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?


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.


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.


Lead Activists Abbey Perl, Merrit Jones, and Grace Jin


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



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


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.


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.


“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.


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.

Fighting the Gap in Minnesota

Last week NYLC participated in the Generation Next Stakeholders Event at the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation in Saint Paul, Minn. Generation Next is a broad partnership of organizations and leaders from across Minneapolis and Saint Paul who represent local schools and government, community organizations and programs, businesses, higher education and philanthropy – all dedicated to educational excellence and narrowing the achievement and opportunity gap.

Minnesota has the largest achievement gap in the country. By bringing together a diverse group of leaders invested in education excellence, Generation Next is using rigorous data analysis and community engagement to identify what works to close these gaps and replicate the most promising practices. The goals are that every young person:

  1. is ready for kindergarten,
  2. meets benchmarks in reading by 3rd grade,
  3. meets benchmarks in mathematics by 8th grade,
  4. graduates from high school ready for college and career, and
  5. earns a post-secondary degree or certification

NYLC is excited to partner with Generation Next to share how service-learning can help every young person thrive.  If you would like to learn more about Generation Next or attend one of their regular forums, visit http://www.gennextmsp.org/. To learn more about NYLC and our work on the issues of educational equity, visit http://www.youth4education.org/

District-Wide Model Wraps Up Pilot Year in Henry County Schools

In our District-Wide Model, NYLC partners with school districts around the country to ignite a passion for service-learning and to guide students toward academic and civic success. We work with individual districts to customize academic goals and develop an implementation strategy using a service-learning framework. With long-time partner Henry County School District in Georgia, NYLC has launched a five-year campaign to roll out quality service-learning practice across the district, and its first year has just been completed. At multiple schools across the district, student demonstrations were showcased that highlighted learning outcomes and the development of 21st Century Skills.

Community needs.

Above: Community needs, techniques to address them, and potential challenges were identified by each school.


Above: Students showcase their plan for an outdoor classroom.


Above: Photo collage of service-learning projects and experiences of students who attended #MPT15.

To learn more about NYLC’s District-Wide model, visit nylc.org/district or contact Susana Valdés. Interested in contracting an NYLC training? Get the process started.