On March 16, 1983, the National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC) was founded by Dr. James Kielsmeier to train young people to be servant leaders, originally in response to tension caused by court-mandated school integration. Students were coached to respond to racial injustices and utilize acts of service to create inclusion in their schools. NYLC’s original mission statement stated that “young people are necessary resources to society with inherent ideals, boundless energy and flexibility making them important co-creators and co-workers with older adults”.
From this early start, NYLC has led a movement linking youth, educators, and communities to redefine the roles of young people in society. The movement is service-learning, and it empowers youth to transform themselves from recipients of information and resources to valuable, contributing members of a democracy.
Throughout its history, NYLC’s work has centered around young people’s power to make meaningful change happen. Whether hosting the National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT), coordinating initiatives like Youth as Solutions, Project Ignition, or PODER en SALUD (Power in Health), hosting the National Service-Learning Conference or The Power of Young People to Change the World podcast, or working alongside its Youth Advisory Council, NYLC has provided young people with spaces to lead and learn by working in partnership with adults in their communities.
Soua Thao of Minnesota and Riley Quinlan of Arizona attended NYLT, joined the Youth Advisory Council, and worked on the NYLC board of directors for many years. “NYLC was a very pivotal and critical part of my life. It opened up many doors of opportunity. It was a new way of looking at the industry of service-learning, community engagement, and evaluating service,” says Quinlan. “Since I started with them so young, I learned a lot of leadership and professional development skills during my time at NYLC,” states Thao.
So what is next for the organization who has led the service-learning movement for so long?
“NYLC knows that the Implementation of service-learning in schools will go a long way to addressing issues of deterioration of community, decline of civic engagement, improved academic performance, and improved involvement of young people in the principles and actions of democracy.
We want service-learning to be considered by every policy group that is concerned with the conditions of education and society. We want every young person to have the opportunity for service-learning experiences as part of the K-12 education. We want to transform education globally so that young people graduate as civically informed and engaged global citizens. We want communities to see youth as assets. And, we want to empower young people to address the injustices they see around them and act – not with hatred, racism, or threats – but with compassion, caring, and love to make meaningful change happen.
NYLC’s future is dedicated to meeting its mission to create a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world with young people, their schools, and communities through service-learning.” – Amy Meuers
In honor of our 40th anniversary, NYLC sat down with some of the people who have been important to our work along the way! Check out these interviews to learn more about our passionate service-learning community.
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