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Youth Service Organizations

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”

—Booker T. Washington, Educator, Author, and African American Civil Rights Leader

Schools and youth service organizations share a goal of ensuring the academic and social success of youth and thus make natural partners in the quest to close the achievement gap. Youth service organizations inspire young people to become lifelong contributors to their communities by educating them about social issues, engaging them in youth-led service projects, and providing leadership training.

One method of strengthening student engagement in the learning process while also addressing community needs is through service-learning. Service-learning is an instructional strategy where students learn academic content standards by participating in organized service that addresses community needs and fosters civic responsibility. Many schools in California are combining academic standards with service-learning in projects that teach the value of giving back and importance of engaging in the broader community. As California's communities come together to address today's educational challenges, service-learning is increasingly being seen as a "go-to" strategy to meet the educational and individual needs of youth while strengthening school and community relations through involving youth in learning that makes a real difference.

Youth Service America (YSA), an international nonprofit resource center, reports that young people involved in volunteering have higher educational achievement rates. YSA studies also indicate that as adults, students who volunteer are more likely to become active citizens through voting, participating in civic groups, and giving philanthropically. In addition, young people who participate with youth service organizations are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, become involved in delinquency, or drop out of school—they develop an attachment to their community, feel better about themselves, and are confident that they have something of value to offer.

Youth service organizations and schools can benefit immensely through partnerships. For youth service organizations, the benefits of partnerships include an expanded volunteer base and new opportunities to build awareness about their program, including increased recognition for their endeavors. Students gain valuable leadership training, are more engaged and connected to their school community, and have parents who are more likely to participate in school activities—all important ingredients to closing the achievement gap.

Resources & Tools

California Department of Education Website on Service Learning
This site includes information on the CalServe K–12 Service-Learning Initiative. Students learn academic content standards by participating in organized service that addresses community needs and fosters civic responsibility.

Motivating Latino Youth to Take a Leadership Role in Changing Their Communities (PDF)
Youth Service Journal, Volume 2, Issue 2, 2006, a periodic publication of Youth Service America

Youth Helping America (PDF)
Corporation for National and Community Service's 2005 publication

Youth Service America
Youth Service America (YSA) is an international nonprofit resource center that partners with thousands of organizations in more than 100 countries to expand the impact of the youth service movement with families, communities, schools, corporations, and governments.