On May 29th, an article appeared in the Portland Press Herald discussing the role young people can play in school reform. In it, a high school junior, Kate Curley, was quoted saying "Administrators and teachers kind of have this sense that they've been in the business longer, have the experience and majored in teaching in college," she said. "What most people forget is that we're the ones going to the school, taking the classes, being touched by their choices on how the school should be run."
Not only does Kate understand that young people’s experience and knowledge gives them credibility to contribute to school decision making, but she also has personal experience in helping to actually create changes in schools. Kate is part of a group called YOUTHINK, the Portland, ME site of the W.K. Kellogg Youth Innovation Fund. This group uses service-learning as a method for young people to learn about community, power, education, philanthropy and organizing. Young people who are part of the Youth Fund use their knowledge to create and catalyze changes in local schools and communities.
Interestingly, in several sites, including Portland, ME, through this out of school work, students are developing service-learning projects to change the curriculum in their schools to include service-learning—the multiplier effect. When given the necessary resources and knowledge, students are not only choosing service-learning as an important part of their educational experience, but they are also learning how to create classes that fully embrace service-learning
These students may be on to something. If we support young people to fully explore their service-learning experiences in and out of school, they may not only become advocates of the pedagogy, but also designers of new experiences. Young people have a lot to offer as shapers of service-learning classes. We need to look to them not only as people who can pick an issue and project, but they can also greatly contribute to how they want to be taught. Teachers often look for direction in creating their service-learning curriculum. The answer may be closer than they think...
For more information on the Youth Innovation Fund visit www.theyouthfund.org
The Portland, ME Youth Fund site, YOUTHINK, works in partnership with KIDS Consortium to effectively use service-learning in and out of school. Visit www.kidsconsortium.org for more information about KIDS' youth-led service-learning model.
~Jessica Bynoe, National Coordinator, Youth Innovation Fund