Two organizations whose work helps promote a range of positive actions among America’s youth throughout the United States have launched a nationwide effort to shine a light on students in service and to engage one million youth in the next three years in student-led service projects.
The Youth Service Challenge is led by The Jefferson Awards and WaysToHelp and is supported by the Jefferson Awards National Partners – All Stars Helping Kids, Communities in Schools, HealthCorps and UGIVE. The program seeks to promote youth leadership and volunteerism in the areas of hunger, health and the environment, or through projects of the students’ own choosing.
“The Youth Service Challenge is poised to harness the awesome power of America’s youth in public service to their country,” said Robert M. Ford, Executive Director of the Jefferson Awards for Public Service. “Young people throughout the United States have been serving and volunteering within their communities since the earliest days of the republic. This initiative, which, appropriately enough, is being launched on President’s Day, seeks to organize and amplify that spirit of giving back and direct it into areas where these students can make a significant and lasting impact.”
The inaugural year of the Challenge will focus on challenging high school students to undertake service projects that will, in turn, serve as repeatable models for youth of all ages in subsequent years. Students interested in leading or participating in a service project can find “How To” kits on the Youth Service Challenge website (www.YouthServiceChallenge.org). The online kits have been designed to train students to lead a project in each of the following areas: Ending Hunger, Saving the Environment and Improving Health and Wellness. Students also can register a project of their own through the Bring Your Own Service Project (BYOSP) section of the site, thus broadening the breadth of projects from which other students can choose.
“We designed the Youth Service Challenge to engage the Millennials,” said David Boyer, founder of WaysToHelp. “Given their connection to all forms of media, this generation is more socially aware than any before, and although they are young, they can make a substantial contribution toward raising awareness, raising funds and taking action to address the issues that are important to them, especially if they leverage their networks through social media. Not only are we challenging them to get involved in the issues they care about most, but we are helping supercharge their efforts by giving them access to great project templates, media toolkits and social networking tools. We can’t wait to see – and highlight – all the great things they’re doing to make the world a better place.”
Projects registered at http://www.YouthServiceChallenge.org by April 17, 2011, will be eligible for prizes exceeding $100,000 in value. This includes $15,000 in cash, celebrity visits and other prizes. One group will win a trip to be honored as the “Youth Service Challenge Project of the Year” at the Jefferson Awards National Ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Academy Award winners Richard Dreyfuss and Ellen Burstyn, HealthCorps founder Dr. Mehmet Oz, M*A*S*H star Mike Farrell, former astronaut Col. Buzz Aldrin, sports legends Ronnie Lott and Cris Collinsworth, former Lt. Governor of Maryland Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and FOX broadcaster Chris Wallace will support the Youth Service Challenge by visiting participating schools.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors is participating as a National Outreach Partner as are Feeding America, Share Our Strength, Goodwill Industries and Earth Echo. Through the U.S. Conference of Mayors, more than 60 mayors have agreed to participate in the Challenge by encouraging and highlighting service excellence in their cities.