Thursday, November 11, 2010

Summer of Service Program

by Christina Malliet

On November 8, Shirley Sagawa, author of The American Way to Change, wrote a piece for The Huffington Post on the importance of a Summer of Service (SOS) in combating the “summer slide” – the academic regression students experience while intellectually unengaged during the summer months. Sagawa suggests that such a program would provide opportunities for personal growth equal to those of summer enrichment camps, especially by encouraging students to cultivate a sense of purpose and take on leadership roles in their communities from an early age.

At ICP, we initiated the idea of Summer of Service in 2005 with our vision of a national program that engages young teens transitioning from middle to high school in an intensive “rite of passage” service-learning experience. In particular, ICP's work on this project included serving as an expert consultant on legislation related to the initiative, building support among stakeholders, and conducting extensive research on existing programs. ICP maintains a significant collection of resources for SOS programs and educators on our online resource center, including information on research, effective program practices, news about SOS, and a database of SOS program around the country.

Like Sagawa, we were excited about our successful advocacy for the inclusion of Summer of Service in the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of April 2009. The Serve America Act allotted $10 million in funds for SOS programs, as well as $10 million for grants of $500 for students who complete 100 hours of service in the program. These generous funds allowed nearly 4,000 students to engage in service-learning in summer 2010.

As Sagawa says, this program is inevitably give-and-take for the youth and the communities they serve, proving that young people are effective in building a better world for tomorrow; “Communities across America might find an important new resource in their own backyards -- young people who are ready to serve, if only they are asked.”

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