August 24, 2006

Creating Schools and Communities Where Youth Can Soar

"Where youth soar." These words are more than the motto for Alternatives, Inc. As an organization working to ensure that service-learning is a core experience in the life and education of all young people, this is exactly what the National Service-Learning Partnership wants for all youth: schools and communities in which young people can soar as engaged students and active citizens.

Thanks to strong partnerships between young leaders, school and city officials along with support from organizations like Alternatives, young people in Hampton and Newport News, VA (often referred to as Hampton-Roads) participate in multiple opportunities for active learning and direct civic involvement, including service-learning; participation in governance at the school, district, community, and municipal government levels; youth philanthropy, youth-generated media, youth organizing and activism, and youth social entrepreneurship. The result: Generations of young people who are prepared for success in school and the workplace and who positively contribute to the life of their community.

This spring, the Partnership awarded Alternatives, Inc. with its second annual Talking Smart About Service-Learning Award. This award is presented to an individual, group, or organization for effectively communicating and building coalitions in support of service-learning. Alternatives is a community-based, nonprofit youth development agency dedicated to helping young people gain positive values and develop social and leadership skills to become actively engaged in the life of their communities.

Across the country, city officials, educators, nonprofit leaders, and youth workers are beginning to dialogue and explore the ways in which they can create a city-wide vision for youth civic engagement. These visions often include service-learning as part of a system approach to ensuring opportunities for young people to actively participate in and contribute to civic life.

Hampton-Roads is home to amazing examples of youth engagement that need to be shared and replicated by others across the country. This story—and others like it—must be told and its lessons must be shared so that we can create more spaces and places in which youth can soar.

- Nelda Brown, National Service-Learning Partnership

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