Since 1998, Chicago Public Schools has required students to complete 40 service-learning hours in order to graduate. Service-learning is a teaching strategy that connects classroom curriculum with service projects. Service-learning engages students in projects that serve the community while building social, civic, and academic skills.

Here's what can happen through a quality service-learning experience. As a student, you can:

  • Get your voice heard on what matters in your community and what problems should be addressed;
  • Learn effective problem solving, critical thinking, and project management skills;
  • Strengthen your academic, civic, and social skills;
  • Make academic content more relevant and get to use what you're learning;
  • Learn about potential careers by completing a project in collaboration with a community organization;
  • Meet amazing people who you wouldn't ordinarily get to meet. They'll stretch the way you think about the world;
  • Gain a sense of accomplishment. You too can help change the world;
  • Do something good for your community and for yourself.

Service-Learning in Brief

Every high school student must fulfil the service-learning requirement to graduate. Every sophomore must earn at least 20 service hours in order to be promoted to junior status (this applies to the graduating class of 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019).

Each service-learning project must have the following components:

  • Preparation - learn about the issue and develop the skills and knowledge you will need to complete the service-learning project;
  • Act – work with peers to complete a civic action project that serves the community;
  • Reflection – write about, discuss, or demonstrate in some way what you have learned and experienced through the service-learning experience.

Each school will decide how students complete service-learning projects. All CPS high schools must develop a strategy to ensure that all students can fully participate in service-learning projects during their years in high school.

For the graduating classes of 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 ONLY schools decide how students will earn service-learning from the following options:

  • One classroom-integrated service-learning project + 25 individual service hours
  • Two classroom-integrated service-learning projects + 15 individual service hours
  • Three classroom-integrated service-learning projects

Please ask the Service-Learning Coach at your school which option applies to you.

For the graduating class of 2020 and beyond (incoming Freshman of 2016-2017 SY) schools decicde how students will earn service-learning from the following options:

  • One service-learning project in Civics or AP Government Course + One classroom-integrated service-learning project (in any additional course)
  • One service-learning project in Civics or AP Government Course + One independent service-learning project

For more information about the new service-learning policy please read the New Service-Learning Policy FAQ.

Students can complete projects in one of three ways:

  • Participate in a service-learning project in a Civics or AP Government Course
  • Participate in a classroom service-learning project (check with your Service-Learning Coach to see which teachers and classrooms are offering service-learning projects);
  • Participate in an after-school service project that has clear academic goals and a clear project orientation; or
  • Partner with a community organization in your neighborhood on a project (but make sure to complete the pre-service inquiry form and post-service reflection form).

Students must get approval from the Service-Learning Coach at their school prior to beginning the project. Students who participate in service-learning projects that have not been approved or do not meet service-learning criteria will not receive credit toward graduation.

Restricted Service Activities

Students may not earn service-learning credit through the following:

  • Work with for-profit businesses and corporations;
  • Work with religious organizations if the service involves promoting a particular faith;
  • Volunteer work where no academic objective is addressed;
  • Internships; paid or otherwise
  • Work that is financially reimbursed;
  • Participation in a sports team or other extracurricular activity unless that group designs a service-learning project that contains preparation, action or reflection.
  • Assisting a teacher (i.e. correcting papers, cleaning the classroom)
  • Artistic performances or recitals unless students are involved in creating a project that includes a performance as an outcome or component of the project
  • Attending a workshop, conference or other educational event unless that training leads directly to a service project.
  • Working on a political campaign in which the candidate running for political office is the teacher facilitating the service-learning project.


Before you embark on your service-learning experience, make sure that you have received approval from your school's Service-Learning Coach. We don't want you to complete service work that does not meet CPS guidelines and then not get credit for your work.

Student Reflections

What are you and your peers thinking about their service-learning experiences? Good experiences? Unique experiences. The incredible thing about service-learning is that the experience can be a dynamic learning experience. But without taking the time to think and write about your experience, you don't really get a chance to realize what you have learned!

To help you increase your learning and develop your writing and reflection skills, it is very important to prepare yourself for the service experience. One great way to prepare yourself is to think about and write down what you want to learn. Before you start your service experience, complete the pre-service preparation form and turn it into your Service-Learning Coach or teacher. If you are clear on what you want to learn, your service experience will be more directed and valuable for you. Knowing what you want to learn will help you do a better job of reflecting on the experience.

When you have completed your service project, write a 1-2 page essay and turn it into your Service-Learning Coach or teacher. Guiding questions for this essay can be found on this website in the Forms section.

Page Last Modified on Monday, May 15, 2017