Service Plus Learning Equals Student Achievement, Workplace Readiness, and Strong Communities!

July 30, 2012

By Susan Abravanel

Young people today are volunteering at record rates – more than any generation in history. Driving this phenomenon in schools are teachers using a strategy that links service with learning. In turn, students are finding their voice, taking action, and creating an impact on big issues such as health, education, human service, human rights, and the environment.

The outcomes are powerful and measurable across the USA, and in more than 100 countries where Youth Service America (YSA) works. YSA is committed to student achievement; college, career, and workforce readiness; and stronger communities. The first one makes sense, since students who are engaged learn more, leading to better grades. In terms of career skills, students need to use critical thinking and problem solving, communications, collaboration, creativity, and innovation in order to complete successful service-learning projects over a Semester of Service. And finally, communities are always stronger when young people lead and learn, as they come together to solve an authentic problem.

From July 31st to August 2nd, 14 amazing YSA teachers will gather at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for “STEM Fest: A Serious Celebration.” YSA is bringing these teachers to Washington for a two-day summit celebrating their achievements in a STEMester of Service. This three-year initiative introduced extended service-learning programs to middle school students to learn science, technology, engineering, and math by addressing a local environmental issue.

STEM Fest culminates in a panel presentation where teachers will share their success stories with an audience of business, education, government, and service leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Kumar Garg of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, who leads President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” initiative, will speak about the importance of STEM education in building career and workforce readiness skills. RMC Research, the program’s external evaluator, will be on hand to share the latest evaluation results from the STEMester programs.

The event marks the conclusion of the first three years of YSA’s “STEMester of Service” program, which was funded by a three-year, $1 million grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service as part of a White House initiative to expand STEM-based service-learning.

“Educators and employers are searching for ways to better prepare young people for STEM-based careers, and we know that service-learning is a proven strategy to engage kids to be good students, good workers, and good citizens in their communities,” says Steve Culbertson, president and CEO of YSA. “STEM Fest is a chance to learn from and celebrate remarkable educators who are working on the cutting edge of the education field.”

STEM Fest is co-hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce, which promotes the rigorous educational standards and effective job training systems needed to preserve the strength of America's greatest economic resource, its workforce.

Read more about recent STEMester projects or watch videos from STEMester of Service teachers and their students.

Susan Abravanel is Vice President of Education for Youth Service America.