buildOn Students: Breaking the Cycle through Service-Learning

By Betsy Grace, Service Learning Specialist, buildOn

buildOn students have seen firsthand what issues their communities are facing: poverty, violence, and low-expectations. By engaging high school students from underserved community in service, buildOn’s service learning programs show students that they have the power to change their communities from within. In each of these programs, youth contribute intensive local service – helping the homeless, seniors and children in their neighborhoods – to confront community struggles with passion and optimism.  

In July, buildOn staff attended the NYLC Service-Learning Educator Institute to take buildOn service learning to even greater heights. The two day workshop brought together teachers, administrators, youth developers, and other professionals to share their experiences and learn best practices from NYLC. The Institute reinforced how to design service-learning according to the standards of quality practice and provided new tools for planning meaningful service-learning.

With lessons from the NYLC still fresh in our minds, buildOn staff and students are continuing to implement the IPARD method to create lasting change in their communities. Take a look below at how different buildOn Service-Learning Programs across the country are utilizing each step of IPARD every week:

Investigation: Students in the Bronx are investigating how to improve community sentiments towards the police by interviewing both local residents and members of the police force.  They are looking for common ground to create a campaign promoting positive community and police relations.

Preparation: In Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, students recently learned about historical attitudes towards immigrants in America. They are preparing to display posters of welcome and support to the community’s large immigrant population by visiting local businesses to ask permission.

Action: buildOn students in Detroit recognized signs of neighborhood blight on a street where many students walk to and from school in Detroit.  They boarded up empty houses and painted colorful designs and positive messages.

Reflection: Students in Bridgeport, CT, recently broke down barriers by serving the iftar meal at their local Mosque during Ramadan. Afterwards, they participated in reflective discussions with the mosque community on what they can do to end islamophobia.

Demonstration: After building an elementary school on a buildOn Trek to Malawi, Africa, students in Oakland, CA presented photos and stories from the two week service-learning trip to their classes.

Through service-learning and the IPARD method, buildOn students are learning about issues they see affecting their own communities.  They expect more from their communities and are taking action to create meaningful change.  

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