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.

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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.

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.

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Above: Students showcase their plan for an outdoor classroom.

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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.

Let’s Help Sort Things Out

Live to the Max: Helping people with disabilities lead independent lives at a giant sort-a-thon for The Arc Greater Twin Cities.

NOTE to Volunteer Coordinator – you can sign your groups up to volunteer through www.gtcuw.org/next100 or by emailing volunteerunited@gtcuw.org.

Each of us deserves the opportunity to live the best life we can. The National Youth Leadership Council is pulling together a group of volunteers to help those with disabilities realize their dreams at a gigantic sort-a-thon! Join us!

Arc’s Value Village has 20 semi-trailers full of donated goods that need sorting and they need 600 sorters to do it! Volunteers will be turning re-use and recycle items into sales for Arc’s Value Village thrift shops. The profits from Arc’s Value Village stores support people with disabilities and their families with programming and advocacy.

There are three shifts available:

  • June 10, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • June 10, 1-4 p.m.
  • June 11, 9 a.m-12 p.m.

It’s all happening at the Dairy Barn at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds!

This will be a fun volunteer experience and especially great for getting to know your co-workers. Rally your team, work group or lunch buddies. Sign up at www.gtcuw.org/next100. Remember to wear your logo’d shirts and caps to maximize our visibility in the community. You’re also encouraged to post selfies and action shots with the hashtag #Next100, so your photos will appear on the United Way website with other event volunteers.

Live to the Max — Help Those with Disabilities Realize their Dreams. We’re partnering with Arc Greater Twin Cities for this event.

United Way has launched a bold and exciting community call to action to engage 100,000 volunteers in 2015. Let’s be a part of this exciting mobilization! For other ways to volunteer, you can always visit www.gtcuw.org/next100 and be the #Next100.

The Future of Service-Learning in the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse

The National Service-Learning Clearinghouse was a longstanding fixture for the service-learning field. With the best data, research, tools, and materials for service-learning, the Clearinghouse at servicelearning.org was a robust, federally-funded resource for anyone to use. Some of you may know where this is going.

That funding? It went away. And with it, so did nearly the whole of the Clearinghouse itself. NYLC knew what our friends in the field did, too: losing the Clearinghouse was unacceptable. So we set up a rescue mission.

The National Service-Learning Clearinghouse lives on. In the Generator School Network, a free website tool for service-learners, you can access thousands of Clearinghouse resources at gsn.nylc.org/clearinghouse. Not everything from the former Clearinghouse was able to be restored, a byproduct of those earlier funding cuts. But this iteration of the Clearinghouse has something special going for it: the future.

To keep the Clearinghouse strong, we’ve got to keep it current. That’s where you come in. As a friend in the field, you learn something new about service-learning every year just like we do. Many of you, like us, develop new toolkits, tip sheets – and let’s not forget the research! – year after year. By submitting your resources, you accomplish a few things.

  1. You reach a broad audience of service-learning professionals who visit the Clearinghouse.
  2. You help advance the field of service-learning by keeping the Clearinghouse on the cutting edge.
  3. You sustain momentum for the Clearinghouse library, which encourages more of our colleagues to submit their resources and, in turn, connects you with exactly the support you’ve been looking for from the service-learning field. This site is hosted by NYLC, but it’s owned by everyone.

Are you ready? Submit your resource here, or email gsn@nylc.org if you have additional questions. See you in the future.

Everybody’s Garden

At Edgewood Middle School in Mounds View, Minn., quality service-learning practice is alive and well. Launched today with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony was Everybody’s Garden Project, a district-wide organic gardening initiative that puts students at the center of operation. Everybody’s Garden Project is one of eleven sites across the Mounds View Public Schools District where students are using academic skills and knowledge to address genuine community needs. In this case, that need is hunger.

A large portion of the produce grown as part of Everybody’s Garden Project will go directly to the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf to provide organic and healthy foods at a place where canned, pre-packaged, and high-sodium food is the norm. The project will foster in students a more intimate and active connection to hunger issues in their community, will provide an opportunity for all students (even as young as kindergartners) to volunteer and contribute to their communities, and will create a unified ground where students of all abilities and socioeconomic backgrounds may make a difference all in the same way.

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“With this program, students are bringing service, academic work, and community responsibility together,” said Greg Herder, the Service-Learning Coordinator at Edgewood. “The genesis of the project was a desire to have kids lead and dig into community issues.” In the future, the Service-Learning Department of Mounds View Public Schools Community Education, as partners with students all over the district, hope to expand West-Side school gardens to include available plots for community members usage and to establish a Edgewood Outdoor Education Complex – a place of gardens, forests, and outdoor classrooms – as a site for suburban Farmer’s Markets.

Meet the #YAC: Soua Thao

Soua Thao, a freshman at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, is the second of two returning members on the 2014-2016 #YAC cohort and a champion of service, service-learning, education equity, youth leadership, and community-building. “I am interested in serving another term on the YAC because I love working with youth and adults in my community. My career path is going in the same direction and I think that serving another term will help me in the long run, as I get closer to finding jobs in my career field. I am passionate about youth making these differences,” said Thao.

Soua is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Youth Studies, with a minor in Leadership, which perfectly reflects her history and projects her future. Soua served as a Group Assistant at Camp EMID (East Metro Integration District in St. Paul, Minn.) Youth Institute, where she facilitated workshops and activities for nearly 60 students throughout the duration of the event. For the past two years at the National Service-Learning Conference® Soua has represented NYLC in workshops, on the plenary stage, and on Capitol Hill in D.C., advocating for service-learning and the power of youth voice. “I love facilitating workshops and seeing how much people are excited or interested in the topics that we focus on,” said Soua. With Students Today Leaders Forever, a student-driven group whose mission is to reveal leadership abilities through service, relationships, and action, Soua planned service projects, mentored nearly 40 high school students throughout multiple-day service trips, and facilitated discussions and reflections around the entire experience.

Soua’s accolades include a 2014 Red Wagon Award from the Minnesota Alliance with Youth and the 2014 Violet Richardson Award from Soroptimist International – Twin Cities. “I really have a passion for youth leadership development and just doing the little things and seeing how the perspectives of both youth and adults change after such experiences really give me hope,” said Soua.

Learn more about the Youth Advisory Council.

More Powerful Together: A Photo Retrospective

Last month, youth and adults from around the world convened in Washington D.C. for More Powerful Together, the 26th Annual National Service-Learning Conference®. The event was packed full of professional development sessions, networking opportunities, service, and much more!

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The Service-Learning World Forum: Beyond Borders, Beyond Boundaries was a day-long session focused on tackling global issues through service-learning.

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Attendees filled the Washington Marriott Wardman Park with expertise, ideas, and opportunities through a series of concurrent workshops. These learning sessions have always been the heart of the National Service-Learning Conference — when passionate young leaders come together with their adult allies to learn from one another, a place is discovered where all are More Powerful Together.

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Attendees had the opportunity to hear from several outstanding speakers on the plenary stage. Allie Gould and Jessie Oliveira, members of the Special Olympics Youth Activation Committee, inspired the audience with a passionate message about promoting acceptance through friendship.

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The #MPTExpo gave attendees the opportunity to visit with exhibitors to learn about their organizations, and to enjoy food, entertainment, and all of the on-site service-learning projects.

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Youth attendees spent their evenings networking in the Youth Room. This year’s Youth Room featured an ’80s Dance Party, engaging icebreakers, and a pretty intense game of Rock, Paper, Scissors: Grand Champion.

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#MPT15 concluded with a Day of Service in the D.C. Community. Attendees volunteered their time at seven different sites, including the Capital Area Food Bank and Urban Garden.

Thank you to all of our attendees, speakers, sponsors, committee members, volunteers, exhibitors, and presenters for making More Powerful Together a success! Check out our Flickr page for a complete collection of #MPT15 photos.