Thank you Twitter. It was during one of my many ed chats that someone referred me to the National Youth Leadership Council’s Service Learning Conference. This is due to my interest and participation in service projects with my students at Islip High School. After looking up the conference details, the first thing that struck me was the location – Anaheim, CA.
I’m going to Disneyland!!! It was perfect. I’d get to visit my son, a SoCal resident, network and learn with service learning professionals and go to Disney. That’s a trifecta; sign me up. SLC hosted a pre-conference day of service which I readily signed up for. In for a penny, in for a pound. I might as well serve while learning about serving. We learn by doing. I even took a red eye arriving at LAX at 1:30am to participate in the 7:30am beach cleanup. I slept for 2 hours on the flight, I’d be fine! Though exhausted, I had a wonderfully inspiring day. I met and worked alongside two educators – one a principal from AZ and the other from a university in Alabama. We did pre-service and post service reflections and learned about the oceans and environment. Please do not bring Styrofoam to the beach – better yet, don’t use it at all. My dream is to never have to pick up pieces of Styrofoam off a beach ever again. Bring reusable items and take them back home with you.
This was my first Service Learning Conference, so I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t expect so many students. The young people in attendance were so inspiring, well spoken, confident and above all, passionate. Passionate about the issues that mattered to them and to their communities. I am still in awe of these remarkable young men and women. How do we encourage others to follow their example? That is my goal – to inspire, to encourage, to model and to assist and enable my students to serve, to make a difference and to be the change.
There were inspirational plenary sessions, interactive workshops and numerous networking activities. And I took advantage of as many as possible. What I liked most was all the onsite service activities in the exhibit hall and that they were predominantly run by youth. So many causes, so many willing helpers. I made a doll, one of 500, that will be donated to the Anaheim Police Department. When children are exposed to traumatic situations officers can offer the child a cuddly stuff doll to help put the child at ease.
This onsite service opportunity not only took advantage of willing participants but helped spread awareness to causes. I met some young ladies from New Foundations Charter School who were using upcycled plastic bags in unique ways as a way of spreading awareness of ocean pollution. I’ve already used plastic bags in my service projects (plarn sleepmats for the homeless), so they piqued my interest.
You’ll be hearing more about these awesome projects on this blog and in my upcoming book, Makers with a Cause. I’m still trying to process all the amazing work being done across the United States by amazing students, dedicated educators and passionate organizations.
Did I mention the conference was at the Disneyland Resort? Well, when in Rome…