Using Service to End Domestic Violence

From Connor Kirkpatrick, NYLC Youth Advisory Council member.

This past year, after becoming a Project Manager at the Advanced Leadership Academy through Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership, I planned and implemented the Next Step Campaign: a campaign to end domestic violence within my home community in Denver, North Carolina by implementing service-learning projects and youth voice. With the help of NYLC Board Member and Director of Student Life at Lincoln Charter School Melissa Lasarsky and 24 student leaders, the campaign was a complete success through partnerships with the local Lincoln County Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

There were 3 parts to the Next Step Campaign:

  1. Stepping Up – Students were asked to step up for themselves and for domestic violence victims by learning about the issue and becoming Victim Advocates. This provess included a school-wide assembly attended by over 300 high school students where speakers from the local Lincoln County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Rape Crisis Center came and spoke to the students about the dangers of relationship violence and what to do if you find yourself in a violent situation.
  2. Stepping Out – Students took action by participating in a service-learning project or by getting involved and donating their time or other assets. After learning photography techniques in art class, students created a photography exhibit that presented statistics about domestic violence. These photographs were paired with quotes from stories of survivors of domestic violence and hung as a display on a clothesline. This project was called The Clothesline Project. Other students organized a toy drive where families from all grades donated gently used toys to make care packages for the children of domestic violence victims. Over 45 care packages were made! Still, other students gave by giving their time in contacting businesses to sponsor the campaign. With their efforts and the generosity of Lincoln Charter School in matching all funds raised by the students, they raised over $6,000! Other students contributed through creating a social media campaign and video.
  3. Stepping Forward – The campaign ended in the first ever Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, co-hosted by the Lincoln County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Lincoln Charter Schools. 55 people showed their support for the campaign by walking a mile in high heels. Together, they walked forward toward a better and brighter future for the community.
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Above: An infographic created by student leaders currently in a Computer Applications course on domestic violence.

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Over 45 care packages were created by high school students who organized a toy drive. Along with all the proceeds from Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, these care packages were donated to the Lincoln County Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

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The Future – There are plans to make the Next Step Campaign a tradition at Lincoln Charter School! There are many partnerships still unexplored and service learning opportunities that can be implemented. One project I would like to see happen is to see students translate literature on domestic violence for the Hispanic community.

Something I have learned from this project is that youth voice is a powerful force. I’m so thankful for the supportive administration and community members who believed in my passion and who helped make the campaign a reality. I hope my story can serve as a testament to others! Find your passion, and do something groundbreaking with it in your community.

More information and pictures featuring the Next Step Campaign are available on the Next Step Facebook Page.

Until we change the world again,
Connor Kirkpatrick
NYLC Youth Advisory Council Member

What A Week Can Teach

From Giovanna Clemens, Youth4Education Lead Activist.

NYLT was an eye-opening experience for me. Throughout the week I was exposed to my hidden flaws; flaws that revealed themselves to be fear of rejection, accepting things as they are without question, ignoring issues, and not stepping out of my comfort zone. As the week came to an end my flaws diminished.

Immediately on the first day the thought of being rejected floated through my head. I soon came to realize that my fellow Youth4Education Lead Activists and NYLT Group Leaders were not here to judge me, but rather to help me grow. I was astonished that people who never knew me a day in their lives treated me with such high regard. I will never forget the moment I thought to myself rejection is a part of living and sometimes I have to go through it; when I am finally accepted, my greater purpose will unveil itself. When I sat there and heard everyone share their stories and witnessed people getting along I realized rejection was impossible. I am truly thankful for meeting such an amazing group of people because without them I wouldn’t be able to “speak my truth” – especially toward the people I fear talking to.

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A couple of days into camp we were all put into groups and each group faced obstacles, some more than others. My group quickly realized it was a simulation with groups split into artificial socioeconomic classes. We knew without a doubt we were the upper class and the entire simulation was surrounded by privilege. My group helped with carrying water jugs and provided water to the other groups. That was the only time I personally decided to help. I didn’t realize how unwilling I was to help. I knew I should help when others were around, but later I passed another group not even pausing to assist. I felt ashamed and began to look within myself. I was so used to being independent that when someone offered me things I accepted it and didn’t change anything. Simulation or not, I knew then and now that I need to question things and step out of the boundaries set by others. A simple “no” doesn’t satisfy me anymore. I need more. I expect more from others and myself.

Both of these experiences forced me to “be comfortable with being uncomfortable.” It was a struggle but I tackled it because I knew I needed to. I wouldn’t have grown as a person if I wasn’t given this opportunity. I can’t thank everyone of my fellow Lead Activists enough for being genuine with me and allowing me to grow. I know you will all do outstanding and succeed beyond expectations.

2015 NYLT Reflections: Choua Her

From NYLC Youth Leadership Specialist Choua Her.

Two days after I began working at NYLC as the Youth Leadership Specialist, I found myself headed to the 2015 National Youth Leadership Training in northern Minnesota for a week-long camp with fellow staff and 22 Youth4Education Lead Activists to discuss education equity and what we can do about it. And while that may seem a bit overwhelming, it turned out to be the best kind of orientation into my work!

What I experienced at NYLT was a sense of community and belonging. I was not alone in my passion for social change. I found others who were also committed to making a difference in their communities to improve the lives of young people, and, in effect, the world. One of my favorite memories was a conversation with the Lead Activists the morning after we discussed what happened during one of the activities the day before. We gave them homework that evening, which was to seriously think about and consider their reasons for participating in Youth4Education. Why were they passionate about education change?

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I didn’t want to hear a rehearsed answer that repeated what you could read in an article or hear on the news. I wanted to know their own personal connection to education equity (or inequity). How could they take what they were learning at NYLT and really create a service-learning project that would impact our broken education system? Why did that even matter? And why was it so crucial that they, as young people, be the ones to spearhead the solution?

That morning, the answers that each Lead Activist shared really showed that they were digging deep and thinking critically about what has caused our education to be so unequal and inequitable in our schools across America (and even the world). That kind of inquiry and the action that is possible from it is what makes me so excited about Youth4Education and the work I will be doing to support our Lead Activists throughout the campaign.

Summer Picnic 2015

Yesterday afternoon, NYLC staff ventured out of the office and over to Como Park in St. Paul, Minn. for the Summer Staff Picnic, an annual celebration of goals achieved and beautiful weather (our window is small in Minnesota). In true Summer fashion, the event featured lawn games that included Cornhole, Croquet, and Ladder Golf, and pitted 6 teams of 2 Staff members each against one another, first in round-robin style then into tournament play. Conference & Events Planner Jason Stewart and Youth Leadership Specialist Choua Her emerged victorious, etching their names into the Summer Victory Paddles.

The Picnic also served as a thankful farewell to Mohammed Tarawnh, who completed his year of participation with NYLC as a McCain Fellow through the McCain Institute. Mohammed is looking forward to returning to his home country of Jordan, where he will implement ideas gathered from his time in the United States to his established youth leadership work overseas. NYLC is proud to have found a life-long partner.

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Thanks to everyone out there for supporting NYLC and its mission to create a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world with young people, their schools, and their communities through service-learning! We as a Staff are grateful for the opportunity to live out that mission.

A Glimpse Into the 2015 National Youth Leadership Training

Yesterday marked the end of a week-long excursion into the north woods of Minnesota – the 2015 National Youth Leadership Training. The camp, which has decades-old roots at NYLC, brought together young people from across the United States, and even one camper from the State of Qatar. It was not NYLC’s first trek to the Audubon Center of the North Woods, where the training camp has frequently been held, but the experience was still eye-opening.

22 young leaders met as Youth Advisory Council members banded together with our Youth4Education Lead Activists for six days of self-discovery, team-building, and leadership training to lay the groundwork for impactful service-learning projects to be created and implemented by each young leader in their home communities, meant to address education inequity and the underlying factors that support it.

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Lead Activists Abbey Perl, Merrit Jones, and Grace Jin

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Before embarking on the Morals & Ethics simulation, campers defined each term as a group

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Lead Activists Antehne Tena, Fuchi Hang, and Oluwaseyi Oluwatwwon Ola

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Learn more about Youth4Education and the National Youth Leadership Training. Stay tuned to nylc.org, our Facebook, and our Twitter for project updates from each of our #Youth4Ed Lead Activists.

Passion and Knowledge in Henry County Schools

From Marcus Penny, Web Communications Manager at NYLC.

The other week I flew to Atlanta, GA, and headed down the road 25 miles to Henry County, where NYLC is entering its second year in partnership with Henry County Schools. This was my second trip to the district; I’ve gone before to capture on video the process as we work together to implement service-learning in Henry County classrooms. You can see highlights from my last trip below.

This week was devoted to supporting teachers through service-learning training.

I had a very different experience from my first visit last winter. The teachers who months before had been heading into uncertain terrain already felt a stronger sense of ownership and confidence when it came to the service-learning process. On what was essentially day one of year two, they were light-years ahead of where they had been the previous summer. With small successes under their belts from the past school year, they had sights set high for the next.

In the middle of the week, students took a break from summer vacation to join their teachers on a service-learning journey. This particular crop of students was new to service-learning, unlike most of the teachers they paired with. But it didn’t matter. With initial guidance from teachers and NYLC staff, the students quickly took charge of the day, unpacking academic standards, identifying quality practice, and simulating – in a day, mind you – a real service-learning project from start to finish.

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It took no time at all for the student participants to realize the fault in a service-learning simulation: it’s just a simulation. For service-learning to be effective, the service has to be meaningful; it has to be based on a genuine community need, identified by the students themselves. In talking to students, it was clear they’d enjoyed their time. In fact, they were surprised at the fun they’d had on a day off from summer. But they were already thirsty for more.

If service-learning is going to be successful, it requires student buy-in. It requires passion. It’s clear that Henry County Schools is in no way lacking passionate young leaders and experienced teachers to guide and collaborate with them. Here’s to another great year in service-learning.

Happy Independence Day!

As the iconic 4th of July Weekend approaches, as the fireworks are being stockpiled, and the grills are prepped, everyone here at NYLC would like to wish you a happy, safe, and memorable holiday! We hope everyone is able to spend some time with family and friends in celebration of our independence as a nation.

Photo for 2015 July 4th Blog

If you are in the midst of a service-learning project this summer – or if you are looking for tools, ideas, or inspiration to launch one – join the Generator School Network (as always, for free). Members gain access to an online community of nearly 6,000 youth and adult members passionate about service-learning, community-building, and networking. Earn badges for your work and engagement, utilize the Generator – a project planning tool designed to walk users through the creation of a quality service-learning project – and browse the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, the largest digital library of service-learning resources.

Students & Educators to Meet In Minneapolis for 27th Annual National Service-Learning Conference

We are proud to announce that the location of the 27th Annual National Service-Learning Conference®, March 30 – April 2, 2016, will be the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Minneapolis, Minnesota! More than a thousand students, educators, and government leaders from across the country and around the world will convene to demonstrate how young people apply academic learning to address some of the most challenging issues of this century: the achievement gap, the environment, the promotion of peace, and many others. This intergenerational event creates a unique atmosphere, where youth bring incredible energy and passion to discussions on education and social policy. Both youth and adults gain the tools, resources, ideas, and support to return home to improve their practice, their schools, and their communities.

NYLC gathers youth development, service, and service-learning practitioners each year for this event that honors national leaders, features best practices, showcases model projects, and sets research and policy agendas.

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“NYLC believes in the power of all young people,” says NYLC CEO Kelita Bak. “And there is no better way to help demonstrate the amazing human capital youth can contribute if given the opportunity and expectation that a framework of quality service-learning can provide than to give them a national stage. This event is unlike so many others. With 50% of participants under the age of 22, it showcases what true youth-adult partnership looks like and the powerful transformation  that can be achieved when young people are truly engaged in communities across the globe.”

Attendees will explore powerful learning experiences through professional development classes, an Opportunity and Resource Fair, and keynote addresses. The event also is a catalyst for a range of service-learning projects both on-site and in the community. At the Hyatt, participants will explore issues such as equity, hunger, and water scarcity. Off-site teams will contribute to local nonprofits through a Day of Service — giving back to the host communities of Minnesota.

Consider joining this remarkable event. Single- and multiple-day on-site registration is available. To learn more, visit www.nylc.org/conference.

A range of online opportunities, including webinars featuring keynote speakers, are available for those unable to participate in-person. Visit gsn.nylc.org to learn more.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to be sure you receive the latest NYLC and National Service-Learning Conference updates!

Youth4Education Lead Activists Tackle Education Inequity

NYLC is excited to announce that 22 young people from across the country and the world have been selected as Lead Activists who will use their passion to take action on issues of educational inequity in their home communities.

Lead Activists are key contributors in the Youth4Education campaign  ̶  a youth solution to end educational inequity. Youth4Education is advocating that young people themselves take an active role in their education, and that service-learning can help youth make positive change in their communities.

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The Youth4Education Lead Activists, ages 15-21, will attend the National Youth Leadership Training this July in Sandstone, Minn. The week-long training provides opportunities for adventure, self-discovery, cultural exchange, leadership-building, and service. Students arrive onsite for the summer training with a range of leadership experiences and leave with the ability to work together with people of different races, ethnicities, genders, geographies, and socioeconomic backgrounds; allies to support their leadership development and service-learning action plan; the tools and knowledge to create equitable change in their communities; motivation to take civic action for the common good; and an enhanced awareness of the issues that drive educational inequity. Then, they will return home to implement a service-learning project that addresses educational inequity in their school communities.

“NYLC is excited to work with this group of young leaders throughout the 2015-16 school year,” said NYLC Chief Marketing Officer Amy Meuers. “These young people are passionate individuals who understand that their voice needs to be heard. We are honored that they will share their voice through the Youth4Education campaign.”

There are 76 million youth in America under the age of 18. How many have been given a voice in their own education? It’s time for youth to share their solutions and for adults to listen.

To learn more about Youth4Education and to take the pledge visit youth4education.org

Youth Voice & The Clinton Global Initiative

From NYLC CEO Kelita Bak.

KelitaLast week, I was honored to have been invited to participate in Clinton Global Initiative – America 2015 on behalf of NYLC. Similar to NYLC, CGI places high value on cross-sector collaborations.  Like many of the other nearly 1,000 participants at this year’s convening, I was interested in finding potential additional partners in our work, who share our broad goals around positive outcomes for young people, reforming education, and engaging youth themselves as solutions to the many challenges in our world.

I attend many events and conferences, and I find I am often one of the few who talk about young people at all, let alone those under 18, as a huge, untapped source of human capital. Given the participation by people from every sector, all of them senior leaders in their respective companies and organizations, I expected to be the sole voice once again.  I was absolutely delighted to have that expectation challenged.

I had countless conversations where I was able to share about our approach to create a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world through service-learning and the impact that kids can have when given the opportunity.  But what I loved was that so many other people were also discussing the need to engage kids much earlier; they understood that there is a positive correlation between early engagement and brain development, youth development, and the building of academic knowledge and 21st Century Skills.  They understood that there is value in hands-on and experiential learning, and that there are many pathways to success beyond the traditional.

It was a thought-provoking, jam-packed few days, but also a networker’s dream and so much fun.  I loved reconnecting with folks – some of whom I hadn’t seen in years – and meeting so many talented and interesting leaders. Thank you to CGI America for the opportunity, and to all the amazing people who contributed their voice, experience, and expertise to provide such a rich and compelling event.