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Four Ways to Create a Culture of Service in Your School

by Scott Ganske, 

by Scott Ganske, Youth Service America

Students get excited at a service projectWhen schools actively create a culture of service, they make education real, relevant, and rewarding.  They also prepare students to become global citizens, and teach skills and knowledge they will need for college and career readiness.

Here are four ways that you can create a culture of service in your school. 

Create a Leadership Team –

It is important to have a team of diverse stakeholders to set a vision and coordinate implementation. Form a team that consists of youth, administrators, teachers, parents, and community leaders. Set up monthly or quarterly meetings so that everyone is on the same page. Use this time to reflect on what is working, and ways that you can improve.

Service 2.0 –

Think about the types of service projects that your students are already participating in, (food and clothing drives, recycling, gardening, mentoring, etc.).  Challenge teachers and students to take these projects to the next level.  Teachers can link the service projects to academic objectives. They should also introduce college and career readiness skills throughout the project planning, including the 4 Cs: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Creativity and Innovation, Communication, and Collaboration. Students can think of creative ways to make a greater impact in the community. There are also opportunities to Students learn at a service projectpartner with organizations and other schools that are planning similar types of service projects.

Serve for a Day, a Month, or a Year -

It can take months or years to create a culture of service, so it is important to offer different onramps for teachers and students. You can download free step-by-step planning guides on

Serve for a Day – There are several days of service throughout the school year such as 9/11 Day of Service Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Day, and Global Service Day (GYSD).  If students serve for a day, make sure that they take time to reflect before, during, and after the experience.

Serve for a Month – YSA’s Classrooms with a Cause provides a curricular framework for students to reflect on what they have learned in the classroom, and then apply their knowledge to address a cause – an issue important to them and to their community. The curriculum includes a facilitator guide and customizable student guide.

Serve for a Semester or Year – YSA’s Semester of Service is an extended service and learning framework to engage students in meaningful service and learning activities. In order to address problems of local, national, or global importance and their root causes, teachers engage students in a semester connecting service activities with intentional learning goals and academic standards.

Think Globally, Act Locally

Students work hard at a service projectGlobal Youth Service Day is the largest service event in the world, and the only campaign that celebrates and mobilizes the millions of young people who strengthen their communities through service. GYSD is celebrated in more than 100 countries across six continents. It is held annually in April and is a perfect opportunity to plan a school-wide event. Learn more at   

YSA (Youth Service America) supports a global culture of engaged children and youth committed to a lifetime of meaningful service, learning, and leadership. Scott Ganske is the Director of Education at YSA. As a service-learning expert, Scott facilitates trainings, writes planning guides, and develops programs all over the world. If you are interested in collaborating with Scott on a new project, he can be reached at  

Scott Ganske is the Director of Education at Youth Service America.

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