Moving from passion to action!

April 6, 2024

Contributed by the 2023-2024 Shinnyo Fellows, Ella Gray, Vanessa Torres and Vernice Heard, and Cassy Huang, Associate Director at UC Berkeley Public Service Center

The 2023-2024 Shinnyo Fellows & Cassy at their workshop session

The 35th Annual National Service-Learning Conference, hosted by the National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC), took place in St. Paul, MN on April 4 through 6. The conference attracted youth leaders, nonprofit leaders, educators, and administrators to explore ways to put their passion for service into action in their communities. Over three days, attendees gathered for plenary sessions and heard from inspiring youth leaders, insightful higher education faculty members, and compelling speaker & author Kao Kalia Yang. Attendees also engaged in 75-minute workshop sessions and 20-minute Lightning Talk presentations.

We presented a 75-minute workshop titled “Actualizing Our Infinite Paths to Peace through Post-Undergraduate Fellowship.” Participants of this workshop learned about the Shinnyo Fellowship Program and how the three fellows uniquely explored their paths to peace over their fellowship year. Participants also reflected on their search for harmony among their personal, professional, intellectual, and emotional goals in their pursuit of peace through service.

In addition to the workshop, Vernice also presented a Lightning Talk, “Self Identify: In You or On You,” and invited attendees to speak about their experiences adjusting to their work and academic lives. Vernice facilitated a conversation for participants to open up about their challenges and rewards in finding their self-identity in professional spaces. Many participants walked away with new ideas on how they may want to interact with youth and their peers as they go through these transitions in their careers in community service.

Vernice Heard presenting her Lightning Talk (Photo courtesy of NYLC taken by Bruce Cox)

Vanessa and Cassy also presented a Lightning Talk, “UC Berkeley Public Service Center (PSC)— A Hub for Service & Transformative Social Change.” Attendees learned about the PSC’s breadth of community engagement work with students, faculty, and local communities. They also gained insights into the PSC’s student-led model for service learning and its highlights and challenges.

Finally, the conference ended with Day of Service, an off-site service event with local community partners. This year, the attendees could choose from one of three service sites (Arc Value Village, Urban Roots, and Wakan Tipi). At Urban Roots, Vernice, Vanessa, and Cassy learned about St. Paul’s local needs and had a fulfilling day at Pig’s Eye Regional Park. They got to get their hands dirty, picked up trash, and pulled out invasive species to prepare for the season. It was the perfect way to end the conference and spend time outdoors!

Vanessa Torres volunteering at Wakan Tipi (Photo courtesy of NYLC taken by Bruce Cox)

As we reflect on this experience, we are honored and grateful for the opportunity to reconnect at the conference, learn more about the range of service-learning work happening across the country, and recommit to our passion for cultivating a more just world.

To view more photos from the 35th Annual National Service-Learning Conference in St. Paul, MN, please click our Foundation’s photo album at this link.

Group photo with Dr. James Kielsmeier, the founder of National Youth Leadership Council (Photo courtesy of NYLC taken by Bruce Cox)