“Caring is an emotional event that allows us to resume the developmental process of taking in important information as we interact with the world and expanding our sense of who we are.” – from Dignity, Donna Hicks

Dignity, Donna Hicks

The outreach models we create are varied, touching upon many needs and solutions. Some of the models are simple; others are complex. Some are urban, others are not. The mix is educational for all of us, and most importantly, for our youth, the next generation to take the lead.

Subcategories within Outreach:

  • Children
  • Youth
  • Military
  • Elders
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Prisons

First Grade Leadership Role

Hospital Dolls

Nurses in our community requested these dolls for our local emergency room. The piloted first grade service learning project drew upon a model from Kiwanis of Burnside, Australia and information gathered from the websites of hospitals using these dolls.

The above first grade project, as all sample projects, simply represents a possibility for consideration. Any outreach category can serve to unite our first graders in gathering our efforts into a composite picture at the community level combine with their peers nationally. The idea is for first graders in all communities to be in charge of this topic area to allow for coordination. All community projects taken up in this topic area are shared with first graders who will update the community checklist.


Temporary Daycare Support

Intergenerational Learning Center


The Basics of Safe Routes to School
Eureka2 Playground

Playspace For All Children

Station Soccer
Knitting a Community Together

Knit Cafe

City to Saddle
Heart of the City Music Program
DC Scores
Scraper Bikes
Teen Literacy: Get Lit
Experience Aviation
Becoming A Man
Reconnect Brooklyn
Mural Arts
Midnight Basketball
Summer Night Lights
Council for Unity
Boston 10Point Coalition
Man Up!
Opioid Crisis Recovery


Soldier’s’ ‘Angels

Operation Paperback

Songwriting With Soldiers

Support from Fellow Warriors

Camp Patriot
The Soldiers Coach
Project Healing Waters
Teacher Resource


Bridges Together
Elder Concierge Service
Retirement or Nursing Home as Dorm


Second Wind


Peace Rocks
Urban Riding Club
Streetworker Outreach
Victim Offender Dialogue
Apex Youth Center
City Faces
Young Mothers
High Risk Young Men
Block Wisdom
Old Skool Cafe
Confections with Conviction
Cafe Momentum
Prisoner Visitation
Gideon’s Promise
PREP Partnership for Re-Entry
The Other Side Academy
Rubicon Bakery



Pet Therapy

In Schools

Reading buddies

Elementary School

Middle School

High School

Children’s Hospital


Nursing Homes


Equine Assisted Therapies

At-Risk Youth


Protection for Police Dogs


Urban Animal Control: Stray Rescue of St. Louis

Thoroughbred Rescue: Fire and Ice Training and Rescue

Bunnies: Tranquility Trail Animal Sanctuary


No Kill: American Pets Alive

Crafting Beds and Blankets

Reading to shy dogs


Preparing for Adoption


Training Support for Shelter Dogs



What would happen if every school district adopted an endangered species? What if school districts combined efforts where necessary and coordinated their efforts with organizations researching these needs; to understand the need, work toward the solution until health was re-established and attention could be turned to another need?




Marine Protected Areas

Marine Stewardship


Fifth Grade Leadership Role

A district wide K-12 service learning project creates an ongoing, self-sustaining system to address food insecurity in local communities.

Fresh Food Recovery

Field Gleaning

Gathering fresh produce that would otherwise go to waste

Donating food

Hunters Donating Venison

Creating Meals for people in need

Healthy Eating Education

Family Cook Productions

Community Gardens

Urban Gardening

Urban Farming Philadelpia, PA

American Youth Are Unique – Let’s Play to Their Strengths

We need to establish our American identity in our system of education. Our youth are Americans who want to participate in meaningful ways. They want to explore the world and connect with others, they want voice. American youth want to create meaningful change, and know they are capable. As older Americans, we may seek their engagement in the classroom, but they seek engagement in the real world. Our youth are ready, eager, emerging pioneers; and we have a host of unsolved, real-world problems in need of fresh perspective and sustainable solutions.

487455_87736518 School Children in IndiaIn developing areas of the world we can see the central role of education in creating change. We see youth – very small children – with strong motivation to learn and they succeed with immediacy and strength in academics. It is easy to see the source of motivation for these children: improved living conditions. As children they bear similarity to our own: they want to help, they want to take action. Relevance is the key that links their energy with education; relevance and purpose are the foundation for motivated learning.

Our youth need real world challenges and problem solving to become excited about their 935764_30449266education. American youth need opportunity to give, and create change; to find their place in the community and the world. They need real world relevance to kick-start the gears and ignite their enthusiasm to learn and find purpose in education. We need to listen to our youth because they tell us what they need. In student surveys our youth typically request:

    • Learning by doing
    • Hands-on project learning
    • Relationships with the outside world
    • Interaction with people beyond the classroom
    • Using technology to interact and communicate
    • Opportunity to solve real-life challenges

The ability of our youth to learn and produce quantifiable results is no different than youth in other countries. American youth are eager to learn and have perspective on how they learn best. We need to call forth our entrepreneurial strength and create a new avenue of education that resonates with our American identity: our desire to engage and create, our humanitarian outreach, our ability to problem solve with wide berth of perspective and embrace.

241663_5533 College StudentsThe inclusion of a service initiative – a service curriculum that starts in kindergarten and runs through high school – will provide the opportunity for this needful inclusion of real world problem solving in real world time that our youth need to thrive. It will incorporate the missing puzzle piece of relevance that will connect the energy of our youth with education. It will allow young Americans to use technology to communicate with their peers nationwide, to find real world leadership roles in creating needed change, to create relationships worldwide. We need to recognize what makes us tick – what makes us unique. We need to play to our strengths.

High School Dropout Can Fade Away

We need to start at the beginning – at the root – to grow strong, interactive engagement with our youth and rediscover the heartbeat of education that is alive with relevance. Without an overarching design that starts from the beginning to create a solid foundation, we will continue to falter and wander within a weak educational structure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe need to give our youth voice and opportunity for engagement with us in the real world that can grow with them from kindergarten all the way through high school.

Our children are excited to go to school when they come of age. First Day of Kindergarte_Sept 2000As parents, we reflect their inspiration. The initiation into education as a major life component is strong. Without the needed nutriment of purposeful, real life engagement we watch our American youth wilt – gradually at first and then more markedly – over a period of thirteen years. Even the “best students” (those who produce the results adults want to see) know that it is a struggle to stay inspired. As parents, it is hard to witness the contradiction between academic success and their lack of inspiration – the contradiction between their excitement as small children to go to school and their resignation to put in another day in high school.

The problem we identify as dropout or truancy is more widespread than dropout rates446665_41782525 Bored with Homework indicate. Many of our youth who do not drop out also struggle to cope with their school environment – the continuing singular yardstick of individual test scores; tests created by others that identify their worthiness for inclusion in a future that lies ahead. High school dropout is a strong move on the part of youth who resist this system and opt out.

In a K-12 service initiative, assessment would expand to include multiple, valuable workplace and life skills; skills that are assessable in live time, not in traditional test form; skills that are evident to others on the “team” – classmates.  Our youth would engage with one another and cross-pollinate their enthusiasm among themselves; an enthusiasm that crosses over into academic subject matter that connects the classroom to the real world in which they live. This enthusiasm would spin out into the hallways, our homes, and our communities.

117-1762_IMGOur youth can address the issue of high school dropout among themselves if we give them real world engagement opportunities. They can find their place in the world and the support education can bring to their lives. They can create community within their schools.

A national K-12 service initiative would open wide a realm of future possibilities interwoven with consideration for others and the environment. We need to step back, grab hold of the larger picture within which the classroom fits, and problem solve a sustainable strategy. We can gather our resources and create an inventive, American solution that will not only solve this issue, but a host of other challenges we face in our communities, nationwide, and worldwide.

We – the People – Are the Inspiration

If we gathered all the service projects we have created – and organized them by topic so we could see what we have, we would find overwhelming evidence that as a people, we are wonderfully equipped with capability.

Graphic 1A_Revised National Projects Checklist

We already have so much of what we need. Beyond the project details, there is an incredibly inspirational quality in the way we step up to the plate to help and come together when we need each other.

The projects and outcomes alone are inspiring, but there’s more. There are the project originators – the stories about how they not only saw a need, and a solution but were drawn into a sense of commitment that changed the direction of their lives. They talk of the satisfaction they find in their service work. They have a clear sense of purpose. They innovate. They work hard, and they seem happy. They are outstanding individuals who reveal our capability as well.

Hurricane Sandy Donation
Hurricane Sandy Donation

When a crisis occurs – in our community, in another state or across the globe – we demonstrate this capability. We rally to help, to reach out, to problem solve. We organize. We have a track record for strong, quick response – and we try to sustain these efforts to meet the level of need.

I caught a snapshot of this capability when I worked with first year college students in a service learning course. They were full of inspiration and promise, ready to engage – to bring more food to people in need in our community. They were ready to research models from other communities and meet with people to make things happen.

The director of our food bank not only came to class to talk with students about possibilities they had researched; he started attending the class and worked with them in the community. He was willing to adjust his work schedule because he also still held the belief that we could do more, that it was possible to do better.

The children in our elementary schools reflected the same energy and readiness to help. They proud to be included in helping to meet a genuine community need, and proud of their accomplishments.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA fifth grade teacher asked her students to graph food donation outcomes, connecting their service work to academics. When sixth grade students were asked to share personal reflections, they wrote with enthusiasm as community members, expressing the hope that more schools would adopt the program.

We have so much to bring to the table – we have problem solved, we have developed and sustained solutions, we continue to innovate, and we continue to care – and we see the evidences of the same in our youth. We – as a people – are the inspiration that can take us forward into solution-making that is off the charts.

Solution in Our Midst

20131030_143006My husband teaches language arts in our local middle school and he receives publications from NYSUT (New York State United Teachers). I was struck by the recent cover photo and the statistic: 1 in 4 children in New York live in poverty.

When I think of poverty, the first thing that comes to mind is food: having enough food. The idea that a child who doesn’t have enough food can’t function well in the classroom makes sense to me. The idea that 1 in 4 children experience this in my state is mind-boggling. I do know, however, that we haven’t met the need for food in our community and that the same is true in other communities.

The article focuses on the gap between the rich and the poor:

    • Poverty as the daily reality,  the fundamental obstacle that educators, health care workers and public service providers face each day – in rural, suburban or urban communities.
    • Economic policy, deregulation, tax structure, political will, debt battle, government shut down, polarization
    • The widening gap between rich and poor, the hollowing out of the middle class.

U.S. Capitol Building

The article states that there is “little to suggest that change is in sight” which is typically where we end up in our adult conversations. There is little to suggest change is in sight because we continue to look in the direction of the above. As adults, we have created complicated scenarios and we argue within this web. We argue more than we accomplish. Well not all of us. It’s time we turned our attention to the solution makers.

Some of us have heard about Pam Koner or the project called Family-to-Family. Some of us have joined with her to create the solution that is needed: shared prosperity. Pam is a project originator, a role model, someone who can help us replicate. We can build with her, with those who already do. We can educate our children about this need and solution. We can participate with our children.

1987 (10)It’s time we turned the the focus of education and the attention of our youth toward the solution makers – to learn from them, become involved with them. It’s time to provide opportunity for our youth – the next generation – to participate in generating these solutions; to learn how to work together with clear goals, how to tend to the self and to others; to experience how good it feels to accomplish goals and make things better.

All that we need, we have. We have allowed the wrong models to take center stage for too long. We are more intelligent than this. We need to look in the direction of where the real power to change lies – among ourselves as a people. We are doing it – in small and large scale. We just have yet to position what we have to hit the home run and see our efforts come together in truly large scale.