What is Youth Take Action?
Youth Take Action (YTA) is a school-based service-learning program designed to connect education with service in the community. YTA is based on the following concepts:
- Interactive technology is an effective tool for engaging today's adolescents, especially home-educated and at risk youth;
- youth should be given a voice and challenged to identify, research and propose solutions to real life problems in the community as part of their curriculum;
- providing students with a service-learning option to meet state standards while helping their community can promote lifelong civic engagement and citizenship.
What are the requirements for YTA?
Each participating student is required to do at least 40 hours of service through individual and group projects with community-based organizations. Once students are engaged in their service projects, they continue to learn by discussing, sharing and reflecting on their service activities on-line and in groups. The course curriculum includes civics and government lessons such as the rights and responsibilities of being a U.S. citizen and how these concepts relate to serving in the community. Students will also learn important career skills, such as interviewing, public speaking and teamwork, and have the opportunity to explore career possibilities, all while making a real, positive difference in the community.
The course promotes service-learning as a valued component of a student's educational process that deepens academic understanding by connecting civics, career, and life skills lessons with service to the community.
The primary philosophy of YTA is that all students should be empowered and given a voice in addressing and solving real community problems. Community organizations are valued partners as students design, implement, and evaluate service projects.
- Is a method whereby students learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized service that is conducted in and meets the needs of communities.
- Is coordinated with an elementary school, secondary school, institution of higher education, or community service program and the community.
- Helps foster civic responsibility.
- Is integrated into and enhances the academic curriculum of the students, or the education components of the community service program in which the participants are enrolled.
- Provides structured time for students or participants to reflect on the service experience.
Why is Service-Learning Important?
A national study of Learn and Serve America programs suggests that effective service-learning programs improve academic grades, increase attendance in school, and develop personal and social responsibility. Whether the goal is academic improvement, personal development, or both, students learn critical thinking, communication, teamwork, civic responsibility, problem solving, public speaking, vocational skills, computer skills, and research and analysis.
Steps to Successful Service-Learning
- Preparation. Students learn about community, identify community needs and problems facing the community and research organizations that are addressing those needs. Students are assisted in the process of contacting the community organization of their choice, completing that organization's process (application, interview, etc.) and preparing to work with the organization. Students then work with the organization to identify an interesting project that meets a need in their community. Throughout service-learning preparation, the curriculum emphasizes student-centeredness, student empowerment, youth voice and project choices that are meaningful to both the students and the community.
- Action! Students carry out the service to the community, which can be either:
- direct service, such as planting a tree, reading to young children, teaching a skill; or
- indirect service, such as planning a fundraising event, recruiting volunteers or designing a website.
- Reflection. Students formally reflect and evaluate the project and the process, and clarify their learning through structured activities that emphasize critical thinking skills. Students also engage in informal reflection with peers, teachers and community partners.
- Celebration / Presentations of Learning. Students' accomplishments are recognized by their teachers, classmates, school and community in a celebration event, and by articles, press releases and scholarship opportunities. Students have an opportunity to present what they have learned to fellow students, teachers and the community.