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The LACS Service Program: An Overview

If an LACS student happens to tell you she or he is heading to a community service placement, don’t assume it is just another kid in trouble with the law! Service is a critical part our curriculum and many students have noted that it has just become a way of life for them. Most students go well beyond the requirement (approximately 40 hours for middle schoolers, and 60 hours for high schoolers, plus two semester long career exploration placements).

Building thingsStudents pursue service in a variety of ways. Most often they meet with the service coordinator, discuss their interests, values, passions and skills. Then the coordinator and the student work to find a meaningful placement; most placements last for a semester, with the student going for two to four hours a week. However, there is great variability, depending on the nature of the placement and the commitment of the student. Through this avenue students have found themselves in new and challenging situations, such as organizing the Take Back the Night Rally against domestic violence, interning in social work at BJM, leading younger ICSD students in outdoor adventures through the IYB, teaching computer skills to seniors, working with the city forester on sustainability, teaching art to refuge kids, and the list goes on and on.

Another approach to service is through our annual trips week. Some service trips include working with a school in Guatemala, helping with relief efforts in New Orleans, supporting an immersion school at the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation, and assisting in homeless shelters in D.C.

In addition, high school students may take a year long class that focuses on service. Through readings and discussions, the class decides on causes to hone in on and then finds group efforts to work on those causes. Over the years these have included educational equity (work in Head Start and other class rooms), prison and teens (collaborating with teens incarcerated at Gossett and MacCormick Residential Centers), special needs (helping with the a variety of programs to integrate folks with special needs), poverty and hunger (assisting at rural food pantries, Loaves & Fishes, and lobbying in Albany), and so on. Much of this class involves students educating themselves about the underlying social, economic and political issues related to these causes.

Working with students in the communityOne other part of the service program involves explicitly linking academic pursuits to service efforts. This occurs in various classes, such as Ecology, but is also carried out by setting up independent studies. We call these Community Academic Placements. For instance, one student examined the history of welfare policy in conjunction with volunteering at a community kitchen. Another student explored literature and creative writing about gender, relating these matters to her volunteer work in agencies advocating for women’s rights.

Finally, no matter what the path to service, reflection is a critical element of the program. Students muse about their experiences through journals, emails to the coordinator, group meetings, art work and community presentations.

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 23 June 2009 )
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