The 27th Annual National Service-Learning Conference took place in Minneapolis this year, organized by the National Youth Leadership Council of St. Paul, MN. Over 800 students, teachers and professionals in the service-learning field gathered to learn, inspire and connect with one another. This intergenerational event created a unique atmosphere filled with positive and uplifting energy. “Educate. Ignite. Transform.” was the theme of the conference, with the goal to educate participants about service-learning, ignite their passions, and create positive changes.
This year, the Foundation supported one of our long-term grantees, Youth Community Service (Palo Alto, CA), to present at the conference, one grantee exhibitor, Berrett-Koehler Foundation (Oakland, CA), to showcase their work, and a group of ten young adults, including four high school students, from Shinnyo-en temples across the country. Throughout this article, we will include brief excerpts from the Shinnyo-en participants to feature their experiences.
On our first day together in Minneapolis, our group was able to take a tour of the Walker Art Center and have lunch to get to know one another. After the field trip, we had our own SEF orientation, with special presentations by Nan Peterson (Director of Service-Learning and Senior Shinnyo Fellow) and Lisa Sackreiter (Upper School Service Community Engagement Advisor), both from The Blake School in Minneapolis, MN, and Julie Rodgers Bascom (Service Learning Coordinator) from Edina Public Schools in Edina, MN. The young adults really enjoyed getting to know more about each other, as well as themselves.
“I was positively overwhelmed by the amount of realizations that I already had from the first day of the conference. The workshops on the first day delved into questions that encouraged us to reflect on who we are.”
The next day was packed full of other workshops, and the participants soaked in as much information as they could. They also attended a general assembly, where they were able to listen to many young people’s inspiring stories. The next two days, the youth and young adults attended other workshops they found interesting. They learned many new things about themselves and others, and gained valuable resources and information about service-learning. “The workshops we attended were very fun and very educational. I learned a lot about self-empowerment and how I can become a better and more effective leader.” “There were many other additional messages I learned from the workshops and people I met there. One was about mindset and how important keeping an open mind could be. Not being afraid to transform, not being afraid of failure, and not being afraid to step up are all very important. Other messages were about the importance of every effort to help, the value of every person in a team, and the amount of change one person can start through the ripple effect. With these messages in my heart, I plan on helping out the people and community that surrounds me.”
The conference ended with a Day of Service, where the group split ways to go and serve at different community sites within Minneapolis and St. Paul. It was a fun day of hands on work, and everyone was able to feel a sense of reward and accomplishment through their acts of service. The trip ended that day with a reflection meeting and dinner at Nan Peterson’s home. There, the young adults were able to share their experience with each other and the adults who they had interacted with throughout the conference. “By the end of the conference, I realized that the meaning of service truly varies depending on how you choose to define it. I met a lot of young people at the conference who have done outstanding things by starting their own projects and organizing community service events, but service does not have to be a grand gesture.”
We hope that this conference was a great experience and that it was able to create a lasting impact for all that were able to join us, as well as those they chose to share their new learning with. ” I learned so much and took so much away from this experience and it is continuing to affect how I am in my daily life today. It’s hard to put into words just how much this experience meant to me. I have been inspired again and again to do more in my community and lead more people to find their love for service.”
Please see more photos at our Photo Gallery and the National Youth Leadership Council‚Äôs Photo Gallery.