Youth Engagement in National Service

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything." - Albert Einstein

Youth and national service go together like boats on the water. Given the right motivation and inspiration, young people are essential to building nations, empowering the disenfranchised, sustaining communities and enriching democracy. Involved in deliberate nationwide programs focused on serving the greater good and empowering individuals, national service can create connections beyond local borders and enhance pride and belonging. Whether serving locally, nationally or internationally, any peace-building activity might allow young people to change the world in a powerful ways.

There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.

— John F. Kennedy

Ways Youth Engagement in National Service Happens

Project-Based Learning — National service should be an action learning opportunity for young people, focused on learning practical skills and powerful knowledge while serving the greater good in the country. Acknowledging project-based learning within national service allows a lot of relevance and applicability. Children and youth can change the world while they serve their countries by reaching beyond their borders to strengthen their nations, too.

Community Youth Development — By taking empowered, appropriate action focused on building communities and changing the world, community youth development engages young people in positive action focused on social change. Using this approach in national service program can appropriately position young people as problem-solvers and leaders in the communities where they serve.

Youth as Activity Leaders — Whether they’re focused on education, the environment, public health and safety, unmet human needs or other areas, young people can lead national service projects. Moving beyond simply enacting plans made by others, children and youth can step into planning, design, building, facilitation and other key roles throughout national service.

Needs for Youth Engagement in National Service

Training — Learning how to do the service they’re engaged in is important and obvious. Learning why they are involved in national service is more important. However, learning how to lead, facilitate, motivate and recruit others into national service is vital for youth to change the world, too, as they can step into these important roles and foster important change.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Being supported through healthy and supportive relationships can help everyone flourish. In national service, bridging intergenerational gaps by building youth/adult partnerships may be essential to success. Young people and adults can both initiate these relationships, effectively building community and securing support for themselves and others, too.

Opportunities — Young people need substantive opportunities to participate as the leaders, facilitators and implementors of national service activities. These should acknowledge the complexities in participants’ lives; be infused into the regular functions of communities; and constantly acknowledge their relationship to national health and well-being.

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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth engagement in national service through your community or organization, contact us.

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