By: Michele Pitman
It’s safe to say that the global pandemic has disrupted education in a way that will redefine how students learn for a long time. That includes service programs and ways students serve the community. In this chaos, there is opportunity and students are leading the charge with new ideas and actions. Service leaders are recognizing and supporting ideas students are bringing forward.
Most schools in the U.S. recognize or require service during high school. This happens either as part of a classroom experience or as an extracurricular goal that occurs on-campus or off-campus and serving others directly or indirectly.
Being in a unique position as the leader in service tracking and reporting in K12, we have seen the impact of the pandemic on service programs nationwide. We have virtually connected service leaders so that they could share their ideas on how they’re adapting their programs.
It’s important to note that schools are not abandoning their service programs. As budgets shrink and uncertainty looms, we’ve seen growth and expansion in the way service leaders are redefining guidelines and how students are creatively helping others and reaching out to their communities.
Here’s what’s happening:
A Shift To An Indirect Service Model
Service leaders typically expect a balance of direct (face to face, onsite) and indirect service (not in the presence of a person or place). Direct service is happening at home by assisting siblings with learning from home, being technical support for the family, taking on more responsibilities at home than they would not do otherwise, and assisting neighbors with yard work or shopping.
Adding Advocacy and Social Justice
This year schools are asking students to select a problem that needs to be solved in their community or investigate social injustices and learn more about them by researching causes, identifying issues, listening to TedTalks or watching videos, reading articles, and interviewing people via Zoom.
Combining Service Goals Across 4 years
Schools are adjusting their service requirements but not necessarily reducing the hours or experiences. Many schools have changed the requirement to a 4-year goal instead of an annual goal. This allows the student to complete an 80-hour goal over the course of 4 years instead of 20 hours per year. This provides flexibility in how the students manage their time.
Service leaders say that they see students growing emotionally during this time. They have been forced to step up and take on more responsibilities around the home, they are thinking creatively about how to help others, they are growing in empathy, understanding, patience, and leadership.
Service leaders are accepting service that may not have been accepted in the past such as helping neighbors, assisting with siblings, yardwork, advocacy, and even political service such as researching candidates and identifying issues and causes, and creating presentations that give both sides of an issue. Some students are receiving money for service and they are donating it to food banks.
Reimagined Service Trips
Service trips have been canceled so many schools are connecting virtually with the cities that they were planning to help. They are in the process of figuring out how they can still make a positive impact from a distance but also create a connection in a different way.
Realizing the Benefits of a Digital Service Tracking Platform
Service has never been more important and as students continue to serve, many schools and districts are seeing a need for a digital way to manage student service during a time when everything is online. Tracking service experiences, verifications, and reflections are vital in encouraging student growth and social-emotional development. Online solutions such as allow service leaders to manage their service programs entirely online so they can continue to engage students in meaningful service during a time of social and cultural change.
As students continue to serve others, service leaders are also needing additional and creative ways for students to serve safely. Here’s a.
No matter what happens this semester, I believe that service leaders and students will return to school with a new perspective on serving others based on this unprecedented time. The uncertainty and helplessness will transform into critical thinking, understanding, and creative ways to serve others.
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Michele Pitman is the Founder & CEO of intelliVOL.
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