Originating in Minnesota in 1989, the National Service-Learning Conference is the largest gathering of youth and adults involved in the service-learning movement. Each year, it draws nearly 2,000 attendees from across the United States and around the globe.
Over the history of the service-learning movement, young people have been at the forefront, generating change in their communities and around the world. The 2013 conference theme, Without Limits, represents the limitless potential of all young people and the adults who support them to solve real-world problems. From addressing global waste and raising awareness on water pollution, to offering solutions to the achievement gap, to advocating for laws to improve teen driver safety — youth make change happen. And today’s young people are more informed, more connected, and better positioned than before to tackle the toughest challenges of today. The conference is the place to explore: How are youth helping to end poverty and racism? How have they created positive changes in curriculum, in communities, and across cultures? How does research support the idea of young people leading through service-learning? How can youth performance and art be a catalyst for youth leadership? How are youth ending prejudice and creating schools and communities of acceptance for all? How are we creating leaders of change rather than recipients of learning and programming? When youth are given the opportunity to lead, there are no limits to what they can accomplish. When adults have the tools, resources, and support they need, they can create engaging, caring, and supportive environments for youth to become leaders.
The conference focuses on service-learning as a way of teaching and learning that builds academic skills and citizenship while addressing community needs in a genuine way. It convenes teachers and other service-learning practitioners, administrators, researchers, policy-makers, youth leaders, parents, program coordinators, national service members, community-based organization staff, and corporate and foundation officers.
The conference connects participants with service-learning leaders through three days of plenary sessions, thought leader series, and service-learning projects. With more than 100 workshops, it provides access to new ideas and networking opportunities.
The conference has drawn an impressive array of speakers from Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich in 1989 to more recent figures such as President Bill Clinton, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Senator Harris Wofford, Senator Paul Wellstone, Senator Dave Durenbuger, Senator John Glenn, Jane Goodall, Alec Dickson, Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, John Bridgeland, Alan Khazi, Gerda Weisman Klein, Geoffrey Canada, Shirin Ebadi, and many others.
Each year, the conference features more than a dozen on-site opportunities to serve the local community. Past on-site service-learning projects have included the International Sharing and Caring Mural, Sewing for Others, Hygiene Care Kits, Family Care Packages, More than Warmth Quilts, Be Aware Bracelets, and Operation Goody Bag, just to name a few.
Serving the host community is part of the history of the conference. Along with on-site opportunities, conference attendees are encouraged to go off site and get their hands dirty. Off-site projects have included Habitat for Humanity projects, volunteering for the Ronald McDonald House, EarthMatters, Youth Opportunity Center, Homelessness Projects, Save the Bay, and many others.
"Coming together with others implementing high quality service-learning all over the country educates and inspires me to reach higher in the work I am doing. Learning from others like this cannot be accomplished without this conference!"
E. A. Laney High School, National Students Against Violence Everywhere
"The greatest value for me, as an educator, has been the fact that youth are not simply the focus of the conference, but that they figure so prominently in planning, organizing and facilitating training sessions, projects and other featured events at the conference."
Beverly C. Hiott
Lead Teacher for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement
Richland School District Two
"The conference gives my students the opportunity to have a voice and share what they have learned and done with the larger service learning community. It is amazing how inspired and excited the students are when they return to our school after their experience at the conference. The freedom and independence that is given to the students during the conference really allows them to take responsibility for themselves — they come back to school more mature!"
Out of School Time and Service-Learning Program Coordinator
New Foundations Charter School
"This conference provided a great place to network with other like-minded individuals. I learned just as much outside the sessions as I did inside the sessions. Thanks!"
Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service
Des Moines, IA
"It is a great conference. The information sessions are very informative, the plenaries are exciting, informational and energetic, and the workshops are very involving and fun. The things that I have learned at the conference I could not have gained from an article, or webinar."
Lincoln Charter High School
The National Youth Leadership Council celebrates its 30th year as a national nonprofit this March during the National Service-Learning Conference. Founded in 1983 out of the University of Minnesota by Jim Kielsmeier in response to the racial tensions in St. Louis, MO, NYLC’s National Youth Leadership Training program became the foundation upon which all of NYLC’s programs were built. Working to build bridges between youth of diverse backgrounds and enable them to solve community issues through a camp experience. Now under the direction of Kelita Bak, CEO, NYLC continues to engage youth, educators, and community leaders to redefine the roles of young people in society and to empower youth as valuable resources in solving the critical issues that affect them.
NYLC provides programs and events that develop young leaders, support educators, and advance the field of service-learning. NYLC’s initiatives engage young people as leaders by using the community as a classroom, and local and global needs as the subject matter. NYLC’s initiatives involve young people, teachers, schools, and community partners in solving real-world problems.
» Visit www.nylc.org to learn more about NYLC and service-learning.
Earth Force’s mission is to engage young people as active citizens who improve the environment and their communities now and in the future. Through Earth Force and our network of partners, young people get hands-on, real-world opportunities to practice civic skills, acquire a deep understanding of the environment, and develop the skills and motivation to become life-long leaders in addressing community issues. Earth Force is a national 501(c)(3) organization, headquartered in Denver, CO.
Save the Date
Mark your calendars for an experience that broadens your knowledge, provides exciting new insights, and connects you to a network of leaders who can help you achieve your mission and personal goals – the National Service-Learning Conference!
The 25th Annual National Service-Learning Conference
Dates: April 9-11, 2014
Location: Wardman Park Marriott, Washington, D.C.
2012 Conference Highlights
Watch this great highlights video, produced by the students at New Foundations Charter School, Philadelphia, PA.