The Convergence of National Service and Service-Learning

The mission of NYLC is to create a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world with young people, their schools, and their communities through service-learning. For more than thirty years, that has been our charge. This week, in Houston, Texas, Dr. James Kielsmeier and CEO Kelita Bak are realizing that tradition at a Celebration of National Service at the Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service.

Since Dr. Kielsmeier founded NYLC in 1983, we have been a strong proponent of national service and how it converges with the power of service-learning.


In 2005, Dr. Kielsmeier reflected on the redefinition of national service to include the central tenets of service-learning, “Once an exclusive program of full-time service for young adults, national service now has the inclusive purpose that citizens of every age – even our youngest – can and should serve community and country. Freeing national service to include service-learning has created a symbiotic relationship between two once separated movements – national service for young adults and experiential education with a service dimension (i.e., service-learning) reaching schools and colleges.” For two decades, these redefinition efforts were federally-funded through Learn and Serve America, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, until funding was eliminated in 2011.

But service-learning has soldiered on. At NYLC and countless more service-learning organizations, we know the power of service-learning. We’ve seen the results in our programs. We’ve measured the success in our research. District by district, from community to community, service-learning is transforming the way students learn, the way educators teach, and the way schools and communities value young people.

It is a movement, one at which NYLC has long been at the forefront.

A theme of the Celebration of National Service is engaging our past as prologue. What will be the future of national service and service-learning? Together, let’s find out.