Top Ten Reasons to Present at Educate. Ignite. Transform.

From James Toole, Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota and President of Compass Institute. Submit your proposal today at


In 1990 my wife Pamela and I joined a small classroom of people attending the very first National Service-Learning Conference®. To this day I gratefully remember how presenters like Jim Kielsmeier and Cynthia Parsons opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about education. Inspired, I’ve presented at every National Service-Learning Conference since and found new adventures, friendship, and learning on an annual basis. Here are 10 reasons why YOU should “apply to present at the 27th Annual National Service-Learning Conference, Educate. Ignite. Transform.

  1. Leadership: To reach a tipping point in American education, the service-learning field needs to be “leaderful.” We need many novas (bright stars) to thrive.
  2. Service: Presenting at the National Service-Learning Conference is an act of service. In an era of open-source innovation, we are hungry to gather everyone’s insights and experiences. What is routine for you may be the key insight to propel a peer forward!
  3. Skills: I’ve had some exhilarating presentations and some we won’t discuss! But whatever the outcome, I always walked away with new insights about how to better manage that magical space between presenters and participants where inspiration and deep change can occur.
  4. Reflection: Presenting at the conference offers an excuse to reflect upon, rethink, and update your theory and practice for not only better education, but a better world.
  5. Inspiration: It has been said that great audiences make great speakers. When you present at the National Service-Learning Conference, you are inspired by speaking to people from all over the United States and several international locations.
  6. Visibility: If you want to be a saint, your motto might be: “To do, to dare, and to be silent.” But if you want support for your work, you’ll need to be more public about what you do. Presenting at the conference can increase your credibility back home.
  7. Transformation: Think about bringing your students/ youth or a colleague to present with you. It might be life-changing for your team!
  8. Assessment: How do you figure out whether what you are doing is unique and/or worthwhile? We all need to test our ideas and practice in front of a knowledgeable and critical audience. What better place is there than the National Service-Learning Conference?
  9. Community: Research shows that today’s successful educators are invariably members of some type of formal or informal professional learning community. Hint: the National Service-Learning Conference is a 1500-person PLC!
  10. Economy: Adult presenters receive a lower registration fee for the whole conference.

Service-Learning’s Biggest Event Needs You

Are you interested in changing the world? So are we. And so are more than 1,000 friends and peers that will be attending Educate. Ignite. Transform., the 27th Annual National Service-Learning Conference. Youth and adults from around the world convene to share their passions and their ideas. Are you going to join them?

Registration is live for this incredible event, which means that now is the time to act for Champion Admission. These rates are the lowest you’ll ever see. View the Admissions page for more information and click Register Now to get started. Champion Admission deadline is October 31.

If you’ve got something to share, the Call for Proposals for conference workshops and showcases is open until October 2. Don’t just attend the conference. Add value by being a part of the conference experience. Share your knowledge and techniques while gaining even more to add to your tool belt.

Lastly, your audience is waiting. Meet face to face with youth and adult attendees at the Opportunity and Resource Fair and let them discover your latest products, services, and technologies that are transforming schools and benefiting students, educators, and communities. Reserve your spot today!

Service-learning’s biggest event needs you. Will you be there?

Youth at the Helm

Late last month, NYLC was in Chicago, Ill., at Ada S. McKinley Lakeside Academy – Youth Connection Charter Schools, to lead the 2015 YCCS Summer Immersion Training. As part of an ongoing partnership with YCCS to support the infusion of high-quality, standards-based service-learning into curriculum at all levels, this training focused on the fundamentals of quality and authentic service-learning, as well as implementation strategies to support educators in their classrooms on a daily basis.

yccs summer immersion 1

Participating in the Summer Immersion were two integral groups in our District-wide Model: Teacher Leaders and Youth Ambassadors. Teacher Leaders serve as examples to their peers and introduce high-quality service-learning, based on the K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice, in their classrooms. One Teacher Leader intimated that “[with] service-learning there is a level of freedom for teachers to shape and to mold and to guide.” In tandem with Teacher Leaders, Youth Ambassadors drive Youth Voice in their service-learning projects and serve as leaders for peers in their classrooms and throughout the district. Learn more about our District-wide Model.

yccs summer immersion 2

Exercises included a Leadership Compass Self-Assessment designed to inform innate leadership styles and how one’s traits operate in group-work settings. A brief history of service-learning, and how it differentiates from service and from learning, highlighted the training content. In response to an exercise in which participants were to choose a photo that represents their feelings and thoughts about the power of service-learning, one Youth Ambassador chose an image of a tug-of-war rope and shared that “I chose this picture because I believed that there may be challenges, but if we all pull together we can get things done.” With youth at the helm at Ada S. McKinley and with supportive teachers standing by their side, academic achievement will thrive.

McCain Institute 2014 Next Generation Leaders Graduate, 2015 Class Begins Program

WASHINGTON (September 4, 2015) – On Thursday, September 3, The McCain Institute’s 2014 Next Generation Leaders (NGL) participated in a graduation ceremony marking their completion of the U.S. development portion of the program.

This year’s participants represent 12 countries and a variety of professional backgrounds, and have demonstrated a personal commitment to character-driven leadership already in their careers.


Mohammad Tarawneh, of Jordan, spent the last year as a 2014 NGL serving with the National Youth Leadership Council.

The key component of the NGL program is each individual’s Leadership Action Plan aimed at defining the tangible steps each will take to create positive change in his or her home communities. The 2014 NGLs focused on a variety of issues in their LAPs, such as human rights, youth leadership and freedom of speech.

Upon graduation, our 2014 participants will take their Leadership Action Plans home for implementation and stay connected to each other and The McCain Institute via the NGL Global Network, an online communications platform that serves NGLs and the Institute in communicating and advancing implementation of the Leadership Action Plans.

Mr. Tarawneh has specific plans to remain partnered with NYLC, promoting service-learning in his home country of Jordan and engaging that country’s large refugee population, particularly youth.

Sahana Mishra, a 2014 NGL, focuses on reducing economic and gender-based poverty in India. Ms. Mishra works in New Delhi at Pradan — an organization that enables poor rural families to live a life of dignity. Through her work at Pradan, Ms. Mishra will provide micro-finance opportunities to disadvantaged women and create a support network for the women that empowers them to provide for their own livelihood and gain control over their lives.

On September 12, The McCain Institute welcomes the 2015 class of Next Generation Leaders.

Following their first leadership training session in Washington, the group will disperse across the United States, taking up year-long professional development assignments at a variety of business, government and non-governmental organizations promoting causes such as education, gender-based violence prevention and sustainable development – from Cure Violence to the International Rescue Committee.

About the Next Generation Leaders (NGL) Program

The McCain Institute’s flagship program is the Next Generation Leaders (NGL) program, designed to identify, train, network and empower a diverse group of emerging, character-driven leaders from the United States and around the world. The NGL program offers up to 20 emerging global leaders one year of targeted professional and personal development—with a core focus on values, ethics and leadership—in order to create a capable and lasting global network of character-driven leaders who shape the world we will inhabit in the future. As the Institute links successive classes of leaders together, it creates a global network of advocates for common core values of security, economic opportunity, freedom and human dignity.

Learn more about the program here:

Tools for School

The first day, week, and even month of school can be overwhelming. New faces, new classes, new challenges abound. For service-learners, the new landscape can be even more uncertain.

For rookies, it’s hard to know exactly how to get started. That’s when you need Getting Started in Service-Learning. This elementary through high school handbook answers the biggest questions for those new to service-learning:

What is service-learning?
What does successful service-learning include?
Is service-learning right for me?

Email with inquiries and to order your copy of Getting Started in Service-Learning today.

In the meantime you can watch this free webinar, an Introduction to Service-Learning. Hosted by Professional Development and Training Manager Elizabeth Koenig, the webinar draws on NYLC’s more than thirty years of service-learning experience.


Collaboration and Teamwork WalkAbout Guide Creating SMART Goals

For the intermediate crowd, you know service-learning looks different every year. Quality service-learning projects are student-led – which is how we know projects are meaningful to participants and the community. As such, each new crop of students brings with them a new set of skills and passions. How do you maintain quality given this yearly upheaval? The K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice. Dive into the standards at lift.nylc.orgLift: Raising the Bar for Service-Learning Practice.

Experts: it’s time to pay it forward. You’ve mastered service-learning; you’ve made positive change in your community with vibrant, engaged students. Tell us how you did it. If you have developed resources, research, toolkits – you name it – feature it in the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse to share with the broader service-learning community. If you simply have a story to tell, share it on our blog at!

For information on either option, email Have a great school year.

2015 Shinnyo-En Foundation Annual Retreat

From Elizabeth Koenig, Professional Development and Training Manager.

Last week I had the privilege to attend the Shinnyo-­en Foundation Annual Retreat. The retreat is designed as a meaningful opportunity to connect with people in the fields of service­-learning and youth development, and to think deeply about our own personal, cultural, and spiritual paths to service.

Throughout the weekend, Shinnyo-­en shared their Infinite Paths to Peace program, which encourages participants to explore how their talents and passions can be used to serve others.

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Leaders from the Destiny Arts Center led us through an energizing dance to get our bodies moving!

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We explored the theory of Human-­Centered Design as a way to solve complex issues by using the knowledge, passion, and creativity of the people in the room.  We looked at the drought in California and how every household in America can be engaged in conserving water.

shinnyo-en 3

My group came up with the idea to develop “Water You Using?” — a reality show where households compete to decrease their water usage.

shinnyo-en 4

Our home groups, comprised of 8 individuals from diverse backgrounds, worked together throughout the weekend on different activities and reflections during which we were able to share what we’re passionate about, our values, and our backgrounds.

shinnyo-en 5

The entire Shinnyo­-en Retreat was a great opportunity to learn more about the work that the Shinnyo-­en Foundation, their partners, and the Shinnyo-en Fellows are conducting, as well as reflect on my own work and passion for service and youth leadership.

Thanks to the whole group for an awesome retreat!

shinnyo-en 6

Onwards Down the #Youth4Ed Path

At the 2015 National Youth Leadership Training last month, the Youth4Education campaign found its Lead Activists in twenty-two young leaders ready to change their communities with service-learning. Launching with the inspiration and knowledge gathered from the experience, the #Youth4Ed Lead Activists are prepared to take action with projects geared toward advancing education equity and mitigating the factors that impede it.

“My greatest takeaway from the 2015 NYLT is that everyone has the ability to inspire change. You don’t have to just talk about doing it; you have the power to make change happen. I plan to be one of them.” — Merrit Jones (pictured center)

Youth4Education is a youth-driven solution to inequity in education. Fueled by the power of service-learning, which provides youth an active role in their own education, attending school becomes meaningful and relevant; youth apply academic skills to real problems, creating schools that become community centers of learning, where residents become resources. As our Lead Activists launch their service-learning projects, now, more than ever, #Youth4Ed needs your voice — isn’t it time you shared it?

“By the end of the 2015 NYLT, I felt as if I had been pushed out of my boundaries as a leader and out of my comfort zone. I feel like a leader who not only has big ideas, but the bravery to advocate for what I believe is right.” — Nadya Okamoto (pictured above)

You do not need to be a Lead Activist to get involved with Youth4Education. Take the #Youth4Ed Pledge — for young leaders or for their adult allies — to commit yourself, your ideas, and your passion to support initiatives in your community working to advance education equity. Like Youth4Education on Facebook and follow NYLC on Twitter to launch conversations about education equity and to share your passion with friends, family, and everyone in between. Use the #Youth4Ed hashtag on social media to demonstrate your support.

Do you know a young leader already making change in your community? Nominate them for a National Service-Learning Award to be given at Educate. Ignite. Transform., the 27th Annual National Service-Learning Conference®.

For The Youth: Growth Springs Eternal

From Grayson Carr and Alyssa Kruzel, former NYLC Promise Fellows.

With gratitude and sadness, our AmeriCorps term of service with the National Youth Leadership Council has come to an end. It has been a bittersweet parting to be sure, but we are leaving on a high note; after weeks of preparation for the week-long National Youth Leadership Training, the training itself, and then the massive amount of reflecting we have done afterward, we are closer to the NYLC team and the work than we have ever been. While we start on new adventures in partnership with young people, we will find ways to continue working with NYLC staff and Youth Advisory Council, and now Lead Activists — all of whom, to the highest degree, are pulled by the need to improve the world with young people, who take the work seriously but never take themselves too seriously. We hope our future teams are the same. As we look back over the last 10 months, here are some highlights:

National Service-Learning Conference: While we heard so much about the Conference, we were caught up in the preparation and details, Alyssa with coordinating plans for the Youth Advisory Council throughout the week, and Grayson with the preconference training for Qatar Foundation International, then Capitol Hill Day, and staff support. We had never been to a youth-centered conference where the attendees and presenters were 50/50 youth-adult.

Grayson & Alyssa Photo 2

Service-learning: It has been nothing short of empowering to work toward a world where young students are supported and expected to affect their communities, for critical consciousness and action to not only be part of the curriculum but also for the action to be made possible — and improved by — academics, and consequently for academics to be anything but disconnected from the world. Service-learning is a successful approach for young people to create change in their salient surroundings, and when implemented at every level of a school it turns the school into a strong site of community power.

There have been challenges of course, as in every job, but having a supportive team that is willing and able to listen, adapt, and hold tough conversations has raised the bar for whatever comes next.

Alyssa Kruzel will be working as a Youth Program Coordinator for the University of Minnesota Extensions 4-H youth development programs.

Grayson Carr will be serving another year as a Promise Fellow developing education partnerships between the Minnesota Alliance With Youth and the Minnesota Department of Education.

They both hope to continue working with NYLC through partnerships in their new positions.

You can have transformative experiences like Grayson’s and Alyssa’s, too! We are currently seeking two Promise Fellows to work directly with our Youth Programs Team. Learn more and apply.

2015 NYLT Reflections: Isaiah Lewis

From Isaiah Lewis, NYLC Youth Advisory Council member.

I began working with NYLC along with 9 other youth as a member of their Youth Advisory Council one year ago. We all started our terms at the same time, and since coming together and interacting as a group at our Fall Retreat and at More Powerful Together, the 26th Annual National Service-Learning Conference® last April, we have formed a cohesive and motivated unit dedicated to furthering the reach of service-learning. Last month, the 2015 National Youth Leadership Training served as an opportunity to add more young leaders to Youth4Education – NYLC’s newly-launched campaign to end educational inequity though service-learning – in Lead Activists, and to give them the tools to execute their own service-learning projects in their home communities. On paper and in the conference calls before the training, NYLT appeared educational and informative. It looked like a chance to meet up and plan our next steps and share them. In short, it looked remarkably formal. But, thankfully, it was far from it.

For the majority of our camp, we were not “taught.” No one stood at the front of a classroom and told us how to form a service-learning project or how to recognize true problems in our communities. Instead, we were thrown into a series of physical and experiential tasks that gave us an opportunity to see the world through a lens we do not usually recognize, allowing us to not only do but to see why we did. Through numerous reflections, we taught each other about problems in our world that we could fix. That was the most striking part of NYLT. Very rarely did we have to learn with any moderation. Instead, we took the scenarios we all endured and collectively learned. We bonded together and became our own database for ideas.

NYLT Group Photo

At NYLT, it seemed as if the conversations never stopped. After we would finish reflecting on the day as a large group, we regularly spread out around our space and continued talking about everything from racial boundaries to what our hometowns are like. I learned more about the people I met in camp than I have from some of my closest friends. We established an environment where we could ask anything, no matter how nervous we were, and always get an answer. An environment where, even when we were uncomfortable, we shared our thoughts. We made our own safe place, something I do not see often anywhere in this world.

NYLT was, in a word, empowering. We didn’t really learn; we experienced. We grew as people and as leaders. NYLT effectively galvanized us as a group; one ready to work together for Youth4Education. NYLT made me excited to get to work on #Youth4Ed, and turn the deep and impactful conversations we started from ideas to action.

Join us at #SLC16

We invite you to join us on our journey to change the world with young people, their schools, and their communities.

Students, educators, nonprofit professionals, and government leaders from across the country and around the world will come together at Educate. Ignite. Transform., the 27th Annual National Service-Learning Conference, Minneapolis, Minn., March 30 – April 2, 2016.

The success of this conference depends on you. There are many ways to get involved:

  • Become a sponsor. Numerous opportunities are available to support this unique event. Don’t miss your chance to connect with the educational and youth leaders of today.
  • Submit a workshop and showcase proposal. NYLC is looking for proposals that address youth leadership, skill building, and high quality service-learning. Deadline to submit is October 2, 2015.
  • Showcase your organization in the Opportunity and Resource Fair. This is where attendees can discover the latest products, services, and technologies that are transforming both in and out-of-school time around the country and learn how they can benefit students, educators, their schools, and their communities.
  • Nominate an outstanding young person or adult. NYLC honors the amazing work in the field of service-learning by presenting awards to remarkable leaders. Deadline to submit is December 4, 2015.
  • Volunteer. It takes hundreds of dedicated volunteers to make an event like this possible. From committees, to load-in, volunteers are the heart of the conference.
  • Apply for a scholarship. We have limited funds available to help cover your registration fee — apply today!
  • Make a commitment to attend. Send a group of youth and adults from your organization. 69% of our conference participants attend as part of groups, which are most often intergenerational. We are offering a group discount for groups of 10 or more!
  • Check the schedule. See what’s happening daily at the conference.
  • Visit the website for the latest news, information, and general conference information and share news about the conference with your networks, schools, and communities.

We can’t wait to see you at Educate. Ignite. Transform.

In Service,
National Youth Leadership Council