Through community service projects: Youth can give back

School is out and youth have time this summer to give back to their community by volunteering towards community service projects.

Michigan 4-H Youth Programs works with 4-H clubs to help engage youth in community service projects.  The 4-H pledge states:

“I pledge my hand to clearer thinking,  my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.”  

Michigan State University Extension talks about the third H – pledging hands to larger service – by participating in community service projects as a  4-H club or maybe two or three youth deciding to take on an individual community service project. Working with youth on community service projects helps teach them responsibility, become community minded, learn citizenship and feel good about choices they have made.

With schools coming to a close for the summer, many 4-H clubs are looking for a community service project to do to give back to their community.  Not only do youth learn new skills, but once a project is completed, they develop pride and ownership for themselves.  Througout the year, there are many opportunities for community service projects, especially around the holidays.  Creating gift baskets are a fun activity to get involved with and then presenting them to specific families makes it worthwhile. 

According to the Campus Outreach Opportunity League (C.O.O.L), a non profit organization for college students that engage in community service, there are five key elements that should be in place for community service to work effectively.  They are:

  1. Meeting community needs
  2. Careful planning and preparation
  3. Meaningful action
  4. Time for reflection
  5. Evaluation of project

In the first step, youth and adults need to find out what the needs are for the different types of community service;  it should be timely. Some community members, leaders, agencies or organizations may be surveyed to see what their need is.

Youth should be involved from the very beginning of planning and each person should have a part. Adults can make sure everyone has a part.

The community service action should make participants feel they have made a difference. Reflection with 4-H youth gives them the opportunity to think about what they did and what it meant. Evaluation is always an important part of any type of participation.   Youth can talk about room for improvement, growth and change.  It also gives youth a chance to discuss what went right and what did not. This is part of the Experiential Learning Model – ELM. Youth participate in an activity,  then discuss how it went and then reflect on what actually happened.

For more information regarding 4-H Youth Programs, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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