Service-Learning Journey

In high school I participated in a Spring Break service trip to South Africa that showed me the ability of education to empower students. Working with children taught me to revalue my education as much as they valued theirs. School was their safe place from the violence, poverty, and uncertainty of their homes. Even in the youngest classrooms, school served as their gateway to personal satisfaction. From this experience, I developed the conviction that school should be a low-risk, high-reward laboratory of life that allows for personal, intellectual, and social development.

Since this trip, I have committed myself to improving the quality of education in my local and global community through my college initiatives. I have served as an academic tutor, volunteered with Teach for America’s spring break service trip, developed educational programs for the sorority community, and organized multicultural education presentations for CampFire USA’s summer camp for children. My research experience with education includes working in Anne Charity Hudley’s project focused on language variation in fall 2009, as well as courses in education policy, community studies, international development, and sociology.

My experience in government classes over the past two years has taught me how institutions, such as education, shape politics. With each class I take for my major, I gain a new perspective of how power over these institutions ultimately shapes society. My government classes also provide greater meaning to the education system and its role in political socialization and fostering greater multicultural understanding. With every assignment I become gain multicultural literacy.

With the greater goal of multicultural literacy in mind, I pursued community engagement research in conjunction with my service trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina that allowed me to explore nonviolent communication techniques and how they can be applied to the classroom. Nonviolent communication is a process of communicating that enables multicultural literacy and intercultural understanding.

Many of my initial paths in service-learning have allowed me the opportunity to give back to other students in the William & Mary community. I currently serve as a mentor through the Sharpe Fellows program and serving as a Teaching Assistant for Paula Pickering’s Bosnia Project course. As a senior, being able to reflect on my own experience and put myself in the shoes of freshmen supports my continued growth as an active citizen as I am able to truly see how far I have come on my journey.

In the future I plan to pursue a Masters in Education and eventually use my degree to create education policy and programming that will focus both on processes of learning and not simply results. In opposition to our current education culture of “teaching to the test,” I seek to contribute a system of public education that develops a knowledgeable citizen of the world.

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Developing Millennial Leadership for the Future, Today

(This week I attended my first “virtual conference” on Millennial Impact MCON2012. I won a free registration via Twitter from the Case Foundation! Thanks Case Foundation! Below is a reaction to one of the breakout sessions I wrote for the folks at Millennial Chat)

By 2020, 46% of all U.S. workers will be millennials. By that time, we can also expect an exodus of the bubble of baby boomers from the workforce, rapidly leaving leadership gaps in organizations across a variety of sectors. The face, skills, and expectations of the average American worker will be dramatically different.

What does the next generation of leadership look like for organizations? How can the leadership development pipeline begin to strengthen its paths today? These were the questions asked by the “Creating Millennial Leadership Programs” presenters Zeke Spier (Executive Director, Social Justice Fund) and Kris Putman-Walkerly (Founder and President, Putnam Community Investment Consulting Inc.) at MCON2012.

Today, millennials are already providing an insight into their organizational and leadership values. These are: authentic relationships, inclusivity and diversity, and openness to change. Zeke Spier explored these values through his organization in their fundraising efforts. They found that developing leaders within peer groups and within volunteers multiplied the impact – those leaders welcomed the challenge and responsibility and that leadership pathway gave volunteers steps to follow that tied their personal development to organizational development.

The big lesson this strategy revealed was that young millennials have expendable income to give, they want to be asked and will giving meaningful contributions when asked in an authentic manner by a mission-driven organization. Social Justice Fund did not set a minimum contribution in their fundraising campaign, but instead they found that donors, especially millennials, gave more than they would have expected if they had set a minimum contribution. By focusing on the values of authenticity, diversity, and openness to change, the organization tapped into the values of millennials.

Practically, where does the leadership pipeline begin for future millennial leaders outside of involvement in nonprofit campaigns? Kris Putnam-Walkerly pointed to a variety of internship programs that are equipping millennials with the experiences and skills to thrive in the workforce. These internships and entry-level opportunities are especially apparent in the nonprofit sector, which contrary to the private sector, actually grew by 2% during the recession. Ultimately, millennials are prioritizing meaningful work over higher pay, and they are finding these opportunities to contribute and grow in their careers through the nonprofit sector.

Two great examples of internship opportunities in the nonprofit sector include opportunities coordinated by the Cleveland Foundation and the Exxon Mobil Community Summer Jobs Program.

What types of internship or volunteer opportunities contributed to your leadership growth as a millennial? How is your school or community fostering opportunities for young people to develop their leadership skills in the workplace? What do you envision a millennial-led workforce will look like in the future? What will they value?