A Summer to Remember

Susan BrennaMiddle school students from three Brooklyn and Bronx communities spent summer days taking field trips, practicing teamwork and improving their communities through Summer of Service 2012, a TASC project made possible by Innovations in Civic Participation (ICP) through a generous gift from Walmart.

When Nicole Tysvaer, who does research for ICP, asked participating students for tips on how to improve the experience, “I thought they would say they wanted more trips to the pool,” she said. “But I had several kids tell me they wanted to do more service because they got so much out of the experience. I had kids tell me that serving taught them responsibility and how to get along with others. It gave them a feeling that they can accomplish things. I saw them mentoring younger children, doing research, writing surveys, analyzing data. I also saw them in more traditional service roles as well, cleaning up places in their neighborhoods and planting a school garden at PS 32” in Brooklyn.

Summer of ServiceMany of the students perceive their neighborhoods as places to get away from. “They talked about people fighting,” Ms Tysvaer said. “They talked about people shooting each other.” One of the most important things program leaders did, she said, was to help students identify a path to success through community engagement, school achievement and getting along with others.

By creating projects of lasting value—including an anti-bullying video and one that guides other young teens on how to make positive choices—students learned they can “act independently to bring about a positive outcome,” Ms. Tysvaer said.

A goal of this initiative is to help kids develop the knowledge and expertise to become civically and politically engaged. We’ll report back on the full program evaluation.