Our nation is facing catastrophic challenges. Southwestern US cities across California, Arizona and Nevada, among other states are dealing with a water crisis due to climate change. Schools across the country are reeling from the ever increasing acts of gun violence like was witnessed in Uvalde, Texas where 21 lives were lost in the nation’s third largest school shooting.  Just a week earlier, 13 people (10 of whom were black) were killed in a racist hate crime at a Buffalo grocery store. And, then just yesterday four more people were killed by a lone gunman in a Tulsa hospital. These are just a few examples of the life-altering issues that are impacting our students and communities.

Every young person is affected by the symptoms of these challenges whether it be the fear of returning to school after a mass shooting, navigating water shortages, or dealing with microaggressions or bullying in the classroom. There are no easy answers to the challenges of racism, gun violence, climate change, mental health, etc. but one thing we at NYLC know for certain is that young people must be part of the solution.

Engaging young people in service-learning experiences helps them develop the skills, knowledge, and mindset to make meaningful change happen. It creates connection and a sense of belonging to the community through genuine contribution. It helps young people develop new relationships with each other as well as with the adults around them. They are able to tap into their passion, creativity, and ingenuity to address real world issues.

Service-learning is an approach to teaching and learning in which students use academic and civic knowledge and skills to address genuine community needs. It is a type of experiential and project-based learning that drives students’ academic interests and passions toward addressing issues impacting our world. It also builds their capacity to self-manage, make responsible decisions, create relationships, and to be self and socially aware.

Educator L. Al-Tarawneh said it best, “To me, service learning is a budding seed of hope. The power of youth proves to the world that change is possible, and can satiate the everlasting demands of the community…Service learning is the best chisel that reflects the knowledge in books to real life experiences; in other words, it germinates from a change-thirsty community to a blooming one. The youth learn the value of collaboration by establishing partnerships and working together as a team. Definitely, service learning creates influential future leaders”.

We understand that service-learning alone won’t change the world but young people across the country finding their voice and taking action definitely will.

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