“The goal is to create service-minded students who will go on to college and continue to build their sense of service.”
Jennings All Stars
St. Louis, Missouri
Afterschool learning programs sometimes struggle to incorporate service learning into their programs. At Jennings All Stars in St. Louis, Missouri, however, service learning is the key component. High school students compete for one of only 15 spots in a 3-year program that culminates in an international service trip. “The goal,” as director Grace Lee explains, “is to create service-minded students who will go on to college and continue to build their sense of service.”
Students spend their first year in the program studying poverty and how it affects their lives and communities. In the second year, students take their studies to the global level, examining how international efforts to combat hunger have affected communities.
In the final year, students select the country they would like to serve. The most recent class of students chose to serve the children of Kibera, a slum in Nairobi, Kenya. The Jennings All Stars built a basketball court and playground for the children living in Africa’s largest slum. Upon returning home, the students evaluated the impact of their work and continued to examine how service affects others.
The travel makes funding an issue, but Lee views it as an integral component of the program. “I believe the students learn more when they experience new things, get immersed in different cultures, and step outside their comfort zone,” Lee explains. She also closely connects participation in the afterschool program to increased academic gains during the school day. Because students do not want to lose their space in the program, they comply with its rigorous requirements. Students must attend weekly meetings and monthly retreats, complete all reading and writing assignments, maintain at least a 3.0 GPA, and follow academic plans created for them. All of Lee’s students have gone on to college.
Lee thinks service learning should be included in all afterschool programs. “I think one of the most important lessons we can teach our kids is to learn how to serve others without expecting anything back. I think our programs will be richer, our lives richer, and our future a lot brighter.”