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Service-learning is a form of instruction in which students design projects to address community needs as part of their academic studies. Many afterschool programs use service-learning to help improve youths' academic achievement, develop their leadership skills and strengthen ties to their community. With such proven benefits, service-learning is quite popular with schools and the public:
Inspiring Youth to Learn and Connect to School-Day Academics
Studies have shown that youth who volunteer are less likely to abuse drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or engage in destructive behavior and are more likely to do well in school, graduate, vote and be philanthropic. Service-learning has been shown to increase youths' engagement in learning and can help increase skills that lead to improved academic achievement. Given the hands-on nature of service-learning projects, many afterschool programs using service-learning report that youth often do not notice that their projects have reinforced academics until project staff point it out.
Students learned that age does not matter in making a difference if they collaborate, plan, and generate a solution… It is amazing how service learning brought Civics alive for my students.
--Cathy Lee, CityWorks teacher at Diamond Bar High School in Los Angeles County4
In addition to providing learning opportunities, afterschool service-learning activities foster youths' civic responsibility and help them realize how they can positively contribute to their communities. Service-learning's emphasis on reciprocal involvement encourages programs to successfully utilize volunteers and bolster community involvement.
My attitude towards life, towards people has changed. As I walked into my school Monday morning I felt like a new student…I learned how to work together to get things done…I can do tons of things to improve not only myself, but my community, and anything else that needs improvement.
-Marshall Middle School student, eighth-grade Hands on Atlanta participant8
1American Youth Policy Forum, http://www.aypf.org/.
2Community Service and Service-Learning in U.S. Public Schools, 2004: Findings from a National Survey, Search Institute, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.search-institute.org/whatsnew/2004G2GCompleteSurvey.pdf
3Roper Starch Worldwide survey, September 2000.
4Youth Service California, Real Stories, http://www.yscal.org/realstories/civic.html.
5Philliber, Susan, "The Teen Outreach Program and Its Youth Development Approach," PowerPoint, August 2004; and http://www.cornerstone.to/top/top.html.
6YMCA of the USA, The YMCA Service-Learning Guide: A Tool for Enriching the Member, the Participant, the YMCA, and the Community, 2000.
7East Bay Conservation Corps, Project YES, 3 June 2002, http://www.eastbaycorps.org/pyes.htm.
8National Institute on Out-of-School Time for the Corporation for National Service, Making an Impact, June 2000.
9National School and Community Corps, 3 June 2002, http://126.96.36.199/index.htm.
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