Self Esteem, Community Service and Empowerment – Part 1

Attention teachers!  Challenge students to use their uniqueness as a contribution to make a positive difference in our world through community service and empower the young. Through participation in school-created community service programs, students elevate their social consciousness to social responsibility as defined in the Bill of Responsibilities:  to give sympathy, to understand and help others; to respect the rights and beliefs of others. Students also participate in the group process of cooperative learning, conflict resolution, critical thinking and problem solving by creating and organizing community service projects.  Students enhance self esteem through experience. Consequently, self esteem becomes earned esteem.

Keys for Success
From my personal experience of creating and directing a successful community service program for seventeen years, here are some keys for success:

o    Community service programs that enhance self esteem are experiential. Self esteem will always be enhanced with the experience of serving, helping and leading.

o    Allow community service to be an innate response to needs.  Ask for student volunteers.  Criteria for the program could be students who possess an attitude of acceptance and tolerance toward others and who have a commitment and respect toward the environment.

o    A community service program could have two components.  One component of the program could be integrated into the school day. Also, there could also be an after-school component of the program that would involve a weekly commitment by students for a specified number of months.

A complete description of the two components of a successful community service program can be found in part 2 of this article.

o    Longevity will determines the success of the program.

Be prepared for growth with this program because everyone can serve; there is no need to exclude anyone.

Actual student responses to the program have included:  “I feel listened to.” “Thank you for believing in me.”  “I know that I can make a difference in our world.”   When students truly know and feel that they can make a difference in our world with their actions, they are empowered.  Community service programs allow students to work heart-first and the energy of young people will change the world.  The members of your student activists will become heroes for all adults involved with your community service program.

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About the author:  H. Veronika Gaia is a teacher, writer and nature photographer.  She believes that every person can make a difference in our world and that PeacemakersArt.com provides opportunities for you to make your contribution by purchasing with a purpose.  Veronika sells inspirational nature photography art as greeting cards, motivational posters and fine art prints with peaceful intentions for self awareness, human potential and community service.  Please visit her website at http://www.PeacemakersArt.com/.

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Self Esteem, Community Service and Empowerment – Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, I presented the rationale and keys for success to create a school community service program.  As stated, organizing community service projects allows students to participate in the group process of cooperative learning, conflict resolution, critical thinking and problem solving.  Students enhance self esteem through experience. Consequently, self esteem becomes earned esteem. Part 2 is a description of the two components of a successful community service program.

Two components of a successful community service program

•    One component of the program could be integrated into the school day.  Examples of successful community service projects integrated into the school day are trips to a soup kitchen, working with a kindertime program for pre-school children and collections for needy causes.  These could be scheduled monthly by teams or groups of classrooms.

•    There could also be an after-school component of the program that would involve a weekly commitment by students for a specified number of months.

Members who join the after-school program would divide into several groups.     The individual groups would have brainstorming sessions concerning community service project selections that would allow students to practice interpersonal skills and build relationships.

1.  Service project ideas are limitless and depend on the creativity and interests of the groups.
2.  Each group designs its own year-long program and the organization experience provides a learning that involves decision-making skills, communication skills and the process of working within a system.
3.  Each group creates its own name and selects four to six community service projects to be completed during the school year after school.
4.  Chosen group names would reflect the community service mission for individual groups and could be an acronym.  Following are examples of actual names used by middle school students:
•    P.R.O. (People Reaching Out)
•    S.U.N.S.H.I.N.E. (Students Unite Nations)
•    C.A.R.S (Caring and Respectful Students)
•    S.M.I.L.E. (Students Making Individuals Laugh Everyday)
•    H.O.P.S.C.O.T.C.H. (Helping Other People Simply Cause Our Touch Can Heal)
Develop partnerships with the community.  In my personal situation, we developed an on-going working relationship with a nursing home, a center for mentally-challenged adults, a day care center, a pre-school program, a community pediatrics health center and a soup kitchen.

The lesson of responsible active citizenship is the intention of all the community service project experiences and ideas create change becomes the principle of active citizenship.  Let your students be your heroes.  Your young student activists can make a difference in our world.  I share this as a proud teacher who has observed dedicated young people who are remarkable as role models for their peers, their teachers, their families and their community.

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About the author:  H. Veronika Gaia is a teacher, writer and nature photographer.  She believes that every person can make a difference in our world and that PeacemakersArt.com provides opportunities for you to make your contribution by purchasing with a purpose.  Veronika sells inspirational nature photography art as greeting cards, motivational posters and fine art prints with peaceful intentions for self awareness, human potential and community service.  Please visit her website at http://www.PeacemakersArt.com/.

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