Friday, May 1, 2009

Volunteer Tennessee EMPOWERS Youth to Make A Difference

Volunteer Tennessee is engaging more than 11,000 people of all ages and backgrounds to help solve social problems and build stronger communities in 66 projects across Tennessee. Volunteers tutor children, build homes, organize neighborhood watch groups, clean streams, and do other work to improve and strengthen communities.

Their Learn and Serve America programs focus on empowering youth in schools and community organizations through service-learning. Deputy Director Meredith Freeman says, “We teach that youth voice is one of the most important aspects of service-learning. It allows students to lead a project and see how their ideas were valued and utilized.” Youth voice empowers children and teens to recognize community problems, name resources that can help solve the problem, pull together a team of volunteers, and lead service-learning projects in their community. They believe that youth can start and sustain revolutionary change, and they invite young people to make a difference everyday.

Another Volunteer Tennessee service-learning program, Aspire, works with teams of diverse students and adults from high schools across Tennessee. After training them in leadership and service-learning, school teams are charged with designing and implementing service projects that improve their school climate and/or change the current norms around alcohol, drug use and violence. Teams choose projects as diverse as starting peer mediation teams, initiating peer education programs with middle schoolers and creating positive alternatives to alcohol and other drug use. Teams from across the state come together at the end of the school year to present and celebrate their accomplishments and plan for the future.

“Students are charged with using their inherent leadership skills and new skills learned to address issues in their schools through service-learning. The youth embrace the idea that they are the true agents of change in their school community.” (Melia Arnold, Aspire Director)

Find out more about service-learning in Tennessee at