running one on your own and seeing what works and where you fall short. 4. Marketing. Many young people have large ambitions. Not only do they have a problem they want to solve, but they want to solve that problem nationwide. They quickly learn that the best way to engage their peers, whether within their school or across the country, is through marketing. Students learn how to use social media as an organizational and motivational tool, and how to create videos, digital campaigns, and written descriptions that inspire others to get involved. They also learn the power of storytelling to garner support and grow their projects. 5. Tracking Impact. Measuring success is one of the most important skills students learn through public service, and it’s the one they learn most naturally because young people like knowing how much they achieve. They track not only the number of items or the amount of money they collect, but also the number of lives they impact. In turn, they learn how to recognize when their projects need adjusting, and whether they are attacking the actual cause of a problem or merely an effect of it. At JAF, we train our students how to quantify all of their results and how to analyze their work. This allows them to improve their projects as they go on to generate the greatest impact. One of my favorite examples of how public service has transformed young people is Patricia Manubay, a young woman who participated in two of our youth programs. When we first met Patricia, she was a shy high school student who lacked confidence in her own abilities. To put it in her own words, “I did not believe I had the power to lift anyone up, especially myself. Service changed that.” Patricia came to us with the idea of putting together care packages that encourage students to pursue their dreams. But she didn’t know how to bring it all together. We taught her how to develop her idea, engage her peers, and implement her idea nationwide. With these skills, her project is now active in all 50 states, benefitting more than 350,000 lives. She is now a sophomore in college who will soon enter the workforce with project management experience gained entirely through public service. But young people don’t have to start their own nationwide project to benefit from activating public service. Simply participating
in a project offers many benefits including teamwork, organization, and engagement skills, as well as the knowledge that you can make a difference. The benefits are particularly striking for at-risk youth. A national study by Opportunity Nation (Connecting Youth and Strengthening Communities) shows that civic engagement cuts youth disengagement by 50%. It motivates young people to stay in school, hold onto jobs and remain on a path beneficial to themselves and their community. Our own faculty advisors report that learning our curriculum and engaging in service projects throughout the school-year yields an enormous benefit: • 80% of our at-risk youth participants graduate high school • 71% attend four-year colleges • 83% feel better prepared for college and workforce • 94% feel empowered to make a difference There is widespread support for students to gain hands-on experience through public service. In fact, according to a 2016 national poll by Penn Schoen Berland (Youth Hold the Key: Building Your Workforce Today and in the Future), 90% of Americans believe community engagement delivers leadership and project management skills to young people. Students should have every opportunity to receive an education that is fueled by their skills and interests, preparing them for the futures they, and our communities, deserve. I’ve found that public service is both a pathway to higher education and a fundamental tool for training young people to enter the workforce with the experience they need. By training young people to help others, we also train them to succeed themselves. Public service is essential for better education and career outcomes, and that’s why I’m so committed to encouraging it. Hillary Schafer was one of the highest-ranking women in the equity business but, after involvement with Hurricane Sandy relief, Hillary left the for-profit space and focused her energy and heart to elevating, celebrating and generating social impact. She is the Executive Director of the Jefferson Awards Foundation, an organization dedicated to empowering others to have maximum impact on the things they care about most.
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