Monday, May 11, 2009

ICP Convenes Summer of Service Workgroup

On April 21st, 2009 President Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act into law. On the same day youth service-learning program practitioners and evaluators gathered at a meeting convened by Innovations in Civic Participation (ICP) to discuss and develop a vision for Summer of Service (SOS) programs.

High quality SOS programs target authentic community needs through thoughtfully-designed service-learning activities that challenge young people to solve problems, build valuable life skills, reflect critically about their role in society, and pave the way for academic success in high school and beyond. Guided by teams of youth-adult partners, SOS programs require a sustained and intensive commitment over the summer months to plan, execute, reflect and recognize the contributions of young people as leaders in tackling critical community issues.

As a result of ICP’s work promoting Summer of Service the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act includes $10 million in funds for SOS programs and $10 million for $500 educational award grants for students who complete 100 hours of service through SOS programs. This legislation makes SOS funding available for programs that serve students in both middle and high school, but prioritizes those programs that enroll students in grades six through nine.

The Summer of Service Workgroup meeting was organized by Jean Manney and Joshua Truitt from ICP. The meeting was led by Alan Melchior from the Center for Youth and Communities at Brandeis University and Nicole Tysvaer from the University of Michigan, both consultants on ICP’s SOS initiative. Melchior was assisted by Sadie Miller, a graduate student at the Heller School at Brandeis. Participating in the meeting were Lisa Bardwell from EarthForce, Ernest Morrell from UCLA and IDEA, Susan Root from NYLC and an evaluator of the WalkAbout SOS Program, and Jon Schmidt from the Chicago Public Schools SOS Program. Adraine McKell and Laura Lockwood from the ManaTeens SOS Program joined part of the conversation via conference call.

Nicole Tysvaer presented a draft of the Program Design Toolkit she is writing to assist practitioners in the field with designing and implementing SOS programs. Tysvaer also discussed plans for Program Insights, interactive multimedia presentations on exemplary SOS programs. The group offered excellent feedback from their perspective as practitioners.

The group discussed existing programs with an eye to what is working in the field and what needs improvement. This informed conversations and brainstorming sessions led by Alan Melchior about the mission, goals, assumptions, strategies, and outcomes of SOS programs. The group developed an inspiring vision for what these programs could become and their potential impact.

These conversations will inform ICP’s future work on the SOS initiative. Alan Melchior will create an Evaluation Toolkit to provide programs with a basic understanding of evaluation methods as well as a set of reliable tools that can be used by practitioners to generate data to assess both individual initiatives and the overall progress of programs across the field, and ultimately provide better evidence of program effectiveness. Improvements are coming soon to ICP’s SOS Resource Center, which will be informed by the Workgroup meeting as well.

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