An INtroduction to civiC engagement
Find Your Purpose
Civic engagement has the reputation for always having a positive impact on those who choose to engage. It is definitely true that a majority of people reep the benefits of participating in service learning or giving back to the community, however that is not always the case, especially with students in higher learning. The problem with college students is that they do not like to be told what to do. Therefore, when students are forced to do something they automatically have a negative attitude toward it. It is that negative attitude that looms over them the whole time and impairs their ability to get the full experience. With that said, when students are forced to participate they do not take the time to choose an organization or experience that holds true to their personal values, is something that they believe is important, or something they feel passionate about. This idea of participating without purpose completely changes the impact a service learning experience can have on a student.First, a student’s bitter attitude does not only come from the fact that they are teenagers, but also from the fact that most students were forced to engage in some sort of service during some point in their lives. This defeats the purpose. Civic engagement and service should be a person’s own choice as opposed an obligation to fulfill a credit or graduation requirement. When students grow up only knowing service as something they have to do at least twenty hours of in order to graduate, they do not understand or even know the real benefit. Society tells them they must, so they do and that is the end of it. They do it to get the signature on their volunteer hours sheet and are completely blind to the life-changing impact a service experience can have on their lives.
Find Your Passion
Passion plays an essential role in a student’s takeaway from a service learning experience. Students are missing that passion. It starts with the organization you chose to work with. A student must take the time to self evaluate and figure out what he or she wants out of the experience. Then, he or she must choose an organization that holds true to his or her own personal values and what the student believes is important. This is where passion comes in. Having that passion toward a service experience turns it from something you have to do to something you want to do. It becomes a part of your life and a part of who you are. Passion is genuinely wanting to help an organization because you believe so deeply in the cause. Passion is forming relationships with the people you are helping. Passion is going home and not even just feeling good about yourself, but thinking about what more you can do. It is putting all the trivial things in life aside for a small part of your day to do something bigger than yourself. If students were to have just a taste of passion toward the service or organization they decide to civically engage with it, it will make it all the more meaningful and fulfilling.
Tell Your Story
Once that passion is present, the experience becomes a story. When you tell that story people can feel what you are feeling. You have so much to say, share, and spill because the experience was overwhelmingly life-changing. That would change the statistics of Ashley Finley’s article, “A Brief Review of the Evidence on Civic Learning in Higher Education.” These students self reports would be so much more insightful if students cared about what they were sharing. The stories would turn into data and instead of just straight statistics it would be raw evidence of the interaction of students with civic learning. There would be much more real, meaningful information for the researchers to work with rather than just numerical findings. The information is much more valuable when it has a deeper meaning other than just a “student self report” (Finley 1). Overall, in order for civic learning to be a life-changing experience a student must find the service that they will put so much passion into that it becomes part of who they are and the commitment shifts from an obligation to a priority.
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