A Blog entry from Service Learning Coordinator, Nicole Rasmussen:
Recently, I attended the National Service Learning Conference at the Minneapolis Convention Center. This was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about service learning and how others in education around the country and the world implement it in their classrooms and beyond.
I was fortunate to listen to some influential people speak, was able to network with a variety of people, and I also participated in a service learning project.
When I first got to the conference, I was blown away by the number of people that were in attendance. The conference was a partnership with two organizations called Youthrive
and PeaceJam. In addition to several educators, facilitators, and community partners, there were a number of young participants. In fact, they played a key role in the success of the conference. They spoke about their own experiences with service learning and
advocated for youth leadership at large and small sessions. Their energy was contagious!
Service learning is being implemented at all educational levels and in several industries. The global community has recognized that service learning is an important aspect of
each community, its growth and wellbeing, and each individual’s responsibility as citizens. Many workshops focused on how each one of us can “be the change” and how we can spread the word to others.
I was fortunate to attend a workshop titled, “Women of Leadership” and actually sat in a room with Naomi Tutu, the daughter of South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and listened to her personal fight to end racial oppression. We were also able to hear from Geoffrey Canada, the President and CEO of Harlem’s Children’s Zone, Inc., who was also featured in a recent documentary titled “Waiting for Superman”.
Several young leaders spoke as well including Jeron Mariani, a Junior at St. Paul Academy who is active in a service-learning club, is on the Youthrive Board of Directors, and has
experience as an emcee and trainer at a variety of youth engagement conferences.
One highlight of the conference for me was the opportunity to listen to Shirin Ebadi, Iran’s first female judge in 1975. She spoke about the current conflicts in Iran and opened my eyes to the issues that the Iranians deal with on a daily basis. She is an advocate for human rights and has dealt with her own share of conflicts with the Iranian
My final day was spent participating in “Serve and Celebrate”, which was a day-long service project that wrapped up our conference. I chose to join the group that
went to Jackson Elementary in St. Paul, which is located in the area known as
“Frogtown”. We helped to organize and facilitate a Health Extravaganza for the local community. This area of St. Paul has a high immigrant population as well as many families living below the poverty line. This was an eye-opening experience for me and
very educational. I was able to visit with other conference participants throughout the day including a chaperone from a student exchange program from Qatar, a teacher from Singapore, and many local families that attended the event.
Service learning truly is EVERYWHERE and this conference proved that!
I want to throw a challenge out there to everyone! If you haven’t participated as a volunteer or been involved with a project for the better of your community – get involved today. If you have–I would love to heart about it and your experience with it!