1. Meet a recognized community need
(e.g. What health, education, environment or public safety need was met? How did you determine there was a real need in this area? Who was helped by your project?)
The middle schoolers desperately needed character-building tools so that they could successfully navigate through their daily challenges and overcome negative peer pressure. The Ambassadors Program inspired and encouraged students to become role models and gave students tools to celebrate their individuality. The program was offered free of charge to all students. The only criterion for participation was having an interest. The program taught the students much needed communication skills, and how to be a better individual for themselves and for society. This year, the Ambassadors created more than 800 snack bags which were delivered to the Lord’s Table in Gaithersburg for distribution to people who are homeless.
2. Achieve curricular objectives through service-learning
(How did the project reinforce or enhance student academic learning?)
Through this project, students learned about time management through videos and games. They also learned to take care of the most important things first. The program taught them the importance of having a plan of action for their goals. The students reported that the program made them more aware of how they spend their time, and as a result, they have become more proactive in prioritizing and using effective time management in their studies. They were surprised at the transformation and the positive results that they were getting.
3. Reflect throughout the service-learning experience
(What types of activities did students engage in to reflect on their project?)
For each lesson plan, slides, videos, games, and open discussions were used in order to explore the concept and to help the students to study and reflect on an issue from different angles and perspectives. At the conclusion of the project, the students all participated in a graduation celebration that included receiving an Ambassadors T-shirt, a certificate of completion, a thank you letter from The Lord’s Table, an article in the school’s newsletter, and an acknowledgment about their efforts in the school’s daily announcements.
4. Develop student responsibility
(How did students have opportunities to make decisions about the service-learning project and take on leadership?)
The students were free to decorate the bags with positive messages of hope, love, kindness, celebrating the season, etc. The students were divided up into groups. The leader of each group had the responsibility of leading the project by collecting and logging data (for number of bags, absentees, challenges), sorting and boxing the bags. The leaders rotated and changed within each group so that each student would have a chance at being a leader.
5. Establish community partnerships
(With what community partners did you collaborate? Non-profits, civic organizations, businesses that provided donations, etc.)
We partnered with the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and The Lord’s Table.
6. Plan ahead for service-learning
(How did you prepare and plan for the project?)
It was important to have a community outreach activity along with the character development workshops on site. Several factors were considered: the need, the efficiency factor, the degree of ease of the process, the lessons that the students would take away from the program, how well the students could do the job, the availability of the project, the location. Decorating and making snack bags for people who are homeless helped the students learn first hand about community outreach and initiative and develop compassion towards those in need. The project highlighted the importance of service as the cornerstone for great leadership. The project benefited the students, the school, the parents, and for the Lord’s Table clients.
7. Equip students with knowledge and skills needed for service (What did students learn through the experience?)
The students learned many crucial lessons such as:
- building a strong personal foundation is the first step toward achieving personal happiness and victory;
- that they each had innate talents that could be developed toward greatness;
- that whatever they learn in life, they should also share with others in order to influence their social environment in a positive way;
- self respect along with respecting others;
- leadership and that service is the cornerstone for great leadership;
- how to make a difference by reaching out and helping those in need in their communities;
- that reaching their dreams is only achievable if they planned for it;
- to embrace diversity as an important component of healthy living;
- insight into different personality types, their strengths and weaknesses;
- good listening skills;
- effective public speaking strategies.
Students were given tools to achieve public victory, and to enhance their relationships with their families, friends, teachers and strangers.