Welcome to the new NYLC.org

You may notice that our site looks a little different than the last time you visited. Or perhaps this is your first time here, in which case… Welcome! The National Youth Leadership Council has developed young leaders, supported educators, and advanced the field of service-learning for more than 30 years. You can learn about our mission, our programs, and our staff by searching around this site.

If you’re looking for information on our upcoming National Service-Learning Conference®, visit the conference website here, or contact our conference team at conference@nylc.org.

To dig a little deeper on service-learning, visit one of our companions sites: the Generator School Network, which has a digital library of service-learning resources in the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, and 6,000 members creating and sharing their service-learning projects via an interactive project planning tool; and The Lift, an in-depth tool about the K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice.

Questions or concerns? Reach out to Marcus Penny, Web Communications Manager, at mpenny@nylc.org.

We hope you like the new site!

Meet the #YAC: Sarah Gunderson

Sarah Gunderson, a high school sophomore at Breck School in Golden Valley, MN, has a heart filled with the passion to serve, “spreading service-learning and helping others are the first activities that I’ve done that have truly meant something to me. Nothing has lit such a bright and sustaining spark inside of me like serving others.” She also has a deep-seated belief in the power of youth, “I know that together, the youth of today can do great things, and I’m honored to be doing great things with the YAC.”

Sarah’s volunteer and service experiences are broad. She serves on the Breck School Service Council, which advocates for and enacts initiatives centered on service-learning and works to better the Breck community at-large. She volunteered at PICA Headstart in Minneapolis, MN, working with young Spanish-speaking children to improve their English language skills as well as supporting the professional instructors in-house. In 2013, she spoke in front of thousands of youth at the 2013 We Day Minnesota about a Halloween food drive that provided for the hungry in her local community. These varied experiences have taught Sarah unique skills that she can bring to the YAC.

“I am not afraid to speak my opinion, but am able to do so in a respectful manner that conveys what I believe without putting down the ideas of others. I am also very comfortable speaking in front of people, be it a one-on-one conversation or one in front of 18,000 people.”

As a part of the YAC, Sarah desires “to take the forgotten and unheard opinions of youth and help find a way to turn them into something concrete.” She also is driven to continue the tradition of the YAC to study, examine, and address the Achievement Gap, to bolster opportunities for true educational equity. These opportunities, though they may begin on a local scale, Sarah sees a grander vision for.

“I think that the solutions that the YAC implement are not only important to local communities; a goal of mine is to help improve the lives of other locally and nationally.” Nuanced, thoughtful understandings of social challenges – both subtle and otherwise – are a hallmark of the passionate youth on the YAC; and Sarah is no exception.

Said Gunderson, “I am a passionate, dedicated, and persistent person. If a solution to a problem doesn’t seem apparent, I won’t rest until I have come up with something.”

Minnesota Continues Its Support of Innovative Educational Strategy

The Minnesota service-learning bill SF597 has passed the Minnesota Senate State and Local Government Committee with author’s amendment and has been sent to the Education Finance Committee. This bill would integrate service-learning into Minnesota’s education system and establish an evidence-based service-learning grant program including the formation of a service-learning specialist at the Department of Education.

This action is another example of Minnesota’s commitment to service-learning as an innovative education strategy. The Minnesota Legislature first introduced service-learning in 1987 when it authorized school districts to levy an extra 50 cents per capita for community education-based youth development/youth service programs, including service-learning. Then in 1989, the first National Service-Learning Conference was convened by the National Youth Leadership Council with support from then Governor Rudy Perpich.

Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s Minnesota sought to deepen service-learning practice at the school level through a Tri-State Initiative with Iowa and Wisconsin, the establishment of the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, and through a partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Learning In Deed, a national service-learning demonstration program to strengthen practice and policy at the district level. In 2008 the National Youth Leadership Council released the K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice, which provides evidence-based standards and accompanying indicators.

Over the past three decades, service-learning has been a proven strategy to engage students in their learning. In 2006, a national representative survey was conducted by Harris Research, drawing from a sample of 3,123 young adults ages 18-28. These young adults were asked questions about their current level of educational achievement and investment in the community through volunteering, voting, donations to nonprofits, and other indicators of positive engagement in the community. Not only school volunteering but also high quality service-learning was shown to have a statistically significant impact on engagement in the community later in life. In the 2008 Engaged for Success, Civic Enterprises reported key findings that revealed that 83 percent of all students said they would enroll in service-learning if their school offered it and 65 percent of all students found the idea of service-learning appealing.

Just last year at the 25th Annual National Service-Learning Conference, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan showed his support for service-learning stating, “I am passionate about service. I am passionate about service-learning. I started working for the Chicago Public Schools back about 15 years ago; literally my first job was to put in place the service-learning requirement for the district. I worry a lot about our dropout rate. I think so many of our young people today drop out not because school is so hard, but because one, it’s too easy, and two, they don’t see the relevance. If you can tie geometry to building something in the community, if you can tie an academic subject to helping to end homeless, to helping to challenge the AIDS crisis, to figuring out how to feed more people in the community, young people know why they are coming to school every single day. So it’s not either-or, it’s always both, and we have these false debates. So when real civic engagement, real civic learning, real academic content, when those things come together it is magical. Both for teachers and for students. They know why they’re in school, they know why they’re learning, and they know why they’re a leader at a very young age.”

Now the legislation has the opportunity to once again invest in service-learning as a proven strategy of academic engagement. Learn more about the Minnesota Service-Learning bill here.

To learn more about service-learning, the K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice, or the National Service-Learning Conference, visit www.nylc.org.