We often think of community service as a way to give back to our communities and service learning as a way to teach students about civic responsibilities. While these definitions are not incorrect, they don't really capture the personal fullfillment and education that an individual can gain when they get a chance to try on some job duties, learn new skills and meet new people.
As a teenager, I participated in a variety of volunteer activities with my parents and youth groups. When a favorite teacher told me I could earn a small summer wage by joining the Youth Conservation Corps program, I jumped on the opportunity. With college students as crew leaders, crews of high school students worked in Ohio State Parks in Southwest Ohio. We learned how to create and repair hiking trails while earning an Environmental Science credit. In particular, I learned that I loved working outdoors in nature!
With that experience under my belt I was ready for the big time. I applied for a Student Conservation Association high school work crew. This time I flew across the country (my first time out of the state) to join a small group of high school students from different parts of the country. We set up our base camp in Arches National Park. We hiked for miles to remove trash and barbed wire and slept under the beautiful stars at night. Memories of that experience have lasted a lifetime and helped drive my adult volunteer and career choices. I decided to study biology because of my volunteer experiences. I've chosen to focus on environmental education because I know service learning has a ripple effect.
Cuyahoga SWCD provides lots of great conservation service opportunities throughout the county. Check out our calendar and bring friends and family along to a tree planting, stream cleanup, storm drain stenciling or other conservation activity. Remind teachers and other youth leaders to contact us to help plan a service opportunity for their students. We have supplies and tools - help us inspire the next generation of conservation professionals and volunteers!
Blog author: Jacki Zevenbergen, Stormwater Educator