Center for Civic Engagement and Service in honor of its founder.  FAU students create a Noble Impact™ by engaging in their community and tracking more than 350,000 hours on NobleHour.


Nazareth College 
Rochester, N.Y.
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, Presidential Award for a Special Focus in Early Childhood Education

Nazareth College holds a reputation for its rigorous commitment to service. Fall orientation begins with a day of service, but this is only the beginning. Taking initiative in one’s community is an expectation and a part of everyday life. A new addition to the curriculum requires that students complete one experiential learning opportunity by venturing into the community and being civic-minded. Service is an integral part of campus life, alongside attending lectures and writing papers. Nazareth College officially considers volunteerism and service in admissions.


Gettysburg College
Gettysburg, Pa.
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for General Community Service

This small Liberal Arts school located just across from the historic battlefield boasts a history of service among its students and alumni.  Its service-learning program began in 1991 and has played a part in educating students ever since.  Students are engaged in service-learning projects which tackle issues in the local community such as unemployment, housing costs, depression, violence, and education.  Part of receiving an education at Gettysburg College is learning that “Students don’t have to go far to see firsthand this changing world—or be a positive force in it.”

 

Miami University Ohio
Oxford, Ohio
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction

With nearly 13,000 of its approximately 15,000 students involved in service-learning programs, the faculty at Miami University is making constant advances to its curriculum by finding more ways for students to combine learning with service. The university boasts several partnerships with local partners and school districts. For example, early childhood education majors work with local elementary schools; the elementary students benefit from tutoring in school, and the university students gain valuable experience and make valuable community connections that often carry on into career pathways. The school has made an effort to incorporate service-learning in 75 courses and continues to train faculty in teaching service-learning. Miami University uses NobleHour to connect with local community partners.
 
 

The George Washington University
Washington, D.C.
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll

The George Washington University actively considers and integrates service into its academic options for students. The service-learning opportunities at GW focus on four areas: academic service-learning, community service and engagement, service careers, and social entrepreneurship.  This holistic approach to service means there are opportunities for every student at GW, ranging from just donating a few hours a month to synthesizing entrepreneurship skills with service by starting an entire social enterprise. GW offers more than 45 service-learning courses such as Writing for Social Change and Service-Learning in Advanced Spanish.  GW aims to spur a “culture of service” among its students by providing a bounty of resources to connect students to their community. GW students tracked more than 44,000 hours on NobleHour in 2013.

Topics: education, volunteering, highered, community, civic engagement, community engagement, community service, college admissions

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