Service in the Community

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commserve2In January every year, Americans observe the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Politicians and civic leaders urge Americans to use this holiday as an action and civic commitment in order to promote Dr. King's legacy. In 1994, President Clinton signed the King Holiday and Service Act into law which brings diverse groups of Americans together on the King holiday to actively celebrate Dr. King's life of promoting social justice, serving the community and helping others.

In the schools, educators can encourage students to not only help one another in the classroom but reach beyond and serve the community. Through service, young people learn by ‘doing’ and have a stronger connection with their community. With this type of opportunity, students will understand responsibility, experience positive results for their efforts, and develop strong character.

Ways to ServeBLD087385

The U.S. Government Corporation for National and Community Service  a provider of leadership and citizenship initiatives, has organized the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service resource. This program invites young people to keep King’s dream alive by providing opportunities for service, and teaching the values that Dr. King lived for: tolerance, responsibility, respect, nonviolence and courage. Students will be inspired to put these values into practice by taking positive action in their schools, homes and communities. Check the Special Initiatives resource for additional national programs.

commserve5Of course, there are opportunities all year long for students to be involved in community service of one kind or another. The September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance is another important national holiday that marks the occasion for starting a community service project. For ideas visit the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse. The goal of the Clearinghouse is to collect and disseminate information and materials related to service learning. It is this organization’s belief that service-learning provides students with opportunities to use newly acquired skills and knowledge in real-life situations in their own communities. It also enhances what is taught in school by extending student learning beyond the classroom and into the community which fosters the development of caring for others. Teachers of any discipline should be able to find service-learning projects to support their curricular requirements. Visit the Frequently Asked Questions page, which is organized alphabetically by subject. Follow up by checking the Standards and Indicators for Effective Service-Learning Practice.

Encouraging Students to Serve in the Communitycommserve4

In many schools around the world students are required to volunteer community service hours each year. In many cases students are responsible for finding their own volunteer opportunities. With the help of the Internet, students can search for volunteer opportunities in their area. SERVEnet (Youth Service America) is an excellent place to start. Students can learn about volunteer opportunities in their area by clicking Semester of Service and Global Youth Service Day.

To get students motivated for service, point them to 20 Ways for Teenagers to Help Other People by Volunteering. Use this list to get students thinking about service opportunities that might interest them.


Sometimes students are interested in making a difference, but are not sure where to start. Review some of the service projects that National Honors Society students have participated in.

Students Benefit from Public Service

Students who volunteer and serve in the community learn to have more respect for others, as Martin Luther King, Jr. hoped. Moreover, these students learn to be more responsible and are more likely to be actively involved in their communities as adults. Students who actively volunteer may also gain extra recognition when applying for college (service is especially important when applying to highly competitive institutions).commserve1

Watch the President’s service initiative, ‘United We Serve’. Continue to the Government’s United We Serve Web site. Encourage students to keep a journal of their community service activities. If there is a class or school Web site, ask students to post blogs based on their service record and invite other students to join them in their efforts.



U.S. Government Corporation for National and Community Service

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service

National Service – Learning Clearinghouse


20 Ways for Teenagers to Help Other People by Volunteering

U.S. Government United We Serve

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