Essential Educator, December 12, 2013
Transition to adulthood for students can be confusing and overwhelming. Having a disability on top of facing life after high school adds to the increased anxiety many students experience as they approach graduation. Educators may feel helpless and frustrated in terms of the best way to help students find their way to adulthood. There are options, however, that can make this time exciting as students plan their futures. Service learning is an option that provides numerous elements of transition.
Service learning is a concept that has helped many students identify the post-high school path they would like to follow. Service learning has helped students become more self-directed in their academics, and has contributed to the development of self-confidence in and awareness of their role in the community.
Making the transition to adulthood is a very complex time, and expectations for the acquisition of new skills and roles are high. The very characteristics reported as making service experiences positive are those that provide youths with tools for this transition. (Martin et al., 2006)
Service learning is much more than volunteering; it is another means of accomplishing “big learning”. Service learning combines service tasks with structured learning opportunities that link the task to self-reflection and self-discovery, and to the acquisition and comprehension of knowledge, ideas, values, and skills. Potential outcomes of successful service learning experiences include the development of an interest in lifelong learning; development of self-confidence; sense of self-worth by contributing to the strengthening of the community; development of leadership and social skills; increased academic skills; development of the ability to see different perspectives of issues in the community, thereby fostering more compassion and self awareness; defining career paths which facilitates goal-setting; and the development of employment skills. The service-learning component of the school community in which I work has yielded such positive outcomes for students.