Serve with a Known Purpose: A UELIP’s understanding of the need for Service Learning

By Junior Associate Andrew Blickle

I remember the first time I served. It was at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving one year. I wish I could say it changed my life, but it didn’t. To be honest, I was only there because I had to be. I was young, I was dumb, and I wanted to be watching football.

Fast-forward a few years. I was still young and dumb, but I now served my community through my passion—sports. I umpired Little League baseball, helped out with summer clinics, and eventually became involved with the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Reading, PA. I served there each summer for about 6 years.

Now I am a UELIP attempting to transform the DCPS community service requirement into a service learning program. Too many students serve their community because they have to, unaware of the amazing opportunity that comes with service. Too many students pick up trash or rake mulch at the mall, not even in the community they call their own, unsure of how this helps them. Too many students cannot complete their hours, or don’t have the accessible resources to find where they can meaningfully complete their hours. Too many students who serve never learn the bigger picture—how they’re helping, who they’re helping, and why their service is necessary. Too many students serve without realizing that every second they serve is making the world a better place.

It is not their fault, either. The resources are not currently there. A Service Learning program, which DCPS is working hard to implement, can make sure that students’ service is tied to their passions, and can make sure they both prepare for their service and reflect on what they’ve done, and why they did it. The program would connect the classroom to the community in new ways, showing students the value of both their education and their civic engagement. Teachers can be facilitators for their students to fully see the value of what they have done.

I was lucky to have those resources, to have someone push me to serve in something I was passionate about. Now, for example, I am passionate about ending hunger and homelessness, because I have learned exactly how a soup kitchen can impact the world. I hope DCPS students who volunteer at soup kitchen are able to reflect on what they are doing and why they are doing it. I needed that knowledge to see the value in service. DCPS students need that, too. And with a service learning program, they will get it.


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