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.

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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.

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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.