Mallory Keller ’17 is a junior at Colgate University studying educational studies and art history. She enjoys traveling, reading, knitting, and watching movies. Her future plans are to work one day in the educational field. In this blog, she wrote about her experience with the National Youth Leadership Council in the spring semester.
I am standing in a suite on the 10th floor of the Washington Marriott Wardman Park. Participants are going around the circle saying why we came to the National Service-Learning Conference. It has been another year of great service learning, but as it gets closer to my turn, I start to get nervous. Why am I here? Is it because I enjoy going to conferences? Is it because I love to travel?
When my turn came, I just blurted out, “Because I love NYLC.” I realized that I had to elaborate more on my point, so I talked about my experiences with the organization: how service-learning made me care about my education for the first time in middle school, how I felt so inspired by the power of education when I attended my first service-learning conference in 9th grade, how I felt bad for our education system failing over a million students a year. Simply put, NYLC is more than an organization to me, they are a community, they are a family that I have grown up with, and I would not be who I am today without it.
The National Service-Learning Conference is one of its kind. It is a gathering of educators, students, non-profits, NGOs, and policy makers that celebrates the field of service-learning and projects done in diverse communities and discusses the future of our education system as a whole, through workshops, booths in the exhibit hall, the Day of Service, Capitol Hill Day, and plenary speakers. For those of you who do not know, service-learning is when you integrate service into the classroom curriculum to create a meaningful impact to the community. It makes education relevant to the world around the student. This is my fifth year attending the conference, and every year I am more inspired by what students are doing in their communities. During the plenary, I heard from those who are leaders in the field, members of the Department of Education, and most importantly, youth themselves, talking about what service-learning means to them. The overarching theme was that service-learning is a way to change our society and that it embraces as its cornerstone what other educational strategies do not–the youth in schools today.
This focus on youth in school today is the reason why so much work of NYLC’s is concerned with the achievement gap and educational inequity in schools. This issue is so important to the youth that NYLC NYLC launched a new campaign– Youth4Education. Youth4Education recognizes that our education system is failing youth because of systematic inequities, and it encourages students to solve this with service-learning. I could feel the excitement in the plenary as the campaign unveiled and I know I have said this so many times, but it was inspiring to see youth committed for a cause and to know that NYLC supports those of us who want to make that change. The excitement continued when we received a message from a surprise supporter–Kevin Bacon! It was so cool that the work that NYLC is doing is getting recognition from celebrities and that their impact is expanding. If you would like to get more involved and support the #Youth4Ed movement, sign the youth or adult pledge.
I was able to leave the conference this year full of ideas inspired by workshops conversations with other educators and students. The Benton Scholars Program has become a community that I involve myself deeply in because it gives us the support to be who we want to be at Colgate. To me, the Benton Scholars would be the place to implement service-learning. Service-learning is a way to serve your community and to think critically about what you are learning in the classroom, so I think it is exactly something Colgate needs on campus.
I would like to thank all of those who made my journey possible—the Benton Scholars Program at Colgate University, the National Youth Leadership Council, and finally, the support systems I have locally and nationally that continue to inspire me to serve.