An Opportunity for Innovative Service Year Programs
Americans from all sectors are uniting behind a big idea -- that a "service year" becomes a common expectation and opportunity for 18-28 year olds as a path to completing college and finding employment. Programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps, as well as nonprofit organizations, provide several thousand service opportunities annually. The Service Year Alliance is working to exponentially increase the number of service year positions and young people serving in America. In 2016, we will launch a new technology platform called the Service Year Exchange (SYx). On the platform, young people can find service year opportunities, nonprofits and colleges can post service year opportunities, and institutions can fund the small living stipend to make such service possible. For more information on this initiative, please visit ServiceYr.org.
Higher education has a long tradition of preparing students for careers and citizenship through education and service. Some examples include service-learning, federal work study, semesters and summers of service, deferrals or gap years to do a year of national service, and more. Higher education is innovating around this big idea of creating more opportunities for students to do a service year before, during, or after college. Together, with generous grant support from the Lumina Foundation, the Service Year Alliance seeks to spark innovation across the higher ed sector. Now in its second year, the Service Year + Higher Education: Innovation Challenge will explore the best ideas for linking service years to learning. We will build on the ideas presented in the 2015 Challenge to develop new designs for translating service years into course credit, helping students identify their passions, and increasing college completion rates.
Service Year + Higher Education
The Service Year Alliance believes that the incorporation of service years into the post-secondary experience will better prepare students to complete their degree, attain employment, and become lifelong engaged citizens.
While promising models for higher education-sponsored service years before beginning college or after graduation are being piloted in schools across the country, we are looking for models that make a service year a part of the undergraduate or graduate experience. Such an experience could occur during a “junior year away” (or on campus), a capstone final year experience, or programs that incorporate both summer and school year elements. Ideally, programs would be connected to academic learning. For example, communications students might serve in local nonprofit organizations; child development students might serve in local child care centers; language majors or students in ethnic studies fields might serve in immigrant communities; or others preparing for health-related careers would serve in local health clinics.