Quality service-learning experiences support contribution and leadership from diverse voices, providing every stakeholder a seat at the table in decision-making. It supports young people in learning to embrace the different perspectives, experiences, and contributions of their peers, as well as those of the community. It helps them gain a stronger perspective on issues by approaching them with vulnerability and humility.
According to author/researcher Shelley Billig in the article Research on K-12 School-Based Service-Learning – The Evidence Builds, “Service-learning has a positive effect on students’ interpersonal development and the ability to relate to culturally diverse groups.” To achieve positive outcomes through service-learning, a commitment to equity is required from students, educators, and community partners. Too often, service and service-learning experiences put a band-aid on a problem (e.g. making blankets for people experiencing homelessness) instead of looking at the root causes of becoming unhoused. Educators must consider how social justice can and should be part of the service-learning process, with an emphasis on reciprocal partnerships, diversity, reflection, and youth voice as students examine the institutions, systems, and barriers that are at the roots of the issues they are addressing.
Service-learning is a teaching and learning strategy that supports young people to lead change where they see injustice, working in tandem with their community as partners. It invites young people to embrace multiple perspectives with respect and appreciation so together, they can achieve a common good. Only through equitable service-learning experiences, can we ever hope to address root causes of the issues and prevent them from happening again.