Service Learning Among Youth

“Never doubt that small groups of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

~ Margaret Mead


What exactly is Service Learning?

Service learning is exactly what it sounds like: it’s learning through service.  It stretches the classroom into the outside world, and brings the outside world into the classroom. It’s about making connections between what students learn in their classes to what they experience in the real world. In 2001, The National Commission on Service-Learning defined service learning not as an initiative but as "a teaching and learning approach that integrates community service with academic study to enrich learning, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities."


Did you know?

  • In 1984, there were only about 81,000 high school students involved in service learning, which grew to 2.9 million in 1999.
  • As of 2005, an estimated 10.6 million (38%) students nationwide between the ages of 12 and 18 participated in a school-based service activity.
  • 94% of U.S. youths ages 8-21 report that they want to be involved in making the world a better place.

Benefits to Youth

Not only will the place where you choose to do your part, as well as the people you work with, benefit from your service, you will benefit from that service. You will find that service-learning is not merely a one-time activity, rather something that will inspire you to continue asking questions and wondering about what you can further do to help your community; you will find that what you are learning in class make sense; you will find that once you begin to participate in your service-learning activity, almost everyone will begin to see you in a different light- and most importantly YOU will begin to see yourself differently!  Many students who participate in service-learning gain a valuable sense of who they are. Part of service learning is becoming- not only learning how to be, but being- conscientious citizens.   Part of being a good citizen is being a part of where you live.  Think about it.  It’s about doing the right thing even when nobody told you to do it, even when nobody is looking.  And nobody is going to clap, or hand you prizes- but you will walk away knowing that you did the right thing, that you belong where you are, and that it is a better place because of you.  That is big.

Where do I find helpful resources on service learning? 

Do Something (

This is a great website to get the juices flowing.  It offers a number of different service-learning areas where you can get ideas for specific projects – ranging from environmental projects to disaster response and relief.  Just type in what type of community you’ll be working with, for how long, and your area of interest and the site practically does the rest for you!

Constitutional Rights Foundation (

This is a great national organization that promotes school-based youth service and civic participation.  There’s also a special section just for students that gives great ideas about how to get involved and be a leader in your school. 

Corporation for National and Community Service – Learn and Serve America


This is a government website, but don’t be scared.  It has more information than most other service-learning websites, especially on Learn and Serve America and also gives lots of information on how you can apply for service-learning grants.  It might be good to show this website to your teacher.

National Youth Leadership Council (

NYLC is one of the founding organizations behind service-learning.  Not only is the website easy to navigate, but it also offers information for both adults and people your age.  Who knows, maybe you’ll even be inspired to attend the National Service-Learning Conference after perusing this site.

Earth Force (

Earth Force is an organization that offers options for youths to really get involved with environmental problem-solving in their communities.  This is one of the best sites out there for young environmentalists, so take advantage of it!

National Service-Learning Clearinghouse ( and (

This site is really the ‘mother site’ of service-learning, so to speak.  Although most of it is geared towards adults (who you should get to look at the great info on grants), we have also included the second website, which is a section of the Clearinghouse devoted only to you. 

Youth Service America (

This site is very well-laid out, with service-learning resources for both you and your teacher.  Also, what’s great about the site is that you can search for current service projects in almost every country!

What Kids Can Do (

This is a great national non-profit organization that has plenty of projects that students and teachers are working on.  Click on the “yourstories” link and you’ll be amazed by the number of projects kids your age are participating in.