AMES, Iowa – Planting flowers at a local park, preparing a community meal, sharing stories with older adults or performing random acts of kindness: These are a few examples of service projects that Iowa youth will engage in during Global Youth Service Day, April 26-28.
Iowa AmeriCorps State of Promise and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach are organizing Global Youth Service Day projects throughout the state. 4-H clubs also may organize projects and list them on the Global Youth Service Day website, www.gysd.org.
Although Global Youth Service Day calls for service over one specific weekend, Iowa 4-H youth are improving their communities throughout the year and are learning from that service.
“Service-learning through AmeriCorps and 4-H Youth Development takes community service or volunteer projects to the next level by empowering youth to identify needs in their community and plan service projects themselves. This creates a more meaningful experience for youth,” said Judy McCarthy, Iowa AmeriCorps State of Promise program director with ISU Extension and Outreach.
“Through service-learning, youth develop leadership skills and learn that they can make a difference in their communities,” McCarthy said.
“Our ISU Extension and Outreach network of trained youth and adult volunteers throughout the state support service-learning by providing training and technical assistance to 4-H clubs and other youth development organizations. The goal is to involve many more young people in community-based service-learning activities and prepare them to be Iowa’s future leaders,” said Keli Tallman, 4-H youth development specialist.
In 2011-2012 Iowa AmeriCorps State of Promise members facilitated 148 service-learning projects with 1,554 youth, who served 4,498 volunteer hours. Eighty percent of the participating youth reported a positive impact on their lives and indicated they would participate in future service-learning projects, McCarthy said.
“The youth said service-learning was fun time after time in their evaluations, and they also encouraged other youth to do service projects,” McCarthy said. “One youth offered very practical advice — ‘Have fun, make friends and bring gloves, just in case’ — which certainly would be helpful during projects that involve physical labor.”
All Iowa 4-H members and 4-H clubs are expected to participate in service activities, Tallman noted, and more than 4,000 Iowa youth are enrolled in the 4-H citizenship project. Last year approximately 1,200 4-H youth and adult volunteers contributed 6,000 hours to improve their communities through the State 4-H Youth Conference and Pioneer Community Improvement grants. Twenty-five Iowa 4-H clubs leveraged $4,600 in Pioneer Community Improvement grants into nearly $18,500 in community improvement projects.
In a 2012 survey of 622 randomly selected 4-H club members, 72 percent reported they’d increased their citizenship practices after participating in a 4-H club, Tallman said.
“4-H club members indicated that being involved in 4-H helped them develop their ability to do the things that involved citizens do — such as participate in service-learning projects to improve their community,” Tallman said.
“They better understood the importance of helping and caring about others and showing respect to others, especially elders. They learned to work with and learn from others and they recognized the importance of volunteering,” Tallman said.
“Eighty-eight percent of the youth indicated that they plan to do other service or volunteer projects,” she added.