WHAT is it?

The Learn and Serve America Youth Engagement Zone (YEZ)

Program was newly authorized by the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. YEZ is designed to improve student engagement, including student attendance and behavior, and student achievement, graduation rates and college-going rates by:

  1. Engaging youth as positive contributors through service-learning to demonstrate the relevance of academic coursework and the value of civic engagement to their educational and personal development; and
  2. Connecting with citizens from diverse communities, backgrounds and perspectives to provide expanded opportunities to serve; and
  3. Building enduring capacity within communities to become more effective at using service as a solution to address pressing challenges.

These grants will provide support for “eligible partnerships” to build on existing resources to develop coordinated school-based or community-based service-learning opportunities for secondary school students. All partnerships must include, at a minimum, at least one LEA, one community college, and one community-based entity.

Corporation for National and Community Service. “Notices of Funds Availability/Notices of Funding Opportunities.” Learn and Serve America, U.S. Government,2010. Web. 10 March 2011.

Kent Intermediate School District YEZ Grant


Our grant addresses the issue of urban decay and the need to support green infrastructure as a way to protect our environment and support economic revitalization. Three schools in Kent County, and their neighborhoods, met the requirements needed to participate.  The schools are Godfrey-Lee Middle School, Kelloggsville High School and Kelloggsville Middle School.  Our key community partners include the Wittenbach Wege Agriscience and Environmental Education Center, along with its network of environmental organizations, and the Grand Rapids Community College especially its Academic Service Learning Center. The academic service learning projects designed and implemented as part of this initiative will be aligned to Common Core Standards and integrated into Kent ISD’s web-based curriculum tool Curriculum Crafter®. This tool is used by all schools within the Kent ISD. By the end of the three years, service learning components will then be integrated into the curriculum of all schools within Kent ISD including the three Zone schools.


What is Academic Service Learning?

Service-learning is a teaching method that combines meaningful service to the community with classroom learning.

Service-learning offers a unique opportunity for America’s young people — from kindergarten to university students — to get involved with their communities in a tangible way by integrating service projects with classroom learning. Service- learning engages students in the educational process, using what they learn in the classroom to solve real-life problems. Students not only learn about democracy and citizenship, they become actively contributing citizens and community members through the service they perform.


Service-learning can be applied across all subjects and grade levels; it can involve a single student or group of students, a classroom or an entire school. Students build character and become active participants as they work with others in their school and community to create service projects in areas like education, public safety, and the environment.

Corporation for National and Community Service. “What Is Service-Learning?” Learn and Serve America. U.S. Government,n.d. Web. 10 March 2011.


Student Benefits

  • Increases academic and cognitive development
  • Enriches curriculum
  • Reinforces learning through practical and meaningful applications
  • Puts character education into action
  • Increases career awareness and job skills identification
  • Improves sense of teamwork, mutual achievement and leadership skills
  • Enhances social development
  • Fosters personal growth
  • Improves civic-mindedness

Teacher Benefits

  • Engages students in their learning process
  • Creates a motivated, involved student
  • Reduced behavioral disruptions
  • Provides collaboration and research opportunities
  • Can increase classroom resources

Community Benefits

  • Gives direct aid to community organizations
  • Helps students become invested in their community
  • Helps community members value youth as contributors


K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice

The K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice were developed by the National Youth Leadership Council with funding from State Farm Companies Foundation. Working from a base of 20 years of professional wisdom and practice, NYLC worked with other leaders in service-learning and engaged RMC Research Corporation to ensure that the standards included the strongest evidence-based elements of effective practice. Then young people, teachers, school and district administrators, community members, staff from community based organizations, policymakers, and others interested in service-learning participated in panels across the United States to strengthen the language of the standards their indicators.



    Service learning actively engages participants in meaningful and personally relevant service activities.


    Service learning is intentionally used as an instructional strategy to meet learning goals and/or content standards.


    Service learning incorporates multiple challenging reflection activities that are ongoing and that prompt deep thinking and analysis about oneself and one’s relationship to society.


    Service learning promotes understanding of diversity and mutual respect among all participants.


    Service learning provides youth with a strong voice in planning, implementing, and evaluating service learning experiences with guidance from adults.


    Service learning partnerships are collaborative, mutually beneficial, and address community needs.


    Service learning engages participants in an ongoing process to assess the quality of implementation and progress toward meeting specified goals, and uses results for improvement and sustainability.


    Service learning has sufficient duration and intensity to address community needs and meet specified outcomes.


What is Sustainability?

“Meeting the needs of present generations, while not compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”


Sustainability involves multiple components


Many people are familiar with the three overlapping circles used to represent sustainability. One circle stands for economic performance, another for social equity, and another for environmental quality. Together they comprise the triple bottom line of sustainability that business and policy leaders must address with every decision they make. Where the interests of all three circles intersect is considered the “sweet spot” of sustainability, the place where progress on all three fronts can be achieved.

As leaders learn to apply the triple bottom line approach to sustainability, some have started to consider additional circles. A fourth circle, for example, might represent new technology, since innovation must play a role in finding answers to issues such as energy production and air pollution. A fifth circle could represent culture, which binds society together yet exists apart from the concept of social equity. Some observers also suggest the environment circle should be expanded to encompass all others, arguing that environment is the foundation upon which everything else depends.

Sustainability reflects both a monumental concept of life on a global scale and a simple notion of balance applicable to everyone. The most commonly used “official” definition comes from the 1987 United Nations’ landmark report Our Common Future, where it was defined as “meeting the needs of present generations, while not compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Increasingly, governments, businesses, and organizations everywhere are putting sustainability into practice as:

  • An overarching value that requires best practices at every level of organization
  • A framework for evaluating policies that will advance strong economies, healthy environments, and equitable opportunities
  • A fresh organizing principle for local, state, and national programs
  • A mantra requiring everyone to take responsibility for a quality future

Sustainability, however, is not a new idea. Many American Indian tribes long considered decisions in light of their effects on the seventh generation. Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, is well known for describing conservation as “the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest time.” In turn, many public policy analysts have called for systems thinking, integration, and holistic solutions to recognize complex connections among difficult issues.

The untoward effects of global development, dramatic population growth, climate change, and widening gaps between the “haves” and “have nots” have sounded sustainability alarms. Many public and private sector leaders have concluded that business as usual threatens not just quality of life, but life in total. At the same time, executives with a wide range of businesses and organizations are realizing that doing good and doing well can be mutually reinforcing over the long term, not mutually exclusive. Thus, while sustainability has developed in response to threats, it has also grown because of the desire to find new ways to solve old problems.

Morrison Institute for Public Policy, ASU, “Sustainability for Arizona: The Issue of Our Age,” Eight/KAET: Sustainability Channel, copyright Arizona Board of Regents, 2010. Web. 10 March 2011