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EffEctivE PracticEs for
Engaging at-risk Youth in sErvicE
a guidE dEsignEd to ProvidE an
ovErviEw of thE undErlYing thEorY and
EffEctivE PracticEs for Engaging at-
risk Youth in sErvicE bY Examining thE
rolEs thEY havE PlaYEd and can PlaY
in sErving thEir communitiEs.
tablE of contEnts
Purpose of the Report page 4
The Inclusion of At-Risk Youth page 5
Who are at-risk youth and why are they highlighted in this report? page 5
What are the key risk factors? page 6
Knowledge-Bases on Which to Build Programs for All Youth page 11
What do we know about the principles for and practices of --
engaging all youth in community change? page 11
What roles do Youth Courts play? page 12
What is the connection between restorative justice and community service-learning? page 13
What is the concept of resilience and how is it relevant? page 14

Criteria for Efective Practices for Engaging All Youth page 15
What factors make a program successful? page 15
Projects Planned and Implemented by and for All Youth page 18
What is Global Youth Service Day and why is it so relevant? page 18
What are some program examples? page 18
Refections -- by Sejal Hathi page 28
What are the impacts on the youth participants and the community? page 28
What are the primary lessons we have learned? page 28
Recommendations by Bob Bhaerman page 32
What are our recommendations for program planning and implementation? page 32
What are some fnal observations? page 33

What are the opportunities and needed support systems? page 35
References page 37
Additional Readings page 40
Web Sites page 43
Potential Funding Sources page 44
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PurPosE of thE rEPort
ur intent is to share information and insights about efectively engaging at-risk youth in community
service. The audiences are public ofcials, youth service and service-learning practitioners and teach-
ers, researchers and others whose mission is to plan and implement community service programs for
youth with diverse experiences and backgrounds.
The intent is to provide an overview of the underlying theory and efective practices for engaging at-risk
youth in service by examining the roles they have played and can play in serving their communities.
In 2002, Youth Service America in collaboration with the Independent Sector published a monograph, Engag-
ing Youth in Lifelong Service: Findings and Recommendations for Encouraging a Tradition of Voluntary Action
Among American Youth. Our report in many ways is a supplement to the earlier report. We are well aware
that it will take persuasion for some to accept the characterization of youth ofenders, for example, as poten-
tial leaders and community assets. That is, we recognize, up to each reader to judge.
Initially, we also asked ourselves if this concept required any signifcant innovations in the theory, principles
and practices for involving at-risk youth in service. In our judgment, the principles and practices are quite
the same. What is necessary, however, is an innovation in our perception and appraisal of these youth. As
we state in our conclusion, all youth possess the necessary assets or hidden treasures which can be used in
serving others. If we look closely, we will see that all youth possess them, including those who are labeled
at-risk and who exhibit risk factors for dropping out of school before graduating. But they need to be given
the opportunities -- and the support -- to show that they can succeed in becoming productive citizens of their
Who are at-risk youth and Why are they highlighted in this report?
e could not begin to cite the wide variety of defnitions of the at-risk youth. The general consen-
sus, however, according to the U.S. Code Collection (nd), is that the term at-risk (or high-risk) means
an individual who has not attained the age of 21 years, who is at risk of becoming -- or has become
-- a drug or alcohol abuser, or who may exhibit one of the following attributes: is identifed as a child of a
substance abuser; is a victim of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse; has become pregnant; is economi-
cally disadvantaged; has committed a violent or delinquent act; has experienced mental health problems; has
attempted suicide; has experienced long-term physical pain due to injury; has experienced chronic failure in
school; or has dropped out of school.
While estimates of the number of at-risk youth at any given time vary, researchers at Public/Private Ventures
(2002) report that in 1999 more than fve million youth between the ages of 14 and 24 ft the above defni-
tion. According to this source, our nation seems no closer to productively engaging these young people in
our society than we were 30 years ago. In fact, they assert, the situation today may be even more troubling.
The youth population between the ages of 18 and 24 is expected to grow by 22 percent by 2015. Many ex-
perts believe that this population growth means a corresponding increase in the frequency and severity of the
problems at-risk youth present not only for themselves but also for society in general.
James Kielsmeier, president of the National Youth Leadership Council, states (1998) that youth can be viewed
in a variety of ways and that all youth, including at-risk youth, can learn to be community leaders. He sees
all youth as potential leaders when given the opportunity and the needed support system in which they can
become productive citizens of their communities. We fully agree.
We base our perspective of youth on the fndings of the White House Task Force for Disadvantaged Youth
Final Report (October 2003), in which the Task Force set forth an action-focused approach to the path this
country should pursue for its disadvantaged youth, namely, that they grow up healthy and safely; be ready for
work, college or military service; be ready for marriage, family and parenting; and be ready for civic engage-
ment and service (emphasis added).
The Task Force notes a number of special target populations, youth who represent areas of serious concern
and who carry disproportionately negative consequences for themselves and their communities. These in-
clude foster care youth (particularly those aging out of foster care); youth in the juvenile justice system; youth
with a high number of factors putting them at risk for unproductive or publicly costly lives such as children of
incarcerated parents and migrant youth.
The Task Force also indicates that since federal funds for youth programs often are spread thinly, this leads ei-
ther to under serving youth or never engaging those who most need help and who become a liability to their
communities. The report also notes that evaluations of youth programs often do not show a great deal of
impact since the youth who needed to show the most positive gains were either not engaged or insufciently
in thEorY:
thE inclusion of at-risk Youth
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From our perspective, the most relevant goal of the Task Force is Goal 4: to make disadvantaged youth ready
for civic engagement and service. Their Goal 4 is our Goal 1. Such endeavors, they maintain, should foster
youths development into caring adults who have a clear sense of belonging and responsibility to their com-
munities and the nation through engagement in citizen service.
The rates of community service and volunteerism, according to the Task Force, appear to be lower among
disadvantaged youth. Nevertheless, disadvantaged youth can and do volunteer and often fnd that commu-
nity service allows them an opportunity to give back what others have given to them. They feel better about
themselves and confdent that they have something of value to ofer.
The Task Force identifed 105 federal programs in ten agencies or departments that involve young people,
including disadvantaged youth, in programs with community service activities. These programs are wide
ranging. The Corporation for National and Community Service, for example, sponsors a grant program under
Learn and Serve America that encourages elementary and secondary schools and community organizations
to develop and ofer service-learning opportunities for their students or community participants. Another pro-
gram in the Department of Education specifcally targets the involvement of disadvantaged youth through
the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. This program enables rural and inner-city elementary and sec-
ondary schools (or consortia of schools) to plan, implement, or expand projects that beneft the educational,
health, social service, cultural, and recreational needs of communities.
Lastly, the Task Force stresses that federally funded state and community-based programs should not only
treat youth as recipients of services but reach out to them as partners in program planning, design and lead-
ership. All youth have important assets, talents and skills that may fall outside the standard academic cur-
ricula. When they feel ownership for a program, they are more likely to give commitments that only highly
energized young people can muster.
What are the key risk factors?
s stated at the outset, a number of factors have been cited for at-risk youth, for example: individuals
below the age of 21 years who are at risk of becoming -- or have become -- drug or alcohol abusers or
who are identifed as the children of a substance abuser; are victims of physical, sexual, or psychologi-
cal abuse; have become pregnant; are economically disadvantaged; have committed a violent or delinquent
act; have experienced mental health problems; have attempted suicide; have experienced long-term physical
pain due to injury; or have experienced chronic failure in school. Since, more often than not, they are school
dropouts, let us take a close and in-depth look at the key risk factors for dropping out of school.
In addition to the White House Task Force report, the National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson Uni-
versity has published an extensive report, Dropout Risk Factors and Exemplary Programs, prepared by Cathy
Hammond (2006), which examines four risk factor domains -- individual, family, school and community -- for
dropping out of school. Since each of these factors is highly relevant to this report, let us take a look at them.
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Factors Relating to Individual Youth
High-risk demographic characteristics. These include background characteristics such as race/ethnicity,
gender, immigration status, limited English profciency and limited cognitive abilities or some other type of
disability, whether it is physical, emotional, or behavioral.
Early adult responsibilities. When adolescents are forced to take on adult responsibilities, they are less likely
to remain in school until graduation. Such responsibilities range from becoming a teen parent or having to
take a job to help ones family to care for siblings.
High-risk attitudes, values, and behaviors. Violence, substance use, and trouble with the law have been linked
to dropping out. Early sexual involvement also is a reason for dropping out, as is having close friends who are
involved in antisocial behavior or who have dropped out. Finally, low occupational aspirations and low self-es-
teem and self-confdence have been found to increase the risk of dropping out.
Poor school performance. Poor academic performance is one of the most consistent predictors of dropping
out, whether measured through grades, test scores, or course failure. These sub-factors have been found to
impact future dropouts from as early as the frst grade and continuing into high school. These sub-factors
have been found to impact future dropouts from as early as the frst grade and continuing into high school.
Disengagement from school. Students who are alienated and disengaged from school are much more likely
to drop out. Researchers have found that disengagement manifests itself in both behavior and attitudes and
have categorized engagement into several groupings: academic, behavioral, psychological, and social.
Academic disengagement. There is evidence that the number of days out of school impacts dropping
out beginning from the frst grade and continuing throughout ones school career, with some evidence
that patterns of absenteeism are consistent across grade levels. Other behaviors that can signal aca-
demic disengagement include cutting classes, truancy, consistently not completing homework, and
coming to class unprepared.
Behavioral disengagement. Acting up, particularly if these behaviors result in repeated suspensions or
expulsion can increase a students alienation. Discipline problems in both middle and high school have
been consistently linked to increased dropout rates.
Psychological disengagement. Reasons for dropping out given by the dropouts themselves illustrate
psychological disengagement from school. Surveys have found that dropouts commonly felt that they
did not belong in school, had trouble getting along with their teachers, or just had a general dislike of
Social disengagement. Dropouts also have been found to more likely have trouble getting along with
peers or have problems with social skills. Another aspect of disengagement is the lack of involvement
in extracurricular activities. Social engagement in high school through involvement in school or com-
munity clubs or activities was found to be particularly important for students with disabilities to keep
them from dropping out.
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Education stability. Another major school-related experience that can impact dropout is educational mobil-
ity. High mobility between schools or changes in services for students with disabilities also has been linked to
increased dropout rates.
Factors Relating to Family Background and Home Experiences
Background characteristics. One of the most consistent factors found to impact dropout has been socio-eco-
nomic status, whether measured by parental education, income, or occupational level. Youth in non-English-
speaking homes have been found to be more likely to drop out. Family structure also can impact dropping
out, as when students from single-parent or step-parent families have been found more vulnerable to drop-
ping out.
Level of household stress. High levels of stress in households can increase the likelihood of dropping out. This
can be caused by any number of problems such as substance use, family confict, or family fnancial or health
problems. Other family changes such as death, divorce, or remarriage also have a negative impact on staying
in school.
Family dynamics. The quality of early care giving and mother-child relationships was sometimes found to be
signifcantly linked to dropping out. Students from families with low monitoring of everyday activities, who
have no curfew on school nights, or who have a high degree of regulation have been found to be more likely
to leave school before graduation.
Attitudes, values, and beliefs about education. Low parental educational expectations have been linked to
higher dropout rates. The chances are greater that a teenager will leave school before graduating if his or her
parents also dropped out. If an adolescent in a family has dropped out, it increases the likelihood that his or
her siblings also will leave before graduating.
Behavior related to education. Parents of dropouts tend to have infrequent contacts with the school about
their childs academic performance and/or behavior, rarely talk to their child about school, or get involved in
school activities. One study found a link between a lack of study aids at home and dropping out, while anoth-
er found a link between little parent monitoring of homework and dropping out.
Factors Relating to School Structure, Environment, and Policies
School structure. One feature of schools that has received much attention lately due to issues relating to
vouchers for students in low-performing schools is whether the school is publicly or privately controlled.
Studies have found that Catholic and other private schools have had lower dropout rates than public schools.
However, it is unclear whether these diferences are due to student body characteristics, school resources and
family support, or other structural or organizational characteristics of these schools.
School size. Large school size, particularly in low socio-economic schools, has been linked to higher dropout
rates. A recent study has used the term dropout factories, indicating that approximately 2,000 large, pri-
marily urban, low-income high schools produce most of the dropouts. The researchers maintain that tradi-
tional structures common to these schools are the key to their low promoting power.
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School resources. High student-teacher ratios were linked to dropping out in one study of low socio-economic
schools, while another found that dropout rates were lower in schools where students perceived their teach-
ers as high quality.
Student body characteristics. One aspect consistently found to impact educational outcomes including drop-
out is the composition of the student body. Schools with high concentrations of low-income or minority stu-
dents have higher dropout rates, over and above the individual background characteristics and performance
of students.
Student body performance. There is evidence that the level of performance of the student body as a whole
impacts a students chances. The proportion of the student body retained and the percentage of low achiev-
ers in math have been found to impact dropping out.
School environment. Being in a school with a high-risk incoming class (with risk factors such as low SES, low
grades and test scores, and disciplinary problems) increases the chances that a student will drop out. Feel-
ing unsafe or simply attending a school with a high level of violence and/or safety problems also can be a risk
factor. Involuntary withdrawal through academic and discipline policies also may make the environment so
negative for students that they begin to leave.
Academic policies and practices. High-stakes testing appears to have changed many schools policies and
practices. There is some evidence that these policies may be increasing the likelihood that low-performing
students will drop out, especially between the ninth and tenth grades.
Supervision and discipline policies and practices. Zero tolerance discipline policies that require automatic ar-
rest, suspension or expulsion for substance or weapons possessions also have the potential to impact dropout
rates. Being suspended often or expelled signifcantly increases the likelihood that a student will drop out.
Factors Relating to Communities and Neighborhoods
Location and type. Dropout rates are consistently higher in urban than suburban or rural schools. In a study of
the promoting power of schools, 61 percent of urban schools, 20 percent of suburban, and only 5 percent of
rural schools had the lowest levels of
promoting power where entering freshman had less than a 50/50 chance of graduating four years later.
Demographic characteristics. Dropout rates are higher in communities with higher proportions of minori-
ties or with a large foreign-born population. Higher dropout rates have been linked to communities with high
numbers of single-parent households or adult dropouts and with low levels of education.
Environment. Conditions in communities can increase the likelihood that students will drop out. Higher drop-
out rates have been found in communities with a high amount of instability and mobility. High-poverty urban
areas are more likely to have high levels of violence, drug-related crime, and overcrowding which impact
school engagement, performance and, ultimately, dropping out.
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tWo highly relevant initiatives
Although too many schools are still operating as dropout factories, many organizations are working to
reverse this trend. One such organization, the Americas Promise Alliance, has instituted a campaign, with
Youth Service America as a key partner, in order to help advance the goal of improving the lives of 15 million
at-risk youth in the next fve years. In this campaign, states and communities are being encouraged to orga-
nize Dropout Summits to raise awareness, build urgency, and harness leaders attention around the dropout
crisis plaguing Americas high schools. Americas Promise focuses on the Five Promises of Caring Adults, Safe
Places, A Healthy Start, Efective Education, and Opportunities to Help Others to promote successful youth.
This particular campaign supports these Promises because, as Americas Promise has noted, dropping out of
school places youth on a pathway paved with barriers to success.
For details about the Dropout Summit Initiative and Americas Promise, please explore the web site: http://
Another highly relevant study by John Bridgeland and his colleagues, The Silent Epidemic, reports that
most students who dropped out of high school say they could have succeeded with more challenging course-
work, engaging classroom experiences, and access to extra help. In a survey of nearly 470 dropouts, nearly 50
percent said they left school because their classes were boring and not relevant to their lives or career aspi-
rations. A majority said schools did not motivate them to work hard, and more than half dropped out with
just two years or less to complete their high school education. More than 70 percent believe that the prob-
lem could be addressed through real-world learning opportunities,
among other things.
Again, for details, see http://www.gatesfounda-
With this background
information on at-risk
youth and risk fac-
tors for dropping out of
school, we now turn to
the foundations for building
programs that will engage all
youth in community service.
in thEorY: knowlEdgE-basEs on which
to build Programs for all Youth
What do We knoW about the principles for and practices of -- engaging all
youth in community change?
ngaging youth as partners in community change is a compelling idea. Translating that idea into ef-
fective practice, however, requires attention to several basic principles which can be implemented in
a wide range of organizations whose goal is to strengthen their commitment to youth involvement.
These principles, along with a number of key facts, have been cogently presented by Pittman, Martin, and
Williams (2007) in a publication by the Forum for Youth Investment. For example, these three scholars of
youth development highlight a number of relevant facts, including the following:
Families that have the fewest individual resources live in neighborhoods with the fewest collective resources.
Low-income young people, immigrant youth, and young people of color are disproportionately afected.
Young people often lack adequate opportunities and supports where they live, learn, work and play. Some-
times they literally lack places to live, learn, work and play.
Young people want to be engaged as change-makers in their lives, their families and their communities. They
are disproportionately involved in and afected by the problems that beset communities drugs, violence,
poor education, lack of jobs and they must be part of the solution.
Change happens fastest when young people are aforded the tools, training and trust to apply their creativity
and energy to efect meaningful change in their own lives and in the future of their communities.
The Forum for Youth Investment publication also notes that research suggests that youth who are actively en-
gaged in social change must have opportunities to act on their passions, use their skills, and generate change
through relevant and sustained action. These do not occur by chance. Youth are more likely to develop these
strengths when they are connected to programs and organizations that exhibit efective youth engagement
practices. The Forum report delineates eight highly relevant principles of youth engagement which are sum-
marized below and which, most importantly, are applicable to all youth, including those we term at-risk.
Principle 1: Design an outreach strategy. Efective youth engagement programs must have strong and con-
tinuous outreach strategies. One essential action is to plan a strategy that ensures diversity among youth
involved in the program.
Principle 2: Create a home base. Young people need a home base that provides continued connections to
adults who can build a team, broker opportunities, and facilitate relationships with other adults and organiza-
Principle 3: Convey a philosophy of change. It is important to have a clear roadmap that includes short- and
long-term goals and strategies and to articulate clear roles for young people and adults.
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Principle 4: Identify issues. It is important to give youth authentic decision-making power. Moreover, issues
should connect to youths lived experiences and to broader systemic challenges which, in turn, should be
linked to root causes.
Principle 5: Create youth and adult teams. Youth can and should assume meaningful roles in research, plan-
ning, training, and recruitment. Compensation, whether through salaries, credits, or other approaches, is an
important way to signify that youth are not passive recipients of service but rather can be active colleagues in
community change.
Principle 6. Build youth and adult capacity. It is important to provide youth and adults with a range of oppor-
tunities to build personal, leadership, teamwork, and basic skills and to help them become aware of the issues
and the root causes of problems and how these problems relate to the communitys history.
Principle 7: Provide individual supports. If organizations believe in the power of engaging youth, they cannot
change the community unless youth feel safe and supported and have the skills to handle themselves profes-
sionally in a variety of settings. Youth need supports to manage daily life stressors, such as family dynamics,
relationships, and school.
Principle 8: Sustain access and infuence. Developing linkages to other community organizations that have a
stake in community change can lead to a sense of collective efcacy around a shared agenda and can expand
opportunities for meaningful youth participation.
The Forum for Youth Investment also has produced a report, Youth Acts, Community Impacts (2001), which
presents eight case studies, and a number of short profles that illustrate youth action and meaningful com-
munity change in this country and around the world. It is available on-line at -- www.forumfyi.org/Files/
What roles do youth courts play?
he primary goal of youth courts is to divert minor ofenders from overloaded juvenile courts and to hold
them responsible for their actions. The courts strive to educate young people about the impact their ac-
tions have on others, teach about the legal system, and provide opportunities and a forum to develop
and practice leadership skills. Community service is the most popular disposition prescribed by youth courts.
And, as we discuss elsewhere in this paper, many schools link community service to classroom work to teach
subject matter that is, they focus on community service-learning.
Youth courts -- also called teen courts, peer juries, or student courts ofer young people opportunities to
participate in decision-making processes while gaining frst hand knowledge of the juvenile justice systems.
Sentences levied vary, from oral or written apologies to victims, to restoration of damages through com-
munity service or mandatory attendance at workshops usually relating to crime, alcohol and drugs, and safe
driving. Other options include curfews, tutoring, counseling, drug testing, peer mediation, mentoring, and
suspension of drivers licenses.
Pearson and Jurich (2005) report that an estimated 110,000 to 125,000 youth ofenders are served in such
programs annually and that another 100,000 annually beneft from participating as volunteers. It is signif-
cant that one in fve youth ofenders return to the program as volunteers after successfully completing their
What is the connection betWeen restorative justice and community service-
he concept of restorative justice places emphasis on the wrong done to a person and the community.
It recognizes that crime is both a violation of relationships between specifc people and an ofense
against everyone. It is a model that builds on restitution and community participation in an attempt to
make the victim whole again.
Restorative justice and school-based service-learning share many of the same goals. Because of these shared
goals, justice agencies can take advantage of the expertise that educators have developed about service-
learning to make mandated community service more meaningful.
As with court-mandated service, school-based service-learning focuses on the concept of service to the
community. With community service-learning, respondents can explore their potential as citizens by helping
communities meet their education, public safety, human, and environmental needs. With service-learning,
respondents become resources who provide service rather than recipients who are always in the role of being
served. By following these procedures, young ofenders can become better citizens while they give back to
the community.
The following, adapted from Degelmans Giving Back: A Community Service-Learning Manual for Youth
Courts (2002), compares service-learning and restorative justice approaches:
Restorative Justice: Youth court participants will be able to:
Understand the legal and judicial systems
Repair harm they have done to individuals and the community
Understand the impacts of their actions on others in the community
Analyze their own needs and those of others whom they have harmed
Develop competencies for becoming responsible and productive citizens
Act on opportunities to meaningfully contribute to the institutions of their communities
Develop a personal stake in the future of their communities
Work cooperatively with others
Service-Learning: Students will be able to:
Learn about their communities, processes, and institutions
Identify and analyze community problems
Develop social, political, analytical, and participatory skills
Learn that individual rights are balanced by responsibilities
Understand the value of service to themselves and the community
Recognize the characteristics of participating citizens
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Degelman, Pereira, and Peterson (2006) present a valuable discussion on community service-learning by
placing it in the context of the juvenile-justice system. They have elaborated on how the principles of service-
learning relate to mandatory community service, that is, the requirement that a person help the community
in a variety of ways for a specifed number of service hours. Some justice practitioners, however, believe that
mandated community service is inefectual for both the ofender and the community since they claim that
little or no teaching or learning transpires in the process. However, others maintain that mandated communi-
ty service gives ofenders a way of giving back to the community and, therefore, has a rehabilitative efect on
ofenders, victims, and the community. Degelman and his colleagues maintain that the justice-oriented, com-
munity service-learning model applies both the methodologies of school-based service learning and court-
based, restorative-justice strategies to court-mandated community service. The three researchers conclude
that by planning and implementing well-designed procedures, justice practitioners can help young ofenders
become better citizens while they give back to the community.
What is the diference between mandated community service and service learning? If students simply remove
debris from a stream, they are providing a community service. But when students study the causes and ef-
fects of water pollution, remove debris from streams, share the results of their research and actions with the
community, and develop strategies for reducing local pollution, they are truly engaged in service-learning.
Moreover, service-learning stresses another component that is highly relevant to a justice setting, namely, re-
fection. Refection in a justice setting helps ofenders realize they have vital connections to their community
and a useful role to serve in it.
What is the concept of resilience and hoW is it relevant?
he concept of resilience is based on the theory that particular traits or protective factors such as car-
ing relationships and high expectations help strengthen a persons resolve and enable him or her to per-
sist during adversity (Henderson, Bernard, and Sharp-Light, 1999). Milstein and Henry (2000) specify
the following protective factors: pro-social bonding, clear and consistent boundaries, life skills, caring and
support, and meaningful expectations the very things which we have found are characteristics of efective
practices for engaging at-risk youth in service. Although some researchers now prefer the term protective
processes, Benard (1991) identifes three board categories of protective factors which enable individuals to
transform adversity and develop resilience despite risk:
Caring relationships which convey compassion, understanding, respect, interest, and establishing basic
High expectations which convey believing in the youths innate resilience and looking for strengths and
assets as opposed to problems and defcits.
Opportunities for meaningful contributions which convey having opportunities for valued responsibili-
ties, making decisions, giving voice and being heard, and contributing ones talents to the community.
Fostering resilience involves believing in the potential of each youth and providing opportunities for real
responsibility, real work, and real service. Changing the status quo means changing paradigms from risk to re-
silience and, most importantly, from seeing youth as problems to seeing them as resources. Ex-gang member
Tito sums up most insightfully the message of resiliency: Kids can walk around trouble, if there is some place
to walk to and someone to walk with. (McLaughlin, Irby, and Langman, 1994)
in PracticE: critEria for EffEctivE
PracticEs for Engaging all Youth
What factors make a program successful?
great deal is known about efective practices for engaging youth in service. However, a gap exists in
our knowledge regarding engaging at-risk youth in community service. This gap has prompted Youth
Service America to undertake this study. Therefore, one of our primary objectives is to review the fac-
tors which make a program successful and to explore how at-risk youth can contribute, and have contributed,
to their communities.
In collaboration with the Independent Sector organization in Washington, DC, Youth Service America devel-
oped the publication, Engaging Youth in Lifelong Service: Findings and Recommendations for Encouraging a
Tradition of Voluntary Action Among Americas Youth in 2002. That report has served as the springboard to,
and is pre-requisite reading for our paper.
In 36 concisely written pages, Engaging Youth in Lifelong Service synthesized the essence of building programs
to nurture lifelong service. In such sections as Thinking Diferently About Youth Roles, The Youth-Adult Rela-
tionships, Building a Service Ethic, Youth in Philanthropy, and Youth in Policymaking, the publication cogently
summarizes efective practices for engaging youth in service. Because we are certain that you will want to
read this seminal document, we will briefy cite insights from only two pertinent sections:
From Thinking Diferently About Youth Roles: What tasks can young people be responsible for? What skills
are needed to do a particular task or service? Could this task be accomplished, or could this service be deliv-
ered, by a young person?
Focusing on the skills needed rather than the age of the potential volunteer is a critical frst step to-
ward changing an organizations mindset about who can get a job done. It is critical for agencies to
think outside conventional boundaries and open up multiple opportunities and roles for young people
(pages 15 16).
From Youth Supporting Youth:
Another consideration is to recruit young people who are seldom asked to volunteer, such as youth
with disabilities or young people from disadvantaged communities. They may beneft the most from a
service experience but also have the least access to such opportunities. These youth are more fre-
quently associated with the role of service recipients rather than givers of care. However, they know
their communities and peers needs and how best to relate to them a critical asset for any organiza-
tion. (page 19).
The Youth Service America publication includes numerous examples of programs that are successfully in-
corporating youth in service, such as the American Red Cross, State Farms Employee Volunteer Program,
Greater DC Cares, Michigan Womens Foundations Young Women for Change, and the Boston Mayors Youth
Council, to name just a few. It also illustrates the strong impact of youth service on the volunteering habits of
adults and indicates that adults who engage in service activities in their youth give more money and time to
serving than adults who began their activities later in life.
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Among the key fndings:
Forty-four percent of adults volunteer and two-thirds of these volunteers began volunteering their
time when they were young.
Adults who began volunteering as youth are twice as likely to volunteer as those who did not
volunteer when they were younger.
High school volunteering has reached the highest levels in the past 50 years.
In every income and age group, those who volunteered as youth give and volunteer more than those
who did not.
Those who volunteered as youth and whose parents volunteered became the most generous adults in
giving time.
The authors of the 2002 publication, however, indicate that despite the many benefts, signifcant barriers to
youth service remain that must be overcome if programs are to be successful, expanded, and sustained. The
primary barrier is the organizational mindset, that is, the preparation needed for adults and youth so that
working together is a productive and enjoyable experience for both. Some important issues to address in the
preparation stage include open discussions about stereotypes that adults and youth have of each other, exer-
cises in order to practice shared power, appropriate training for various age groups, clear defnition of roles
and responsibilities for both adults and youth, and decision-making processes that include youth in meaning-
ful ways.
In addition to the Youth Service America study, Shirley Sagawa (nd), a national expert on youth policy, lists ef-
fective practices for engaging youth in service regardless of the community. These include:
Meeting real needs. Service will be more meaningful if the eforts are clearly directed at meeting real com-
munity needs. Communities can beneft and youth will be viewed as a resource, rather than as a problem, if
they are seen as making an important contribution.
Involving service-learning. Service-learning combines service to the community with learning in a way that
benefts both the young learner and the community.
Providing opportunities for youth leadership. The chance to practice leadership skills is an important learning
experience that can prepare youth to take initiative later in life.
Providing training and supervision. Youth must be prepared for their service to enable them to tie the experi-
ence to learning and to have the requisite knowledge and skills to perform assigned tasks. They should be
supervised much as other workers are supervised.

Involving problem solving. Many service programs that have strong civic participation outcomes involve
problem solving. A typical design engages young people in identifying community needs and then guides
them through a process that enables them to consider a range of possible responses including service, advo-
cacy, and public education.
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Ofering continuity and intensity. Service has not been shown to have equally strong benefts if it is either
only for a few hours each week or for a short period of time. An intense experience helps youth form bonds
with one another and enhances their ability to experience transformative change.
Encouraging teamwork and skill building. Most real-life problem solving involves teams rather than individu-
als working in isolation. Teamwork skills are essential to later success, as are other skills that can be promot-
ed through service, including communication, leadership, and soft work skills such as punctuality, diligence,
appropriate dress and behavior.
Celebrating success. A celebration of the completion of a project, especially one that includes recognition of
the youth, is akin to a graduation ceremony and is important to any rite of passage.
Sagawa concludes that these practices are widely adaptable to service opportunities and are suited to difer-
ent regions, cultures, age groups, education levels and issues. And we would add that they are suitable for
high-risk youth wherever they are. Read the following section closely and judge for yourself if this is not the
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in PracticE: ProjEcts PlannEd and
imPlEmEntEd bY and for all Youth
What is global youth service day and Why is it so relevant?
ponsored by Youth Service America and its many partnering organizations, Global Youth Service Day
(GYSD) held annually on a weekend in April -- have set the gold standard for youth service. The goals
of GYSD are threefold: (1) to mobilize youth to identify and address the needs of their communities
through service; (2) to support youth on a life-long path of service and civic engagement; and (3) to educate
the public, the media, and policymakers at all levels about the year-round contributions of youth as commu-
nity leaders. A related public awareness and education campaign highlights the amazing contributions young
people make to their communities 365 days a year and is some years 366!
The initiative is organized by Youth Service America in association with the National Youth Leadership Council
and in partnership with PARADE Magazine. The State Farm Companies Foundation is its presenting spon-
sor in the U.S. As a global program, it is implemented through a consortium of international organizations,
and over 120 national coordinating committees in participating countries. A GYSD Secretariat, located in the
United States, with the advice of an International Coordinating Committee, provides support through com-
munications, resources and materials.
Millions of youth around the world participate in this, the largest service event in the world. They tutor young
children, engage in disaster relief, register new voters, educate their communities about good nutrition,
distribute HIV/AIDS prevention materials, and meet many other compelling community needs. Most impor-
tantly, Global Youth Service Day supports youth on a life-long path of service and civic engagement, while at
the same time educating the public, the media, and government ofcials at all levels about the role all youth
can play as community leaders when given the opportunity. That is the most important idea: when given the
What are some program examples?
ecause youth who are at risk of child abuse and neglect, violence, and gang involvement often experi-
ence acute distress and sometimes engage in counterproductive activities as a response, programs
geared toward this population typically focus on fxing problems by treating these youth as victims of
their societal conditions. Consequent to this approach, at-risk youth too often are merely stigmatized or, if
approached, engaged in remedial initiatives rather than self-development programs. We seek to recognize
and advocate programs that provide leadership opportunities for at-risk youth to engage in community ser-
vice and service-learning.
There has been documented success of programs that engage youth as leaders and partners in service. All of
these programs directly involve at-risk youth in conceiving, organizing, and implementing service projects
that expressly beneft their community, empowering these youth to respond to and give back to their peers
and familiar surroundings. Thus, efective service programs not only engage at-risk youth as leaders but also
enable them to serve other at-risk youth who might need further support. These young leaders can then serve
as keenly persuasive role models and examples of self-efcacy and positive self-development to their peers.
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Youth Service America has partnered with many organizations to develop grant programs that explicitly
support projects engaging at-risk youth, both from the dependency and delinquency system and from dis-
advantaged communities. In this report, we have reviewed several of these programs which we believe most
efectively exhibit the types and nature of projects that have been implemented by at-risk youth. The type of
risk factor is highlighted in bold type and, as you will see, the types are very diverse.
Aiken Able-to-Serve Grants
The Bubel/Aiken Foundation and Youth Service America have provided grants of up to $1,000 to support
youth-led service projects in which youth both without and with disabilities together serve their communi-
ties in service. These grants support youth (ages 5-25), teachers, youth-leaders, youth-serving organizations,
or organizations that serve people with disabilities in implementing service projects for the 2007 National and
Global Youth Service Projects. The projects addressed such themes as the environment, disaster relief, public
health and awareness, community education, hunger, and literacy, and other issues youth identify as a com-
munity need. The following is a brief description of projects in which students with disabilities served:
Communities That Care Coalition - Part of the Solution Youth Council, Lynn, Massachusetts Community
Beautifcation Project: In response to the overcrowding and violence they have witnessed in their public
parks, 20 youth from the Part of the Solution decided to take matters into their own hands. On Global Youth
Service Day, this inclusive group of youth without and with disabilities mobilize their community in fve
simultaneous park clean-ups, giving the community positive reasons to enjoy the park. The project clean-up
and community celebration brought together over 180 youth and 120 adults who together contributed 1800
hours of service. It was reported that the biggest impact is the way city ofcials now view the youth of Lynn as
motivated, organized, and dedicated individuals, many of whom are now serving as resources in city events,
meetings, and youth-related decisions.
Abnaki Girl Scout Troop 81 and friends, Presque Isle, Maines Emergency Preparedness for People with
Downs Syndrome Project: After learning that scent-trailing dogs have a hard time trailing people with
Downs Syndrome, a group of 25 youth without and with disabilities decided to educate the public about this
and disaster preparedness through an Informational Fun Day called Project Find Me. The youth recruited
Search and Rescue personnel to give presentations, created and played informational games, and made Child
Identifcation Kits for each youth participant. They also helped local police share information about this issue
with the National Downs Syndrome Society. The youth contributed 486 hours of service. All of the Scouts
who participated refected on how much it meant to them to work side-by-side with persons with Downs
Syndrome and to get to know them and their abilities to serve and learn.
prairie independent living resource center, hutchinson, kansas environmental project.
In this initiative, youth planted trees along a local walking trail. The trail, created in 1996, has become one of
the most popular recreational attractions in the city. The youth also dedicated a plaque to commemorate the
service project and to remind the community that youth with disabilities can make valuable contributions to
their community. Through the event, attended by 40 people, the young people who served began to realize
that they are valued members of their community. Twenty-fve youth contributed 50 hours of service.
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Appalachian Sustainable Development/ Greendale Elementary School. Abington, Virginias Wheelchair Ac-
cessible Gardens Project: More than 150 younger youth (ages 5-14) created wheelchair accessible gardens for
children with severe and profound disabilities -- areas that can be used for physical and mental therapy. They
built several raised beds with an accessible walkway to provide better access to their garden space. Students
with severe and profound disabilities watered and monitored the growth of the plants, assisted by non-dis-
abled 4th and 5th graders. In addition, 72 4th grade students and ten 5th grader students worked together
with nine pre-school students with multiple handicaps, four students with disabilities, and 18 pre-school stu-
dents to seed and plant and rainbow garden.
Salem High School, Salem, Ohios Literacy Project: Students with learning and cognitive disabilities, in
partnership with vocational education students, and with the assistance of a high school horticulture class,
designed and built the landscaping for the Salem Storybook Museum. The Museum serves over 2,800 youth
who are not profcient readers with reading programs. All existing plantings were cleaned up, weeded, and
mulched. Much debris was hauled from the property and a beautiful 400 square foot patio was installed. A
total of 26 students and two teachers contributed 420 hours of service.
City of Durham, North Carolinas Disability Awareness Project: Youth convened two community forums to
highlight best practices for public safety, human service professionals, and people with disabilities to work
together. One panel focused on the interaction of the police department with the disability community and
the second panel focused on the interaction between emergency medical service, the fre department, and
the disability community. Youth established a partnership between Youth Crime Watch and the SpecialPops/
Inclusion unit that resulted in youth with disabilities joining the group. Forty-fve youth contributed 720 hours
of service.
Sparta High School, Comstock Park, Michigans Intergenerational Relationships Project: Special education
students who run an ice-cream shop at the high school trained students from the National Honor Society in
how to prepare ice-cream. Both groups of students then planned an ice-cream social for elders in the com-
munity. Eleven students with disabilities served ice cream and also had the opportunity to play games and
interact with the senior citizens. The project gave the youth with disabilities practice with interaction and
other social and interpersonal skills. Together the youth with and without disabilities contributed 80 hours of
Paraquad Inc., St. Louis, Missouris Food and Clothing to Low-income Youth and Their Families Project: Fifty
members of the Paraquad Youth Group developed a service project to assist The Foster and Adoptive Care
Coalitions resale clothing store and the Circle of Concern food pantry. This diverse group of youth with and
without disabilities worked together sorting and folding donated clothes for the resale clothing store and as-
sembled bags of rice for the food pantry. Forty-fve bags of clothing were sorted into size, gender and season;
250 pounds of rice were bagged into 171 freezer bags for 171 families. This inclusive service project challenged
stereotypes through extended interactions among low-income youth, youth in foster care, and youth with
disabilities. Two Missouri state representatives visited the worksite and were greatly impress by the Yes We
Can attitude and how youth with disabilities are as capable as anyone else in contributing to their commu-
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The Cranford School District/Walnut Avenue School, Cranford, New Jerseys Community Beautifcation
Project: Three hundred students and community members prepared garden beds for spring planting at three
locations two schools and a senior housing complex. About 25 per cent were special needs students who
interacted with senior citizens on an ongoing basis. Youth were involved in all aspects of the program. For
example, they helped prepare the budget and calculate the number of students and teams needed to prepare
three distinct areas for planting. One hundred and eighty youth contributed 1080 hours of service.
Youth Board of the Carbondale YMCA, Carbondale. Pennsylvanias Health. Nutrition, Fitness Project: With
child obesity statistics increasing, 30 youth created an interactive information and snack station in conjunc-
tion with Healthy Kids Day to educate the community about health and well-being based on nutrition and
exercise. Event organizers invited nutritionists and dieticians to make children more aware of healthy eating
and their own eating habits. The Youth Board of the Carbondale YMCA took the lead in inviting youth from
three organizations to participate: Tri-County Human Services, YMCA members, and the children and youth
with disabilities in Special Olympics.
YouthRising Grant Program
Youth Service America and the U.S. Department of Justice Ofce of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Protec-
tion ofered grants of $2000 in 2006 to organizations to engage at-risk and gang-involved youth in volunteer
service. Projects, which involved diverse issues ranging from community clean-up to gang prevention, were
all led by a coalition of youth and their adult allies. Youth played vital roles in selecting and designing the proj-
ects and implemented them as part of Global Service Day 2007. More than 300 high-risk youth contributed
nearly 8,500 hours of service through the program. What follows are brief descriptions of some projects that
were found to have a profound infuence on the high-risk youth who were involved.
Build,Inc. in Chicago: For over thirty years, Build, Inc. has campaigned to ofer at-risk youth successful alter-
natives to the violence in their communities by providing efective prevention and skill-building programs.
Their mission is to engage these youth to realize their educational and career potential and to contribute to
our society. The organization refected this mission by empowering its Youth Council, Indaglo, to coordi-
nate the YouthRising service project. Youth planned and implemented a one-day conference entitled Gang,
Culture, and Violence -- The Black and Brown Experience, which involved youth-led workshops and discus-
sions to encourage youth to eschew gang violence. The project engaged 25 youth who together contributed
1500 hours of service. The project also was instrumental in creating respect and recognition in the community
for youth as leaders and has inspired many youth to voice an active desire for organizing the next conference
(BUILD- Broader Urban Involvement and Leadership Development).
Spectrum in Burlington, Vermont: Spectrum Youth and Family Services provides housing and direct support
services to homeless, foster, and at-risk youth in Vermont to improve their lives through advocacy and com-
munity service. They took eight youth to New Orleans to participate in construction work with Habitat for
Humanity in the Upper 9th ward. The youth cleared out two houses and prepared them for rebuilding, as well
as renovated a park in Chalmette.
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They then developed and presented several video and photo refections of their service experiences to high
school and college students who had volunteered to serve as mentors. The project incorporated more than
2,000 hours of community service and, by attracting favorable media and political coverage, united the
neighborhood around a vision of youth as positive community builders instead of a marginalized and threat-
ening faction of society.
The Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology in Charlotte, North Carolina: Youth from the Youth Leadership
Academy of this comprehensive public high school designed and implemented a forum on Youth Gangs and
Youth Violence in two neighborhoods selected for their chronic gang and gun violence. The over 100 youth
who attended the forum watched flms about the dangers of gangs, played games and learned ways to build
positive relationships -- all of these activities designed and executed by at-risk youth, many of whom had had
personal experiences with gangs in the past. By the end of the workshop, most participants signed a large
banner pledging not to join gangs. Youth contributed 360 hours of service for this project (Frazier, 2007).
Boys and Girls Club of Syracuse, New York: The Boys and Girls Club of Syracuse is a youth development
agency whose goal is to enable young people to realize their full potential as productive and responsible citi-
zens. The 50 youth who organized the neighborhood clean-up for this project all exhibited a combination of
factors that place them at high risk. They successfully transformed fve diferent inner-city sites of Syracuses
West Side from garbage-ridden, overgrown lots to clean, landscaped parks and homes. Many of the young
participants developed an interest in recycling and other green projects as a result of this endeavor. Also,
as a result of this newfound attitude and the success of the project, many residents expressed gratitude and
belief that teenagers can make great things happen. The youths eforts not only improved the appearance
of the neighborhood, but it also instilled a sense of respect for the area even among the preexisting residents
who reported that they are now more likely to fnd a trash can instead of littering the ground. This was ac-
complished with 250 hours of service and much hard work and passion.
Disney Minnie Grant Program
Youth Service America and the Disney Minnie Grant Program for many years have provided an international
grant program that awards funds of up to $500 to support service projects of younger youth (ages 5-14) from
around the world. The following two project descriptions illustrate efective practices for engaging high-risk
The Raven Project in Eureka, California: In Eureka, the Redwood Community Action Agencys Youth Service
Bureau supports the Raven Project, a youth-led, youth-implemented street outreach program/drop-in center.
The populations served are high-risk youth up to age 21 who are homeless, runaway, traveling, and/or disen-
franchised. The free services provided include weekly anonymous HIV testing; peer mediation and counseling;
harm reduction education; job preparation; fnancial aid; school registration assistance; computer and phone
use; showers, meals, and laundry; used clothing, blankets or sleeping bags; safer sex supplies; frst aid sup-
plies; and basic hygienic material. A Drop-In Center provides opportunities for youth to check in with them-
selves regarding the status of their lives and issues concerning their personal well-being.
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Most signifcantly, the project recruits, hires, and trains a cadre of youth from its at-risk target populations
to serve as Youth Educators who provide frst-hand knowledge about realities of street life and insights into
how to best provide services to local youth. They serve as peers, modeling the positive outcome of becoming
healthy and self-sufcient. Through the experiences and street wisdom of the Youth Educators, the program
is able to adjust and adapt for the changing needs of youth in their community. In addition, an outreach initia-
tive provides opportunities to interact with other youth who cannot access, or have not yet accessed, services
through the drop-in center.
Youth in this initiative serve their community in a variety of ways. For example, 20 homeless youth have
gained valuable skills through their Global Youth Service Day project by working with the Raven garden
project to plant an edible fower garden, a humming bird garden, and a butterfy fower garden. They planted
strawberry patches and propagated vegetable seeds in the Raven greenhouse, igniting a long-term project
that has caused many youth participants to commit to volunteering every week at the garden for the rest of
the year.
Center for Community and Neighborhoods Grafti Removal Team in Burlington, Vermont: Youth from
the Center for Community and Neighborhoods Grafti Removal Team helped to revitalize a neighborhood
plagued by grafti vandalism. The project, which consisted of installing 13 panels along a 100 foot fence,
was organized and led by youth who were former grafti taggers. These youth pledged never to do illegal
grafti art again in return for the permanent place on the fence for their artwork. The youth learned from
professional muralists about diferent art techniques and also attended workshops on how vandalism can af-
fect neighborhoods and encourage crime. The mayor of Burlington spoke at the press conference and helped
alongside the youth. Along with many others, the mayor was grateful for the contribution the youth made to
beautifying the area.
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Capital One Grant Program
Capital One and Youth Service America for the past two years have collaborated in ofering grants of up to
$500 to support service projects led by youth in low- to moderate-income communities located in the met-
ropolitan DC area. These projects address such themes as the environment, disaster relief, public health and
awareness, community education, hunger, literacy -- any issue that the youth identify as a compelling com-
munity need. The project highlighted below in particular addresses community concerns that most directly
have engaged the youth from disadvantaged communities in planning and implemented their services.
Postcards from Katrina, in Washington, D.C.: This program engaged 65 youth in a severely low-income com-
munity to contribute to an ongoing educational campaign to curb youth violence by way of Plant Hope, an
arts and community gardening project. As a part of this project, 21 youth contributed 420 hours of service
to create 31 postcards of hope for Virginia Tech and Katrina survivors. One youth-led rap song was created
to promote service to the community. Youth realized how they can make a diference and learned how to
sow seeds of hope. The project is a meaningful example of how creativity through the arts can be a powerful
means for youth to realize that energy and enthusiasm is fuel to drive the change that makes a better com-
Youth Courts and Community Service-Learning
The following two descriptions of diverse youth courts, one in rural and suburban Placer County California and
one in New York City, have integrated school-based learning components into their service programs.
Placer County Peer Court, in Newcastle, California: In 1991, Placer Countys presiding juvenile court judge
and chief probation ofcer determined that a peer court might divert trafc from the overloaded juvenile jus-
tice agency. They and the school districts superintendent launched the project by forming a policy team com-
prising the heads of the juvenile court and probation departments, the superintendent, and the director of
health and human services. They jointly decided to introduce a juvenile law curriculum into local classrooms.
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Knowing that the highest probation rates among juveniles are to be found among high school sophomores,
they chose to target freshmen. They placed the curriculum in the countys health classes, a freshman-year re-
quirement, reasoning that juvenile crime was a health issue. The frst juvenile law curriculum included, among
other topics, opportunities for students to discuss juvenile law and interact with outside resources including
judges, public defenders, and police ofcers.
Community service is one of the countys most utilized sentencing options. Peer court jurors and staf work
together to place young ofenders in service in their own community; service that is linked to their interests
and where defendants can see the benefts of their service eforts. As part of their community service sen-
tence, defendants are required to serve on a peer court jury. Many continue as peer court volunteers.
To reinforce the learning component of community service, the Placer County youth court developed the
Youth Enrichment Corps (YEC). YEC follows a standard service-learning framework. They identify community
needs and problems and research the problem they wish to work on, often relying on environmental experts
or social service practitioners to provide information about the causes and efects of the problem. Next they
identify options to deal with the problem and plan and implement a community service-learning project to
address it. For example, YEC choose to clean up a network of neglected nature trails that connect three coun-
ty schools. Rather than making it a one-day project, peer court volunteers decided to make it a longer project.
Karen Green, the Placer County Peer Court director, has stated that (the students) stories were so powerful
that we decided to organize them into a presentation to beneft at-risk youngsters. We taught the kids how to
create power point presentations, had them work on their public speaking skills, and broke them into teams
of four. They began working with a local school district delivering hour-long interactive programs that ad-
dress truancy, substance abuse, and family and other issues. The challenge was great, but these kids, serious
juvenile ofenders, created efective presentations that were appropriate for kids who often spoke English
as a second language and were enrolled in Title One schools where poverty was a real community issue. The
project has been a success.
East Harlem Youth Court, Harlem Youth Justice Center, in New York City: The Harlem Youth Court handles
low-level cases including youth engaged in truancy, shoplifting, and public drinking. Youth Court cases are
presided over by a jury of peers -- teenagers from the neighborhood -- who have been trained to perform the
roles of judge, jury and attorneys. Typical sanctions include community service, anger-management work-
shops, and letters of apology. This active court is sponsored by the Center for Court Innovation, a youth-lead-
ership program developed in partnership the New York State Unifed Court System and the Fund for the City
of New York.
According to Ray Barbieri, Project Director at the Center, youth participants are not just mandated ofend-
ers. Many are voluntary participants, a mix with no distinctions made between defendants and volunteers.
Service projects are designed to allow high levels of youth participation and decision making with participants
working with facilitators to choose the issues they wish to address. Most projects are two to four months,
although many are ongoing. In a typical project, the frst weeks are devoted to identifying a topic participants
wish to address, such as environmental justice or neighborhood pollution. These projects often generate sus-
tainable partnerships between the Court and local schools, businesses, and community organizations.
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More than half the mandated youth who participate in the service projects stay on to volunteers -- often with
their families -- to see the project through to completion and often participate in the planning and imple-
menting other service projects. The program also is strongly committed to research and evaluation, collect-
ing data on each participant and project. They keep extensive case management fles and collect data from
partnering organizations on project efectiveness. Because each project develops its own set of goals, they
can revisit them to determine the success of a project.
Project Director Barbieri has stated that These kids have been punished left and right. Beating them over
the head with a vest and a garbage bag wont help them at all. They are highly compliant with the require-
ments of the Court because of the high level of ownership they acquire about their projects. That is the best
way to give back to the community.
Danielle Sered, a program associate, has added that These kids have one thing in common. They tend not to
be engaged elsewhere. None of them would ever volunteer to participate in a community-service project on
their own. They are way too alienated. However, as they participate in a projects design and implementation,
they see that they arent participating in just their own rehabilitation. They are altering the role they played in
the community that got them there in the frst place.
Other Successful Programs
YouthBuild USA: Young people in low-income communities want to rebuild their neighborhoods and lives
and will do so if given the opportunity. All YouthBuild students are poor and many have had experience with
foster care, juvenile justice, welfare, and homelessness. Designed to run on a 12-month cycle, the core model
combines an alternative school, job training, and a community service program with equal emphasis on each.
As part of the education component, young people attend a YouthBuild school full time on alternate weeks to
study for their high school equivalency diplomas or GED.
The other half of their time is spent on community service and job training through which they build aford-
able housing for low-income families while learning construction skills The two pieces of the model also serve
as a job training and pre-apprenticeship program since trainees are exposed to a construction-related curricu-
lum and receive close supervision and training in construction skills from qualifed instructors (Bisi, 2006).
Each YouthBuild program raises private and public funds to support itself. Primary funding comes from the
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Substantial additional funding is provided by the Cor-
poration for National and Community Service, the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, the Ford Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, state governments, and other public and private sources. From
1994 to 2004, more than 13,000 units of low-income housing were produced by 47,000 YouthBuild students.
Some other positive outcomes of the program are:
Personal growth, career development, and academic advancement through counseling and support
from YouthBuild staf and community leaders.
Leadership roles in the YouthBuild National Alumni Association and the national Young Leaders
Council, youth conferences, and other organizations.
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Civic engagement and community service through rebuilding afordable housing and advocating for
their communities both locally and nationally.
Asset building through the YouthBuild National Individual Development Account Program and the
YouthBuild Asset Trust for Graduates. (YouthBuild U.S.A., 2005)
4-H : 4-H in the United States is a youth organization administered by the Cooperative Extension System of
the U. S. Department of Agriculture with the mission of engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while
advancing the feld of youth development. The four Hs stand for Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. The orga-
nization serves over 9 million members in the U. S. from ages 5 to 21 in almost 100,000 clubs. (Babin, 2007).
Although any youth can join, 4H can be said to impact disadvantaged youth most powerfully. The program is
one of community service combined with the opportunity for service-learning. One of the primary goals of is
to develop youth as responsible and productive citizens which for many 4-H programs entails a community
service component. (Smith,1997).Youth in 4-H programs engage in environmental service projects, tutor and
mentor younger youth, create public awareness campaigns about local issues, and teach elderly residents
about nutrition and health. These service opportunities demonstrate to communities that youth can be a
positive resource for meeting community needs.
Cape and Islands Youth Community Development Council in Hyannis, Massachusetts: The council is a youth
in philanthropy project funded by Learn and Serve America for at-risk youth between the ages of 14 and
21. Participating youth are either at risk of dropping out of school or have one or more of the following risk
factors: truancy, pregnancy, basic skills defciency, learning disabilities, domestic violence experience, and
potential gang membership. The council empowers youth to make a change in their communities by guid-
ing them through an interactive curriculum that teaches them how to award mini-grants to and monitor
programs that fulfll identifed community needs. Thus, this project employs community service-learning to
teach civic responsibility and leadership skills to at-risk youth, while simultaneously encouraging introspective
refection and a development of a positive sense of contribution to the community. As a result of participa-
tion on the council, the adult advisors report that youth are empowered to develop self-esteem, improve their
academic record, enter employment or higher education, and develop a greater trust in themselves and their
peers (Burzycki and Dower, 2007).
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in conclusion: rEflEctions
bY sEjal hathi
What are the impacts on the youth participants and the community?
What are the primary lessons We have learned?
hese programs were selected because they utilized robust and efective strategies for engaging at-risk
youth in service. Despite, and perhaps because of, the diversity of projects represented, we were able
to discern a pattern of common practices that unifed these programs approach and provide a frame-
work for other programs seeking to engage the at-risk population. Based on our case study, we believe that
there are six essential components in any efective involvement of at-risk youth in service:
Meeting Youths Needs
In order to engage and retain the youths interest, the service project or program ofered must address a
problem intimate to their experience. The foregoing program descriptions illustrated that it is immensely
benefcial for the youth to be somehow connected to and passionate about their service. Not only do they
more deeply invest themselves emotionally and intellectually in the project, but the youth also are then more
likely to be afected by their journey weeks and often months after the initial experience.
In the Communities that Care project (Aiken grant) and especially with the Grafti Removal Team (Disney
grant), the youth service providers were strongly attached to the issues they were confronting because they
had formerly dealt with them. This relationship empowered them to work harder to present their experiences
and their proposal for change to their community for redress.
Such a service project furthermore serves to involve those who might otherwise not have cared. In the case of
Postcards from Katrina (Capital One), by utilizing a youth-led rap song to promote service to the community,
this project corralled many youth who otherwise might not have been involved and attracted much interest
to its service campaign. A key strategy, therefore, epitomized by this project is the efective leveraging of
cultural tools and icons familiar to high-risk youth to increase their comfort and willingness and eagerness to
Several positive corollaries of this approach are that youth become invested in their service and desire to con-
tribute continually, that is, to reinforce their service. This, in turn, promotes positive self-development, pursuit
of education, and efective goal-setting.
In the case of Spectrum and the Boys and Girls Club (YouthRising grant), because youth were invested from
the beginning in the problem their service hoped to address, they developed an ethic of community service
that empowered them to introduce service into everything they did, from taking weekly trips to the Humane
Society to walk animals, and routinely visiting senior citizens to cook dinners, to participating in local clean-up
days around the city.
The essential proposition here is to nurture and grow the youths preexisting passions and to encourage them
to express those passions through service, rather than simply to present them with a problem and a service
project without considering their needs and concerns.
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Teaching Skills
Even if their service project addresses a problem of intimate concern, it is important to give these youth the
requisite knowledge and skills to perform their service successfully and meaningfully. At-risk youth are those
most in need of this nurturing and support, especially as they begin their service, for it is likely that they have
scarce experience as service providers. Therefore, by teaching these youth the skills they need and then lib-
erating them to implement the knowledge acquired, we enable them to extrapolate and apply, in essence, to
participate in a form of service-learning.
The Raven Project (Disney grant) aptly illustrates this idea. The project recruits, hires, and then trains a cadre
of at-risk youth from its target populations to serve as Youth Educators to their peers. These Youth Educa-
tors help others just like themselves understand the realities of street life and make a diference in their lives.
Impressively, not only do the Youth Educators themselves grow and learn to extricate themselves from their
condition, but they serve as models of self-efcacy and strength for their peers. They also motivate other
at-risk youth to abort the vicious cycle and take control of their lives. Because these youth receive training on
how to serve, they initiate a ripple efect which in turn enables their peers to learn to serve with them.
This notion of Serve, Learn, Teach pervades all of Youth Service Americas grant programs, as it is indis-
pensable to the service-learning model. Once youth have had the opportunity to serve themselves, with the
insights and social awareness they glean from their service, they then can teach their peers, who are much
more likely to listen and act if this approach is provided by their colleagues of similar experience.
Another signifcant corollary of this essential element is that these youth develop a semblance of prudent
professionalism in all aspects of their lives that connect to their service. The Spectrum (YouthRising) youth
participants report that they specifcally began to learn to prioritize their commitments because their train-
ing for service in New Orleans had taught them to organize their life. These youth indicated that they began
to question their relationships and values and to focus more on what might enhance their future, namely,
school, close family and friends, and an orderly schedule. The skills that they learned accorded them the self-
confdence to reconnoiter their life and prioritize what was most important.
Youth-Adult Collaboration
One commonality to note is that in all of the successful projects performed by at-risk youth which we de-
scribed there existed a vibrantly robust youth-adult partnership. Adults served as mentors and helped facili-
tate communication among the youth and between them and other groups, organizations, or community
representatives. Nevertheless, in no case did they obtrude on youth ingenuity or independence. Youth lead-
ership always was encouraged and preserved. Therefore, a fne line must be observed between collaboration
with youth and excessive supervision of them.
In the case of the Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology (YouthRising), a successful youth-adult partner-
ship installed a sense of self-confdence in the youth as well as a desire to participate in and lead other similar
forums and service projects. This might more often be the result if youth were treated as potential leaders
rather than as simply participants or worse, victims of an unassailable social condition.
Teambuilding and Individual Development
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To successfully engage at-risk youth in service and social change projects, it is necessary to develop nurturing
environments conducive to both teamwork and individual growth. Opportunities for youth to work together
on project components always should be readily available. Moreover, these projects have shown that allowing
each youth to shine and utilize his or her individual talents to strengthen the project builds deeper commit-
ment to and passion for service among the youth involved.
In the case of the Wheelchair Accessible Gardens Project (YouthRising), older and more experienced youth
were paired with younger youth to encourage mentorship and opportunities for team bonding. This approach
was found efective because although many of the youth were loathe to consult their adult allies because of
their insecurity or discomfort, they were likely to defer to their elder peers for help because they could iden-
tify with them more closely. A more enduring impact of this relationship on the youth is that they develop
maturity in how to help others and become more responsible leaders as well as followers.
At the same time, however, enabling youth to focus on and nourish their individual interests and strengths
increases their positive sense of self and boosts their self-esteem. The youth feel more connected to their ser-
vice because they have invested their most intimate passions and traits into the work that they do. The Boys
and Girls Club (YouthRising) accomplished this by encouraging each youth participant to assume ownership of
that element of the project most akin to his or her individual talents and then to lead their peers in organizing
all details in that category. This tactic accorded youth the conviction that they personally had contributed to
the teams project rather than simply serving as passive members of a larger group.

Youth as Resources
Both an efective practice and a frequent consequence of engaging at-risk youth in service is an inevitable
reevaluation of these youths potential and contribution to society. Those communities that conspicuously
recognize youth as resources and valuable members observe a hike in productivity and enthusiasm for service
among the youth. Youth are seen diferently by both common citizens and leaders in politics and the media.
This expanding positive perception of their abilities motivates the youth to perform at a higher standard not
only in their service but in all their activities.
The project coordinators at Spectrum report that when others began to view
the youth diferently, the youth grew more dedicated, more diligent, and more
focused on completing their projects successfully. The Communities that Care
Coalition (Aiken) reports that more of the youth who participated in service
were recognized for their eforts and given a voice in city events, meetings, and
youth-related decisions. This promotion to more profound positions of leader-
ship empowered the youth to perceive themselves as positive change makers
of society, therefore enriching not only the communitys perspective of their
abilities but also their own respect for themselves.
Encouraging such recognition of youth contributions and youth service concomitantly -- and perhaps most
signifcantly -- plays a powerful role in bringing youth to the forefront of the medias and policy makers fa-
vorable attention. By establishing youth as positive change makers and publicizing their work, we implicitly
exhort these public ofcials to perceive youth as a critical constituency and, thereby, pay greater attention to
youth-related issues.
It is not enough simply to recognize youth as resources. This
realization must be celebrated and emphasized to youth them-
selves to render it most meaningful. Positive media and political
coverage is immensely benefcial for boosting the confdence
and enthusiasm of youth service providers. Those who might be
doubting themselves or their purposes for participating in such a
project rejuvenate their commitment when they observe that their
eforts are being recognized and celebrated.
One project coordinator for the Grafti Removal Team (Disney
grant) abstracted this idea aptly when she stated, I think it was also
great for these youth (three of whom had gone through a Restorative
Justice process and actually came up with the idea for this project) to
see their idea come to fruition and feel empowered by that. The youth
learned about taking pride in where they lived and their eforts were
documented by several news outlets. To see their eforts acknowledged
by the media and the mayor gave the youth, many of whom are eco-
nomically disadvantaged, a lot of joy.
Celebration by the community is signifcant for youth who are otherwise so relentlessly viewed with sus-
picion. The project coordinator with Salem High School (Aiken grant) and the local newspaper (The Salem
News) did a front-page feature story on the youths service that propelled their eforts to the vanguard of
community awareness. This widespread recognition and celebration of youth as resources sustained the
youths interest in service and encouraged it to fourish even after the single projects end. In fact, it incubated
an even more enduring change, because it ofered them a successful opportunity to become a part of the
society from which they had been so long marginalized. By enabling youth to participate directly in improv-
ing their community, we permit them to belong to that community because they can actively participate in
sculpting its character.
These six components of efective engagement of at-risk youth in service can be observed not only in such
successful grant programs and projects as described above but also in the continuous and intensive day-by-
day service such youth perform in restorative justice programs. At-risk youth serving in youth courts each
day exemplify these components in their work. Nevertheless, some diferences apply because of the varying
nature of the restorative justice philosophy.
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in conclusion: rEcommEndations
bY bob bhaErman
What are our recommendations for the next steps:
program planning and implementation?

t the outset we cited eight theoretical principles of youth engagement. In refection, they are not so
theoretical at all but rather they are the foundations, the building blocks, of efective practice. Our
frst recommendation, then, is for policy makers and practitioners to consider each principle using an
at-risk prism or lens. For example:
Principle 1: Design an outreach strategy that includes at-risk youth.
Principle 2: Create a home base with adults who themselves have once been identifed as at-risk. Many of
them have been there and done that.
Principle 3: Convey a philosophy of change and both short- and long-term goals for the youth participants and
the community.
Principle 4: Identify issues that connect to these youths experiences and explore the causes of each of the risk
Principle 5: Create youth and adult teams since each can learn from and contribute to the growth of others.
Principle 6. Build youth and adult capacity since each can serve as leaders.
Principle 7: Continue to provide these youth with supports to manage daily life stressors, such as family dy-
namics, relationships and school.
Principle 8: Sustain access and infuence by continuing to develop links to other community organizations
that can expand opportunities for meaningful participation of all youth.
We also cited a number of efective practices for engaging youth in service. Again, we believe that these are
applicable to programs for all youth. But now we re-cite -- and recommend -- them as prescriptions to be fol-
Meet real needs. Meeting compelling community needs should be the goal.
Involve service-learning. Combining community service with real-life learning benefts both the youth learner
and the community.
Provide opportunities for youth leadership. Many at-risk youth exhibit leadership skills. The goal is to harness
these qualities for the good of the youth and the community.
Provide training and supervision. Provide youth with the requisite knowledge and skills to perform service as-
Involve problem solving. Guide youth through a process that enables them to consider a range of possible
responses including service, advocacy, and public awareness.
Ofer continuity and intensity. Intense experiences over an extended period of time helps to enhance youths
ability to experience transformative change.
Encourage teamwork and skill building. Teamwork skills and related skills can be promoted through meaning-
ful service and leadership.
Celebrate success. And also plan the next initiatives! Build on the foundations that have been started.
What are some final observations?
e could have subtitled this report Efective Practices for Engaging High-Risk Youth in Service:
When Given the Opportunity and Needed Support. When reviewing the knowledge- and research-
bases in preparing this report, it was impossible not to notice that all youth including at-risk youth
have been engaged in community service. The term when given the opportunity often was noted and we
have continually stressed it here.
I also was particularly encouraged to see that youth with disabilities have not been overlooked. Recall that
the Clay Aiken Able-to-Serve Grants engaged both youth with and without disabilities. It reminded me of
the time, a number of years ago, when I frst met Curt Armstrong, who was born with one arm and one leg. I
remember him driving to my house (by himself) and setting up a stereo-set for my young son. He climbed all
over the room, as I recall, in order to get the job done which of course he did very well. Curt didnt look at
himself as handicapped. I remember him saying it just takes me a little longer to do some things, thats all.
Curts insightful introspection demonstrates that all youth can, in fact, serve efectively if, indeed, they are
given the support and the opportunity.
My fnal observation has to do with a now classic study, Building Communities from the Inside Out, by
Kretzman and McKnight (1993). The researchers contend that connecting youth productively with adults is
the foundation upon which healthy communities can be built. But for this to happen, youth must not be rel-
egated to the margins of community life. As a result of negative stereotyping, however, labels such as high
risk and at risk often serve to immobilize youth by defning them in terms of their perceived defciencies
rather than their potential capacities. Defning youth in terms of their problems creates barriers which make
it difcult for them to reach their potential as productive citizens of their communities. However, when given
the proper opportunities, all youth can be involved in projects that will increase their self-esteem and compe-
tencies and, at the same time, improve the quality of life of their communities.
In a related and more recent work, Discover Community Power: A Guide to Mobilizing Local Assets and Your
Organizations Capacity, Kretzmann and McKnight (2005), along with several colleagues at the Asset-Based
Community Development Institute of Northwestern University, present a Capacity Inventory based on the
realization that everyone youth included - has skills and talents that can be used to beneft communities.
paqe L
The authors present several questions, adapted below, that all youth should ask themselves:
Gifts -- What positive qualities do people say I have? Who are the people in my life that I give to? How do I
do this? When was the last time I shared with someone else? What was it? What do I give that makes me feel
Skills What do I enjoy doing? If I could start a business, what would it be? What do I like to do that people
would pay me to do? Have I ever made or fxed anything?
Dreams What are my dreams? If I could snap my fngers and be doing anything, what would it be?
Using similar concepts as those used by 4H (head, hands, heart, and health), the youth are asked to complete
the following list of gifts they can give to their community:
Gifts of the head Things I know something about and would enjoy sharing with others, e.g., art, animals,
Gifts of the hands Things or skills I know how to do and would like to share with others, e.g., cooking, gar-
dening, sports.
Gifts of the heart Things I care deeply about, e.g., protection of the environment, civic life, young children.
Youth assets often are hidden treasures which can be used in serving others. If we look closely, we will see
that all youth possess them, including those who exhibit multiple risk factors. But frst they need to be given
the opportunity and the support to recognize those gifts within themselves.
Some may call these gifts youth assets, while others speak of appreciative inquiry. I see these two con-
cepts as frst cousins. The latter, appreciative inquiry, has been defned in various -- yet similar ways by the
Appreciative Inquiry Commons: http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/intro/defnition.cfm.
For example, it is the cooperative search for the best in people, their organizations, and the world around
them; it focuses on the positive aspects of life and leverages us to correct the negative; it deliberately seeks
to discover peoples exceptionality, their unique gifts, strengths, and qualities; it actively searches and rec-
ognizes people for their specialties, their essential contributions and achievements; it builds momentum and
success because it believes in people; its goal is to discover in all of us young and old -- the exceptional and
the essential; and it assumes that every one of us has many untapped and rich and inspiring accounts of the
positive. To me, these are an afrmative and humanistic view of human beings.
in summarY
t the outset, we asked ourselves if there are any signifcant innovations in the theory, principles and
practices for involving at-risk youth in service. In our judgment, the principles and practices are quite
the same. What is necessary, however, is an innovation in our perceptions and appraisals of these
youth. A diferent mindset is needed.
No doubt all or most of the readers of our monograph have seen the quote of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Every-
one can be great because everyone can serve. That is the foundation on which we must build community
service programs for all youth.
We have cited numerous program examples and evidence that all youth possess the necessary assets which
they have used and will continue to use -- in serving others. If we look closely, we will see that all youth pos-
sess them, including those who are labeled at-risk and who exhibit some of the risk factors for dropping out
of school before graduating. But they need to be given the opportunities and the needed support system in
which they can become productive citizens of their communities.
What are the opportunities and needed support systems?
ne social worker who works with at-risk youth explained to us that when they were performing their
research, they discovered that all these youth need in order to thrive is a strong sense of belonging
and, thereby, responsibility to their community. In order to extricate themselves from the margins of
society, at-risk youth must feel intimately connected to the people and the neighborhood around them, for it
is this connection that will breed healthy relationships and self-awareness. Service-learning must address this
need of at-risk youth by unpretentiously ofering them the opportunity to identify the community problems
they fnd most relevant, and then teaching them the skills to solve those problems. Service-learning, particu-
larly for at-risk youth, is as much about prevention and rehabilitation techniques as it is about nurturing an en-
vironment that encourages individual growth and a sustainable respect for ones surroundings. It is important
that the youth recognize their abilities as positive change makers and thus, through service, fnd their own
voice. Such an environment can perhaps best be created by treating youth as potential leaders and resources,
thereby fostering their positive sense of self and motivating them to succeed not only in their service but in all
of their endeavors.
When all youth -- not only at-risk youth -- are provided with an environment that treats them as signifcant,
they inevitably become more invested in their own positive transformation. Ex-gang member Rena, who
has transformed her life and her attitude through service, epitomized this phenomenon when she explained,
When I discovered that people cared about me -- that they believed in my potential as a leader, that they
wanted me to succeed -- that changed my life. Having someone over your shoulder telling you that you are
powerful and that even you can make a diference in your community is compelling.
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Renas refection expresses a characteristic axiom of restorative justice-based service-learning and, indeed, all
service-learning for at-risk youth, namely, that when youth are paired with adult or experienced peer men-
tors who convey a philosophy of change and who teach them the skills to become leaders in service for their
communities, then they are efectively communicating to these youth that they are important and worth the
efort to reevaluate their life. Youth who thus perceive that their actions and decisions afect those who care
for them are then more motivated to rectify social wrongs and serve their community for better, instead of
engaging in at-risk behavior.
Thus, we can observe that all of our prescribed key principles and our efective practices for engaging
these youth in service are in fact intricately intertwined and interdependent. Successful programs cannot
build youth leadership without frst identifying their values and needs. Moreover, successful outreach strate-
gies cannot efectually be completed without forging a youth-adult partnership and celebrating youth suc-
cess. Nevertheless, a synergy of these methods and practices can all be distilled to one encapsulating prin-
ciple: no youth -- at-risk or not -- can become a leader in service unless they are given the opportunity.
paqe )
Babin, Chance C. (August 2007). For the Kids: AFRC Partners with 4-H to Provide Positive Youth Development.
Citizen Airman. <http://www.citamn.afrc.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123054238>
This article explains why Air Force Services Family Member Programs have partnered with 4-H USA to
provide positive youth development programs for children of Air Force reservists.
Benard, Bonnie. (1991). Fostering Resiliency in Kids: Protective Factors in the Family, School, and Community.
San Francisco: Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development. Full text online: http://www.
The major factors that contribute to the development of resiliency in youth and the implications for
building efective prevention programs are discussed. These include support, high expectations, and
encouragement of youth participation. School community linkages and communitywide collaboration
also are crucial.
Bisi, Robert. (2006). Changing the Paradigm: Positioning Foster Care Youth as Community Assets & Resourc-
es. Youth Service America 2, pages 2-7.
This report lists the results of the 2006 Working Group on National and Community Service. According
to the journal, The Working Group provides a cohesive voice for youth service, service-learning, and
civic engagement feld[by bringing] together national and community organizations, schools, and
faith-based programs, policymakers, academics, and others in order to produce innovative knowledge
tools and resources. The report discusses many of the promising practices for engaging foster care
youth in service and provides program examples for those seeking to target this population.
Burzycki, Martha, and Dower, Kristina. (May 2007). Engaging At-Risk Youth in Youth Community Service-
Learning Councils. Community College National Center for Civic Engagement: 16th National Conference.
Mesa, AZ. <http://www.mc.maricopa.edu/other/engagement/2007Conf/Papers/Burzycki.pdf>
This workshop description details the growth of one successful vehicle for engaging at-risk youth in
service through youth development councils. It describes the purpose, motivation, and documented
successes of this model of engagement.
Degelman, Charles. (2002). Giving Back: A Community Service-Learning Manual for Youth Courts. Chicago, IL:
Constitutional Rights Foundation. <www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/recordDetail?accno=ED472981>
The manual contains fve sections. The frst section covers such topics as restorative justice, evaluation
and refection. The second section includes a series of steps to be taken in the process. The last three
sections include community partnerships, public awareness and service campaigns, and resources.
Degelman, Charles, Pereira, Carolyn, & Peterson, Scott B. (Spring 2006). Introducing Community Service-
Learning. Constitutional Rights Foundation Service-Learning Network. 12 (1). <http://www.crf-usa.org/net-
The authors discuss an innovative, new juvenile-justice approach that applies principles of school-
based service learning, restorative justice, and law-related education to update and improve tradition-
al, court-ordered, mandatory community service.
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Frazier, Eric. (April 22, 2007).Teens Speak Out Against Gangs. Charlotte Observer, 2B.
This article describes from a local perspective the forum on gangs organized by the Phillip O. Berry
Academy of Technology as a part of the YouthRising grant program.
Hammond, Cathy. (September 2006). Dropout Risk Factors and Exemplary Programs. Clemson, SC: Clemson
University, College of Health, Education, and Human Development, National Dropout Prevention Center. Full
text on line: www.dropoutprevention.org/resource/major_reports/communities_in_schools.htm
Four risk factors for dropping out of school are cited: school and community factors and individual and
family factors, the latter two in great depth. In addition, 50 exemplary programs are reported in great
detail. Eight appendices examine each of these factors and programs in very useful charts and matri-
Henderson, Nan, Benard, Bonnie, and Sharp-Light, Nancy, Editors. (1999). Resiliency In Action: Practical Ideas
for Overcoming Risks and Building Strengths in Youth, Families, & Communities. San Diego, CA: Resiliency in
These articles that appeared in the journal, Resiliency in Action, deal with moving from risk to resil-
iency. The compilation shares the results of studies showing how people overcome risk, trauma, and
adversity. The book is divided into six sections: the foundations of resiliency; resiliency and schools;
resiliency and communities; creating connections through mentoring, support, and peer programs;
resiliency and youth development; and resiliency and families.
Kielsmeier, James. (1998). Citation of a 1991 report by Donald Eberly and James Kielsmeier in a presentation
on National Service and Service-Learning: Partnership for Educational Reform at the International Asso-
ciation for National Youth Service. Presentation highlights on line: http://www.ianys.utas.edu.au/proceed-
Dr. Kielsmeier, president and CEO of the National Youth Development Council, spoke about his experi-
ence with service-learning and the potential that the partnership of national service and service-learn-
ing have for education reform.
Kretzmann, John P. & McKnight, John L. (1993). Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path toward
Finding and Mobilizing a Communitys Assets. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University, The Asset-Based Com-
munity Development Institute.
This book, now a classic in its feld, is a comprehensive guide to asset-based community develop-
ment. It outlines in simple, neighborhood-friendly terms what local communities can do to plan
and implement asset-based development.

Kretzmann, John P. & McKnight, John L. with Sobrowolski, Sarah & Puntenney, Deborah. Discover Commu-
nity Power: A Guide to Mobilizing Local Assets and Your Organizations Capacity. Evanston, IL: Northwestern
University, The Asset-Based Community Development Institute. Full text on line: www.northwestern.edu/ipr/
This resource is a community-building workbook that serves as a complement to the book by
Kretzmann and McKnight cited above.
paqe j
McLaughlin, Milbrey W., Irby, Merita A., and Langman, Juliet. (1994). Urban Sanctuaries: Neighborhood Orga-
nizations in the Lives and Futures of Inner-City Youth. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Chapter 2 is particularly relevant in that it introduces six young people and describes how their in-
volvement in a neighborhood organization is a positive infuence. Chapter 11 reviews myths about
inner-city youth and presents realities about the roles of neighborhood organizations.
Milstein, Mike M. and Henry, Doris A. (2000). Spreading Resiliency: Making it Happen for Schools and Com-
munities. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
This book focuses on modifying environments -- classrooms, schools, communities -- in ways that
move away from resiliency depletion and toward resiliency building. It is designed to be interactive
and includes activities to assist in developing a better understanding of the concepts and strategies
Pearson, Sarah S. and Jurich, Sonia. (2005). Youth Court: A Community Solution for Embracing At-Risk Youth:
A National Update. Washington, DC: American Youth Policy Forum. Full text on line: www.aypf.org/publica-
This report provides policymakers and the public with an in-depth overview of youth court programs,
their characteristics and benefts.
Pittman, Karen., Martin, Shenetta., Williams, Anderson. (2007, July). Core Principles for Engaging Young
People in Community Change. Washington, D.C.: The Forum for Youth Investment, Impact Strategies, Inc. Full
text on line: http://www.forumfyi.org/Files/FINALYouth_Engagement_7.9.pdf
The eight principles are highly valuable ways for moving the idea of youth engagement to impact
youth-supported change. They are concepts that organizations that work with youth can readily use to
build a solid framework for getting started.
Public/Private Ventures. (September 2002). Serving High-Risk Youth: Lessons from Research and Program-
ming. Philadelphia, PA: Author. Full text online: http://www.ppv/org/ppv/publication/assets/149_publication.
This paper reviews the outcomes from most of the major federal programs designed to help youth
connect with the labor force over the past 30 years. It identifes elements that increase the efective-
ness of programs.

Sagawa, Shirley. (nd) Summer of Service: A New American Rite of Passage? An Innovations in Civic Partici-
pation Report. Washington, DC: Innovations in Civic Participation. Full text on line:
+Report.&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=5&gl=us *
The report outlines the potential for service program directed at middle-school youth. Based on
research of numerous programs profled in the report, the publication describes elements common
to Summer of Service programs, youth and community benefts that result from these programs, and
the policy implications of this initiative.
paqe Lo
Smith, Allan T. (June 1997).Beyond 4-H Community ServiceTo Community Service Learning.
Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service. U. S. Department of Agriculture, Washington,
D.C. Full text on line: www.cyfernet.org/curricul/4hcommserv.pdf
This report discusses the benefts of transitioning from a primarily service-oriented program to ser-
vice-learning and presents resources and guidelines for selecting, planning, conducting, and evaluat-
ing service-learning opportunities to groups or clubs.
U.S. Code Collection. (nd). Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Model Projects for High-Risk Youth.
Washington, DC: Author. Full text on line. http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode42/usc_sup_01_
Section 290bb-23 is focused on prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation model projects for high risk
youth. Section 290bb 25f deals with prevention and education programs.
White House Task Force for Disadvantaged Youth Final Report. (October 2003) Washington, DC: Author. Full
text on line: http://www.ncfy.com/publications/whreport.htm.
The Final Report presents a national youth policy framework designed to support all young people in
growing up to be healthy and safe and prepared to participate in work, college, military service, mar-
riage, family, parenting, and civic engagement and service.
YouthBuild U.S.A, Annual Report 2005. 1-32. Aug 2007 <http://www.youthbuild.org/atf/cf/{22B5F680-2AF9-
The annual report describes YouthBuild U.S.A.s philosophy and mission and delineates the quantita-
tive and qualitative successes of its programs in 2005.
Youth Service America and Independent Sector. (2002). Engaging Youth in Lifelong Service: Findings and
Recommendations for Encouraging a Tradition of Voluntary Action Among Americas Youth. Washington, DC:
Authors. Brief overview on line: http://www.independentsector.org/programs/research/engagingyouth.html.
The report illustrates the strong impact of youth service on the giving and volunteering habits of
adults and indicates that adults who engaged in volunteering in their youth give more money and
volunteer more time than adults who began their philanthropy later in life. The report also includes
examples of programs that are successfully incorporating young people as regular volunteers.
additional readings
Brendtro, Larry, Brokenleg, Martin & Van Bockern, Steve. (Revised edition 2002). Reclaiming Youth At Risk:
Our Hope For The Future. Bloomington, IN: National Educational Service.
This resource integrates Native American philosophies and Western psychology to provide a unique
perspective on troubled youth. The authors challenge the readers to reassess their concepts of youth
at risk as they present a compelling alternative for reaching them. The book explores the causes of dis-
couragement for todays youth; the creation of a Circle of Courage to give youth a sense of belonging,
mastery, independence, and generosity; and how to reclaim troubled and lost children and youth.
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Howell, Kenneth W. & Wolford, Bruce I. (2002). Corrections and Juvenile Justice, Current Education Prac-
tice for Youth with Learning and Other Disabilities. Washington DC: Center for Efective Collaboration and
Practice at the American Institutes for Research, and College Park, MD: The National Center for Education,
Disabilities, and Juvenile Justice. Abstract on line: http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/re-
This monograph, one of a series on youth with disabilities and the juvenile justice system, focuses
on the educational services provided to youth with behavioral and cognitive disabilities placed in the
juvenile justice system.
Kraft, Nancy & Wheeler, Jim. (2003), Service-Learning and Resilience in Disafected Youth: Research Study.
In S. Billig & J. Eyler (Eds.). Deconstructing Service-Learning: Research Exploring Context, Participation, and
Impacts. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.
This study analyzes the relationship between service-learning and resiliency capacity in youth by
examining how service-learning increases academic achievement. The study population is a charter
school in Northeast Kansas that served up to 39 disafected and at-risk high school youth from six rural
school districts during the 2001-2002 school year.
Lerner, Richard, et al (2005). Positive Youth Development, Participation in Community Youth Development
Programs, and Community Contributions of Fifth-Grade Adolescents: Findings From the First Wave Of the 4-
H Study of Positive Youth Development. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 25 (1), pages 17-71. The full text can
be found at: http://jea.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/25/1/17.
In a six-year longitudinal study, Lerner and his colleagues researched the successes of youth. The
study illustrates how 4-H and other youth development organizations are helping young people. For
many years, psychologists have based their research on what goes wrong during adolescence. Lerner
and other researchers have focused on the successes of youth and what it takes for a young person to
make a successful transition from childhood to adulthood.
National Council on Disability. (2003). Addressing the Needs of Youth with Disabilities in the Juvenile Justice
System: The Current Status of Evidence-Based Research. Washington, DC: Author. Full text online: http://
This report summarizes and assesses the state of knowledge about children and youth with dis-
abilities who are at risk of delinquency and involvement in, or who have already entered, the juvenile
justice system. By highlighting what is known about addressing delinquency and the diverse needs of
this population, it aims to inform discussions among policymakers, practitioners, and researchers.
Penn, Everette B. (2000). Reducing Delinquency Through Service. National Service Fellowship Report. Wash-
ington, DC: Corporation for National and Community Service. Full text online: http://www.nationalservicere-
The report provides empirical support for volunteering and service as a tool to reduce juvenile delin-
quency. Through an examination of the literature on the Quantum Opportunities Program, Big Broth-
ers Big Sisters, and Boys and Girls Club of America, the researcher concludes that service does inspire,
promote and support delinquency-prevention activities.
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Reimer, Mary & Smink, Jay. (2005). Information About the School Dropout Issue: Selected Facts & Statistics.
Clemson, SC: Clemson University, National Dropout Prevention Center/Network. Full text on line: http://www.
Since 1986, the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network has conducted research to illuminate
Americas dropout problem and to incubate initiatives to reduce the national dropout rate. The data in
this publication cogently present the nature of the dropout situation in the United States.
Sagawa, Shirley. (1998). Ten Years of Youth in Service to America. Washington, DC: American Youth Policy
This monograph provides a comprehensive review of the founding and early days of AmeriCorps,
school-based service-learning, community-based service, college-based service, and full-time service
as well as an insightful look into the future of service which she sees as a national commitment.
Wetmiller, Cynthia. (2003). Students with Disabilities and the Juvenile Justice System: Can Service-Learning
Play a Role? Pittsburgh, PA: Pennsylvania Service-Learning Alliance.
Keeping in PACE/Special Ed 3 no. 5.
This study describes research fndings that support the idea that service-learning can play a positive
role in shaping the personal development of youth and helping them make positive social decisions.
Wolford, Bruce I. (2000). Juvenile Justice Education: Who is Educating the Youth? Richmond, KY: Council for
Educators of At-Risk and Delinquent Youth, Eastern Kentucky University. Full text on line:
This 1999 survey of 20 state juvenile justice agencies examined the administration, funding and moni-
toring of educational programs for youth in the juvenile justice system. In more than half of the states,
no state department of education funds were directed to educate youth in juvenile justice settings.
and be sure not to overlook these two important and related publications that are so essential to our
Gladwell, Malcolm. (2000). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Diference. New York, NY:
Little, Brown, and Company.
Gladwells concept of the tipping point is essentially that a dramatic moment in a situation or epi-
demic (a contagious behavior, in the authors term) is the time or place when the unexpected be-
comes expected, when situations change all at once, often quickly. A related term is the Stickiness
Factor, that is, packaging information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible or
sticky and which compels people into action. What must underlie successful transitions is the belief
that change is possible, that people can radically transform their behavior in the face of the right kind
of impetus (which is the basic message of our publication).
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Heath, Chip and Heath, Dan. (2007). Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. New York, NY:
Random House Publishing Group.
Related in many ways to Gladstones thesis, and drawing on research on emotion and motivation, this
book also is focused in terms of stickiness, that is, the art of making ideas unforgettable. The authors
credit six key principles: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories.
What actually sticks? One method is by relating truthful success stories (which we have attempted
to do in out publication.)
Web sites
At-Risk.Org At-Risk.org has compiled resources for parents and the general public in search of information
about at-risk youth. [http://www.at-risk.org ]
BUILD Broader Urban Involvement and Leadership Development. This website provides information about
the organization Build Chicago and its programs and activities. [http://buildchicago.org]
Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk CRESPAR views all students as having per-
sonal, cultural, and social assets that are too often neglected or underutilized. Their research programs seek
to understand youths strengths and develop family and community partnerships to build on those strengths.
4H USA.org The web cite explains the 4-H philosophy and describes the organizations programs and volun-
teer opportunities at the state and the national levels.
Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse Their goal is to be a one-stop web site for juvenile justice information and
programs for at-risk youth. [http://www.fsu.edu/~crimdo/jjclearinghouse/about.html]
The Juvenile Justice Coalition The Coalition is a non-proft organization whose mission is to promote ef-
fective programs, equitable treatment of youth, and public policy that will result in the reduction of juvenile
delinquency. [http://www.juvenilecoalition.org/]
National Center on Education Disability and Juvenile Justice The Center provides professional development
and technical assistance, conduct research and disseminate resources in three areas: prevention of school
failure and delinquency, education and special education for detained and committed youth, and transition
services for youth returning to schools and communities. [http://www.edjj.org]
National Juvenile Defender Center The Center ofers a variety of services to juvenile defenders, including
training, technical assistance, advocacy, networking, and capacity building. One of their primary visions is
that all young people have strengths and the potential to become productive members of society and each
has the right to constitutional and statutory protections. [http://www.njdc.info/about_us.php]
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Ofce of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention The OJJDP provides national leadership, coordination,
and resources to prevent and respond to juvenile delinquency and victimization. They also supports states
and communities in their eforts to develop and implement efective prevention and intervention programs.
Resiliency In Action, Inc. RIA provides links to many resources, including books and pamphlets, speakers and
presentations, and resiliency forums. [http://www.resiliency.com or http://www.resiliency.com/index.htm]
Servenet.org Among its many diverse features, the web site includes three dimensions which are relevant
for engaging youth in service: (1) Take Action: The intent is to actively engage its members to learn more
about the worlds most compelling problems. (2) iBelong Pages: Registered users receive a customizable
webpage for posting their user profles and logging their volunteer service preferences. (3) iBelong Groups:
This enables nonproft organizations to post service opportunities and receive participate in discussions,
among other things. [http://servenet.org/Default.aspx?tabid=226]
State Juvenile Justice Profles Their web site presents descriptive information and analysis regarding each
states juvenile justice system, illustrating the uniqueness of the 51 separate juvenile justice systems in this
country. [http://www.ncjj.org/stateprofles/]
Youth for Justice Youth for Justice is a consortium of national law-related education organizations. YFJ
has implemented programs that develop a commitment to the rule of law and to civic responsibility among
young people. They also provide youth with opportunities for meaningful participation in their communities
and involve them in programs that address national issues. [http://www.youthforjustice.org/]

potential funding sources
Federal Sources
The Corporation for National and Community Service: Learn and Serve America. Learn and Serve America
provides grant support, primarily through intermediaries, to diverse school-community partnerships to devel-
op and sustain service-learning projects. School-based grants expand K- 12 service-learning to help the Cor-
poration reach its goal of fostering service-learning in at least 50% of all public schools by 2010. This competi-
tion also is intended to increase the percentage of participants who come from disadvantaged backgrounds
from 40 to 60%. These funds also support programs for Native American youth and youth in U. S. territories.
Community-based grants promote the development and sustainability of community-based service-learn-
ing in youth-serving community organizations. Funds are used, among other things, to expand and anchor a
network of youth-serving community-based organizations that implement service-learning programs. Higher
education grants expand participation in community service and service-learning by supporting innovative
service programs carried out through institutions of higher education to meet the human, educational, envi-
ronmental, or public safety needs of neighboring communities.
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For a comprehensive list and description of other Federal grants relating to all aspects of at-risk youth, see
the following web site: http://www.whitehouse.gov/government/fci/grants-catalog-atrisk.html#038. Here
are two examples of the entries:
Part D: Gang-Free Schools and Communities: Community-Based Gang Intervention. U.S.
Department of Justice -- The intent is to make grants to, or enter into contracts with, public agencies (includ-
ing local educational agencies) and private nonproft agencies, organizations, and institutions to establish and
support programs and activities that involve families and communities.
Juvenile Mentoring Formula Grant Program. U. S. Department of Justice The program supports one-to-one
mentoring projects for youth at risk of failing in school, dropping out of school, or becoming involved in de-
linquent behavior, including gang activity and substance abuse. Applicants must demonstrate knowledge of
and/or experience with mentoring programs, volunteers, and at-risk youth.
Also see the following two resources:
(1) Guide to Federal Resources for Youth Development. The Federal government ofers literally billions of
dollars to communities across the nation to help young people reach their full potential. The Guide provides
information on more than 100 priority programs that are available to communities and directly related to core
resources of youth development. [http://www.americaspromise.org/partners/federal_funding_guidelines.
(2) Federal Grant Programs to Help At-Risk Youths. The Department of Health and Human Services, the De-
partment of Justice, and other Federal agencies develop and implement methods of preventing and control-
ling juvenile delinquency, reducing dropout rates, and improving academic performance.[http://www.educa-
Additional Sources
The place to begin a search in this area is undoubtedly the Foundation Center. The Center maintains the most
comprehensive database on U.S. grant-makers. It is a highly accessible resource bank that also operates re-
search, education, and training programs designed to advance philanthropy at every level. The Centers web
site receives more than 47,000 visits each day and thousands of people gain access to free resources in its fve
regional library/learning centers and its national network. [http://foundationcenter.org/about/]
The brief list below is, literally, the tip of the iceberg. There are many places to explore for potential funds
to support engaging at-risk youth in community service. These are a good place to begin:
Annie E. Casey Foundation -- The Annie E. Casey Foundation considers support for disadvantaged children
and youth as one of its priorities. It is primarily interested in initiatives that have signifcant potential to dem-
onstrate innovative policy, service delivery, and community supports for children and families. [http://www.
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National Crime Prevention Council Service Learning Grants to Promote Crime Prevention and Community
Service. The Council awards grants to support service-learning projects planned and implemented by youth
who identify needs and create projects to address or prevent crime, violence, and drug abuse in their schools
and communities. These grants are intended to encourage and promote crime prevention, community ser-
vice, and civic responsibility. [http://www.ncpc.org/programs/tcc/]
Pay It Forward Foundation -- The Pay It Forward Foundation was established to inspire students to realize
that they can change the world. Mini-grants are designed to fund service-oriented projects that are identifed
by youth as activities they would like to perform to beneft their school, neighborhood, or greater community.
Public Welfare Foundation Youth Grants The grants cover a wide array of areas, e.g., employment, training,
and alternative education; programs that promote responsiveness to the needs of low-income young people;
and programs that provide opportunities for youth leadership development in conjunction with eforts to ad-
dress problems facing young people and their communities. [http://www.publicwelfare.org/grants/disadvan-
Youth Service America: The State Farm Good Neighbor Service-Learning Award.
This award, sponsored by the State Farm Companies Foundation and administered by Youth Service America,
enables youth and educators to bring positive benefts of service-learning to more young people. The grant
is available to teachers and professors, youth (ages 5-25), and school-based service-learning coordinators
to implement service-learning projects for National Youth Service Day. [http://www.ysa.org/awards/award_
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sejal hathi
ejal Hathi is a high school student in San Jose, California and an active member of Youth Service Amer-
icas National Youth Council. Having immersed herself in social change since she was a little girl, Sejal
dedicates close to 1,000 hours each year to giving back to her community. One of her greatest com-
mitments has been her work with the national nonproft organization Girls for A Change (GFC). In addition
to leading projects on a GFC action team, Sejal also serves as a member of its Board of Directors, where she
works to organize leadership institutes and develop community partnerships to beneft inner-city girls. As
one of the former chief editors of her citys youth newspaper and the president of her schools Literary Maga-
zine, Sejal is also passionate about expressing her voice through writing. More recently, Sejal founded her
own nonproft organization, Girls Helping Girls, which strives to connect girls from diferent countries to learn
about global issues and conduct community service projects.
bob bhaerman
ob Bhaerman is a former elementary school teacher, college instructor in the areas of curriculum
development and the social foundations of education, and associate dean of research. He also has
held a number of positions in educational research and development and is the author of over 100
publications. He now works as a consultant primarily in service-learning. From 1998 to 2004, he served as
coordinator of school-based service-learning in Learn and Serve America at the Corporation for National and
Community Service. More recently, Bob developed four manuals on service-learning and senior/culminating
projects for Educational Service District 112 in Vancouver, Washington. In 2007, the manuals received the Seal
of Excellence Award from the National Service-Learning Exchange. In 2006, the National Service-Learning
Partnership announced the formation of the Trailblazers in Service-Learning. Bob was one of fve persons
recognized in the initial group. He received his Doctor of Education degree in 1965 from Rutgers University.
Youth Service America
1101 15th Street, NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 296-2992