June 19, 2008

Service-Learning Practice and Professional Development

Service-Learning Practice and Professional Development
Submitted by Heather Margolis, Service-Learning Advocate

In April 2006, Time Magazine’s article Dropout Nation set off a cascade of attention about the dropout crisis in America. Oprah followed by featuring the subject and many others waking up to the massive threat that the dropout rate poses to the United States. Now, two years later, former director of the USA Freedom Corps John Bridgeland briefed thought leaders and domestic policy advisers regarding the results of a report by Civic Enterprise entitled Engaged for Success.

Yes, it is good news that the dropout crisis in America is gaining more awareness among the public and our public policy leaders. Even better news is that the service-learning community has been and remains active in reversing this trend. As our nation moves toward a transition to a new President, raising awareness of our leadership and the power of service-learning is more important now than ever.

Putting research featured in the Engaged for Success report into action is what will really make a difference. As you evaluate the results of this report, remember that service-learning practitioners are actively working to reverse the dropout trend in the U.S.

For example, in Columbia, South Carolina, a Youth Action Council in Richland District 2 used service-learning to take on the dropout issue. They knew their own Youth Action Council model worked for engaging their peers by offering youth driven, youth reviewed service-learning grants. Why not take it to scale?

With important support from State Farm®, the Youth Advisory Council members in Richland District Two, Columbia, SC selected four Title I middle school and five high schools to receive both funding and technical assistance, including service-learning trainings to teachers and students, to help establish their own Youth Action Council Members. Now referred to as Good Neighbor Schools, these sites have established their own Youth Action Councils and are now offering service-learning.

Learn more about Richland District 2 Youth Councils or check out an upcoming training at the 2008 Summer Institute on Service Learning Clemson, SC in June.

In Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, escalating property values and skyrocketing rents are displacing long-time residents on fixed and limited incomes. Students from Kelvyn Park High School, many of whom have experienced displacement first-hand, teamed up with Logan Square Neighborhood Association on a campaign to educate residents about three referendum issues on the March 2006 ballot that could impact the future of affordable housing, living wages and balanced development in the neighborhood. Students studied the issue of gentrification in English class through readings and guest speakers. They created and distributed posters and buttons with their message, launched a door-knocking campaign to urge residents to vote, and worked the polls on Election Day. In the end, residents voted in a way that was most beneficial to long-time neighborhood stakeholders. The victory helped students realize that the democratic process does indeed work and more students were inspired to stay and graduate. To learn more about the Social Justice Academy Service-Learning Collaboration visit http://www.lsna.net/display.aspx?pointer=2443

No comments: