Service learning initiatives work to partner student passion with purpose

Senior+Lily+Dumas+smiles+with+a+student+she+met+while+serving+on+a+mission+trip+in+Belize.

Jennie Gist

Senior Lily Dumas smiles with a student she met while serving on a mission trip in Belize.

Alyse Zuiderveen, Copy Editor

PV takes great pride in their ability to incentivize students to serve, often sharing that their service learning graduation requirements help grow students’ love for volunteering.

This program has made various changes over the past few years; however, it recently had a complete restructure as a result of Christina Myatt taking over the program last year. Myatt has brought a new sense of passion to the program by redirecting it and making changes to restore it to its intended purpose – increasing student passion for service. 

Myatt’s goals are driven by the mission of the Service Learning Program which involves students learning about themselves, the value of giving back and the community. She has recently worked to involve 21st century learning skills in service learning, as she believes these skills are crucial for the future success of students.

These skills will be incorporated through new service learning requirements: a reflection essay, thesis statement, description of a research/design project and a reflection. These requirements have been split up by age group.

In addition to the new requirements, service learning’s focus has shifted.

Instead of requiring students to do their junior/senior service learning at one location, PV is allowing students to do their service learning at multiple locations as long as they are related to the student’s thesis. This will allow students to explore their passions more deliberately. For example, if a student writes their thesis about nature, they can volunteer with the Quad Cities Botanical Center and the Bettendorf Natural Resource Committee.

To effectively bring about these changes, Myatt has involved a committee composed of students, a counselor, parents and administrators as she evaluates what will be best for the future of service learning. This has been done in an effort to gain a better understanding of how to increase student passion about volunteering.

This committee, formally known as the Service Learning Advisory Board, meets a minimum of two times a year. During these meetings, members go over Myatt’s future plans to ensure the Pleasant Valley Service Learning Department is providing the best opportunities for all students.

Jenny Halupnik is a PV parent and community member who is a part of the Service Learning Advisory Board. She has had two students graduate from the district and currently has a student at the high school. She is excited about the ways the new service learning changes will allow for students to prepare for their future careers because she has witnessed the impact of service learning firsthand.

“My older students certainly used their service learning as a chance to do something they loved and to explore future career options. Since they were considering going into medicine, they both volunteered at the hospital information desk. I like the fact that now students can vary their volunteering around a general focus like healthcare, but at multiple locations,” Halupnik shared. “Now a student could spend time serving in the hospital, at a cancer walk and organizing a blood drive for their 11th/12th grade project. It might give these students a better idea of different pathways within a field and expose them to careers they had not considered.”

Halupnik also believes these changes are improvements to an already strong service learning program. “I believe that the service learning graduation requirement is one of the distinct advantages of a PVHS education,” she shared. “These changes only make that advantage more concrete by giving students opportunities to both develop and reflect on skills like collaboration, creativity, and responsibility. This will help our students have these skills that employers want and allow them to articulate their capabilities in meaningful ways.”

Collaboration and creativity are two of the 12 21st century skills emphasized by PV in multiple areas. These skills are now being implemented in the service learning program, which is providing students with another opportunity to learn these skills in an effort to be successful in their future careers. 

Leila Assadi is a junior and a student representative on the Service Learning Advisory Board. She believes if students maintain a positive attitude, they will be able to gain perspective and get incredible experiences out of their service learning. Assadi is also optimistic about the future of service learning at Pleasant Valley and its impact on students. “[The service learning changes] can help them to hone their interests and encourage them to continue volunteering in the future,” she shared. 

As new service learning initiatives highlight student interests, it will be exciting to see the students of PV grow passionate about their impact on the community.