A few years ago Service Learning programs and courses were pretty popular in schools. Like most ideas it was met with debate – some questioned the ethics of imposing works of charity in exchange for grades or as a means of assessing students and others just wanted to instill the value of good deeds in students. I was never a fan of these classes or programs, but I am (like most people) wildly enthusiastic about instilling the need for good deeds in students. How is it done? What can schools do to ingratiate philanthropy in students’ lives?
1. Require that each student activity fundraiser dedicate a portion of their earnings to a specific and well respected nonprofit. This gives the students who lead the organization an opportunity to research a cause, an organization and then decide which organization will receive the funds. It’s empowering.
2. Have each class or grade level select a cause and a supporting organization and allow them the means to promote their cause, host fundraisers, and present their year-long efforts to the faculty.
3. Athletic teams or seasonal sports could spend one day working with a local organization who the captains (by consensus) select as their chosen philanthropy. One day isn’t much to sacrifice but imagine a team or teams working for hours on a project or at a food bank.
4. Allow certain classes (or in my case CTE programs) to select an organization and partner with them to plan time to work with their projects.
Philanthropy matters. It’s the best way for students to see life as larger – and often more messy – than themselves or their school. There’s work to be done if we let the work come from students. They’ll come through… they always do. My students have proven this every year with every undertaking.