Service Learning in CPS

Service Learning is about diving deep into real life. It is about asking important questions and understanding yourself. Through talking about what’s going on in the world, research into what makes things the way they are, and action to make change, you develop as a strong leader.

Traditionally, community service is just one-day projects or collecting hours. That’s not powerful education. Service learning engages our imagination and our power. By participating in service learning projects, we grow the skills in communicating, analyzing, and organizing that enable us to dream and create a better world.

The Support

Service learning connects your classroom learning with the things that matter to you, in your community. With the new CPS Service Learning policy, teachers will include opportunities to connect classroom learning to community issues through service learning projects. Whether you are in Math class or P.E., World History or Spanish, you are applying what you learn in class to real-world problem solving and healing the community.

The district requirement is 2 classroom-based service learning projects, one in Civics or AP Government and one in another class. * While every project will be different, all projects must connect to the curriculum, involve student voice, and include preparation, action, and reflection.  As more and more teachers incorporate service learning projects in their classes, you will carry out more projects than this requirement – and you will make more and more of an impact on the world.

Taking it Further

Chicago has an incredible array of community organizations and opportunities for students to get involved. On the CPS Service Learning website, check out the Community Events Calendar, Community Partners List, and Current Youth Leadership Opportunities for more resources.

12th graders in most schools are still under the old service learning requirement of 40 hours. Though hours will no longer be a graduation requirement for students in Class of 2020 and beyond, your out-of-class volunteering and leadership will be recorded on your transcripts in the Awards and Honors section. This allows you to share your experiences and service with universities and employers.

For more information, contact Alejandra Frausto, Project Based Learning Manager:

Chicago Community Events Calendar

This list is shared with teachers, students, and families, as a resource to support curricular integration of relevant issues and community response to events. Attending community events can help students to connect classroom learning to what's happening in Chicago and the world, find new service learning partners, and build community. In using this calendar, teachers should vet events and ensure that students have parent permissions and safe transportation to events. CPS does not endorse events or organizations represented on this list.

Service Learning lesson plan connected to this calendar.

Event Reflection Questions

Current Youth Leadership Opportunities


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.

Student Scholarships

Printable Version of Student Scholarships


The Foot Locker Scholarship
The Foot Locker Scholar Athletes program celebrates high school athletes who are committed to flexing their heart and leadership skills in their communities. Twenty winners of this program will each receive $20,000 in scholarship funding for college – not because they scored the most touchdowns, but because of their character. Questions? E-mail

The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes (Deadline: April 30)
The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes honors outstanding young leaders who have made a significant positive difference to people and our planet. Nominees, who may range in age from 8 to 18 years old, must have been the prime mover of a service activity, and demonstrated positive spirit and high moral purpose in accomplishing their goals. Nominees must be nominated by responsible adults who have solid knowledge of the young person's heroic activities, and who are not related to the nominee.

ING Unsung Heroes (Deadline: April 30)
For 15 years, and with nearly $3.5 million in awarded grants, ING Unsung Heroes has proven to be an A+ program with educators. The program’s “alumni” have inspired success in the classroom and impacted countless numbers of students. Each year, 100 educators are selected to receive $2,000 to help fund their innovative class projects. Three of those are chosen to receive the top awards of an additional $5,000, $10,000 and $25,000.

America’s Promise Alliance
The 100 Best Communities for Young People presented by ING is an annual competition, now in its fifth cycle, that rewards and recognizes communities making extraordinary efforts to reduce dropout rates and provide outstanding services and supports to their youth. These communities, while not without their own challenges to overcome, have demonstrated a significant and lasting commitment to their youth for which they deserve to be recognized and commended.

Alliant Energy Community Service Scholarship
The Alliant Energy Foundation is offering a new scholarship opportunity to recognize outstanding community leadership in young people and help students reach their academic goals. Up to 25 $1,000 scholarships are awarded to Midwest students annually through the new Alliant Energy Foundation Community Service Scholarship Program. Award selection is based on participation in a leadership role in community service activities and volunteer work; academic grade point average; standardized test scores; and the content of a 250-word essay submission.

To be eligible, scholarship applicants must have participated in a leadership role in community service work or volunteer activities. They must also meet the following criteria:

  • Be age 24 or under;
  • Be a dependent child of a current customer, or be a current customer, of one of Alliant Energy's utility subsidiaries (Interstate Power and Light or Wisconsin Power and Light);
  • Have a cumulative high school grade point average between 2.50 and 4.00 on a 4.0 scale (or the equivalent) - emphasis will be placed on community service leadership activities;
  • Reside within the Alliant Energy service territory at the time of application; and
  • Plan to enroll in, for the first time, beginning in the fall of 2012, a full-time undergraduate course of study at an accredited two- or four-year college or university, or vocational-technical school located within Iowa, Wisconsin or Minnesota.

Scholarship awards are for one year only and are limited to undergraduate study. Applications will be accepted from December 23rd through February 15th.

Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship
Nomination Deadline December 7, 2012
The Comcast Foundation has launched the Leaders and Achievers Scholarship Program nationwide to acknowledge exemplary youth in Comcast communities. Students must be nominated by the school principal or guidance counselor. Qualified students should demonstrate a strong commitment to community service and display leadership abilities in school activities or through work experience. Principals and home-school instructors may e-mail to verify school eligibility status and to request program materials. Each year, 1,000 high school seniors in Comcast communities will receive $1,000 scholarship awards.

Kohl’s Kids Who Care Program
2013 Nomination period will be Feb 1- Mar 15, 2013
To be eligible, the student must meet the following criteria as of March 15, 2012:Must be between the ages of 6 and 18 and not yet a high school graduate. Actions must be described in detail and should document efforts above and beyond what is expected of a child his or her age. Volunteer efforts must have occurred in the last year. Winners are chosen based on the project, benefits and outcome. This year, more than 2,200 kids will be recognized with over $420,000 in scholarships and prizes: Store Winners will receive a $50 Kohl’s Gift Card, Regional Winners will each be awarded a $1,000 scholarship for post-secondary education and National Winners will each be awarded a total of $10,000 in scholarships for post-secondary education and Kohl's will donate $1,000 to a non-profit organization on each winner's behalf.

The Tylenol Scholarship
The Tylenol Scholarship program awards ten $10,000 scholarships and 150 $1,000 scholarships to students for excellence and leadership in community service. The scholarships are intended for students pursuing a career in healthcare. The program is administered by Scholarship America, Inc., and the deadline is April 30 of each year.

Best Buy
Best Buy Children’s Foundation grants scholarships to students who have good grades and outstanding community service. Best Buy awards over $2 million in scholarships to more than 1,300 students annually. Three graduating high school seniors in each U.S. Congressional District and the District of Columbia are selected to receive a scholarship of $1,000 or $2,000. Scholarship recipients will be chosen based on community service and academic achievement and must be entering an accredited U.S. university, college or technical school in the fall immediately following their high school graduation. The application deadline is February 15. Recipients will be notified by Scholarship America, administrators of the program. Go to and click on community relations then scholarships.

Jesse Brown Scholarship
In memory of the late Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Jesse Brown, the Disabled American Veterans has established the Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship Program. Mr. Jesse Brown enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1963. Two years later, while on patrol in the DaNang area of Vietnam, Mr. Brown sustained a serious injury due to a gunshot wound while engaged in combat. From that point and over the next 39 years, the lives of millions of veterans changed for the better. Mr. Brown devoted himself to the cause of building better lives for America's disabled veterans.

Nordstrom Scholarship
Awards $10,000 scholarships to 80 outstanding high school students and help them achieve their dreams of going to college. The Nordstrom Scholarship recognizes students across the country for their exceptional scholastic achievement and community involvement. The Nordstrom Scholarship is open to high school juniors who: Live and attend school in one of the participating 30 states where Nordstrom currently has a full-line store, Have at least a 2.7 GPA (based on a 4.0 scale) throughout high school and Volunteer or participate in community services or extracurricular activities. Check the website in early 2013 for more information.

AXA Achievement Scholarship
One winner from each state, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C. is selected by Scholarship America for an award of $10,000. In addition, ten of those recipients are national winners and receive an additional $15,000. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of personal qualities including:

  • Ambition and drive
  • Determination to set and reach goals
  • Respect for self, family and community
  • Ability to succeed in college

Discus Awards Scholarship
The Discus Awards Scholarship honors all-around high school students. Eligible students must demonstrate excellence in three areas, not necessarily including GPA. Scholarships are awarded monthly in the amount of $2,000.

Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship
The Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarships recognize and reward students who have made a significant impact in the fight against. The scholarship recipients each receive $5,000 for their education as well as a matching grant in their name for the hunger-related charity of their choice. The Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship is named for the Sodexo Foundation's founder and former president, who was an unstoppable champion in the fight to end hunger. Thanks to Steve's efforts, which made these scholarships possible, an emerging generation of leaders will be cultivated in the fight against hunger. The 2013 application period for the Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarships is October 5 - December 5, 2013.

Ronald McDonald House (Deadline: January 2013)
Each year, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana awards scholarships to extraordinary area high school seniors who are committed to pursuing post-secondary education. Once awarded, our scholarships are renewable for four years of college, contingent upon the student maintaining a specified G.P.A. and performing community service.

Millikin University
University Service Learning Scholars Program
Millikin provides an opportunity for students to become leaders in campus and community service, and to assist in coordinated efforts to involve other students in such activities. Two $2,000 Service Learning Scholarships are awarded annually to incoming freshmen. This scholarship is over and above the Millikin Financial Aid Award and is renewable annually for four years.

The Director of the Career Center serves as the advisor to Service Learning Scholars. Contact Pam Folger to learn more about this program.

Northwestern University
Founders Scholarship
Northwestern created the Founders Scholars Program in 2007 to honor the nine individuals who founded the University in 1850. Awards are offered each year to a select group of incoming students from middle income families. While academic credentials weigh heavily in the selection process, other criteria taken into account include student essays, recommendations, leadership experience and potential and academic interests. There is no separate application to receive consideration for a Founders Scholarship, as eligibility will be determined during the normal financial aid review process. Eligibility for renewal beyond the freshmen year requires a cumulative GPA of 3.0 which is reviewed on an annual basis.  Recipients must be enrolled at least half-time to maintain eligibility. (Please note: Any reduction in tuition charges may result in a reduction of scholarship funds.  Please review the Term-Pricing Policy on our Eligibility page.) 

Award range: $13,200 average award. These scholarships are renewable for four years so long as students make satisfactory academic progress.

Knox College
Social Concerns Scholarships are awarded to incoming students who are already making a difference in the world. Awards of up to $5,000 per year recognize students who have demonstrated extensive, sustained participation and leadership in community service, social action, or volunteerism.

To apply for a Social Concerns Scholarship, submit an application for admission to Knox, along with a separate written statement describing your involvements and a letter of recommendation from an adviser or school official with direct knowledge of your efforts. Materials must be submitted by November 1 for Early Action I applicants, December 1 for Early Action II applicants, or February 1 for Regular Decision applicants.

General Scholarship Guidelines
Scholarship candidates must be admitted to Knox and be citizens or permanent residents of the United States. Scholarship recipients often qualify for additional need-based financial assistance, including grants, work-study programs and loans. Scholarships are renewable annually as long as recipients remain in good academic standing.

Depaul University
Community Service Scholarship
(Award Amount: $8,500)
The Community Service Scholarship rewards students who have an exceptional record of community service and are committed to engaging in the community while at DePaul. Recipients are required to declare the community service studies minor, which provide a framework for viewing community service from the perspectives of theory, ethics and group dynamics. Recipients also must complete 30 hours of community service each quarter, attend service-learning workshops and meet with the program coordinator for advising. Students are asked to develop an electronic portfolio highlighting their experiences.

To be considered, students must demonstrate an exceptional record of service with priority going to those exhibiting consistency in their commitments, as well as an understanding of their service as it relates to larger social issues. Submission of the FAFSA by February 1, 2012 is required for consideration.

DePaul Leadership Scholarship
DePaul Leadership Scholarship Program (Award Amount: $8,500)
The DePaul Leadership Scholarship Program is designed to prepare students to act as socially responsible leaders who are dedicated to Vincentian values such as compassion, promoting human dignity and a commitment to the common good. Recipients of this scholarship will engage in leadership development experiences, community service, meaningful reflection and interfaith dialogues. Scholars will maintain supportive relationships with one another, and with mentors in the Student Leadership Institute and University Ministry.

Candidates must have demonstrated leadership ability, community service and a commitment to promoting positive change within a high school, neighborhood, or a political or religious community. Submission of the FAFSA by February 1, 2012 is required for consideration.

Monsignor Egan Hope Scholarship
Monsignor Egan Hope Scholarship (Award Amount: $15,500)
The Egan Hope Scholarship Program was initiated in 1992 to honor Monsignor John Egan on the 50th anniversary of his ordination into the priesthood. The program was developed in response to a need for initiatives that would enable inner-city students from Chicago neighborhoods to earn college degrees.

To be considered, you must prove residency within the City of Chicago, graduate from a City of Chicago high school and demonstrate need as determined by the FAFSA. The FAFSA must be filed as soon as possible after January 1, 2013, but no later than February 1, 2013. You must have an exceptional record of social activism, leadership and community service. Recipients are required to commit to social activism, serve as a community leader, fulfill community service projects and participate in events determined by supervisors in the Office of Multicultural Student Success, including sessions with staff for advising, mentoring and assessment.

University of Illinois-Urbana
Robert W. Rogers Scholarships (Liberal Arts & Sciences) Amount: $1,000

  • Requirements: Highly qualified first-year students majoring in math or science with exceptional scholastic achievement, high performance on either the ACT or SAT examination, and evidence of leadership in the school or community.
  • Renewable: Yes – for the sophomore year, provided the student maintains at least a 3.5 GPA and continues in the college.
  • Number: Eight - Ten

Illinois State University
Illinois State University Alumni Association Scholarship
The Illinois State University Alumni Association Scholarship was created in 2009. The scholarship addresses the accessibility of undergraduate education for students who exhibit outstanding academic achievement and leadership and who demonstrate financial need through application, interview, and/or FAFSA. Additional consideration is given to students whose immediate family members have attended or graduated from the University. Each candidate must be accepted or enrolled at Illinois State, have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.8/4.0 (college) or 3.0/4.0 (high school), and must demonstrate financial need and leadership in community or co-curricular activities. Assets of this endowment are invested in the Illinois State University Endowment Investment Pool.

Class Level: Incoming freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
Department: Alumni Relations - VP - University Advancement.

Michael D. Schermer Student Leader Excellence Endowment Fund
The purpose is to fund two initiatives: an award to be presented annually to the Illinois State Outstanding Student Leader of the Year as selected by the Dean of Students Office and a scholarship recognizing an incoming freshman student for his/her student government and community service experiences in high school. The scholarship is renewable for up to three years. Michael Schermer began his career at Illinois State in 1974. He served in many positions at ISU, including associate dean of students. He is active in community service on a local and national basis, including through Sigma Tau Gamma Fraternity, and has numerous awards at ISU. He retired in 2008 but continues to work in the Division of Student Affairs. Assets of this endowment are invested in the Illinois State University Endowment Investment Pool.

Department: VP of Student Affairs - VP-Student Affairs

Lake Forest College
Forester Scholarships (All students) Students may apply for one of the Forester Scholarships, which range from $3,000 to $8,000. A separate application (listed on the right) is required. Forester Scholarships recognize a dedication to academics, the arts, sciences, and community. Because of limited funds, scholarship awards will be prioritized for those students who submit their Forester Scholarship application with their application for admission. Majoring in a particular area is not a requirement of any scholarship. Scholarships submitted after March 1, 2012 will be considered as funding is available.

Chicago Public Schools Scholarship
The scholarship provides academically strong students from Chicago with the financial resources to attend a four-year, highly-selective institution. The scholarship is based on both merit and financial-need.  For those receiving full-tuition scholarships, the award ensures that the full cost of tuition is provided after federal and state gift aid eligibility has been applied. As a Chicago Scholar, students have the opportunity to interact more deeply with their CPS peers. In working more intimately with faculty and staff and participating in group sessions with other Scholars, students become fully immersed in the Lake Forest College Community. This year, the Class of 2012, will mark the first graduating Chicago Scholar class from Lake Forest!

Gates Leadership Scholarship
Focuses on Leadership roles in extracurricular activities. Contact Admissions at (800) 828-4751.

Student Reflections

By Niki Vaith
National Youth Leadership Council Youth Advisory Council

"Service" is a crazy word. You might think of service as serving food at a soup kitchen or visiting a nursing home once in awhile. You may think service is the word that requires you to get up and walk five miles to be a part of an organization. This type of service is called "charitable volunteering," and we need it to keep our nation strong.

I challenge all of you to be more than charitable volunteers. Volunteer where your heart is. Service is about learning, growing, and working together to meet genuine needs. Service is done to meet the needs of others, not to make you feel better. Never assume you know what’s best for someone else.

Service engages you in an activity: You could be learning a trade such as the proper way to paint the interior of a house, or growing culturally by working together with people from different backgrounds. While learning, you could be helping out. And true service should involve reflection, because it is only by reflecting on our actions that we learn. The service-learning I've performed over the past four years has helped me learn who I am.

Serve to learn. Serve to give back. But most importantly, serve to be an instrument of your gifts and talents, and to help where help is needed. It may be a new concept to some, but service is a two-way street. When you go into a service project, don't approach it with the idea that you're there to help “those people.” Enter the project knowing you are going to engage people and grow together. Only then can we do justice to the word service.

I want to share with you with the most inspirational words on service that I have ever heard…

If you want to be important — wonderful. If you want to be recognized — wonderful. If you want to be great — wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's your new definition of greatness. … By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant. — Martin Luther King, Jr., "The Drum Major Instinct," delivered on February 4, 1968 , at Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta , Georgia . - By Niki Vaith

I had a strong negative attitude towards completing any service-learning hours. My first thought was, "I'm going to have to do something boring", however my actual experience was far from boring. I helped out in Proyecto Voz through the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). I had a great time and met a lot of interesting people. The person I was most excited about meeting was a many by the name of Luis Gutierrez. He was a person in a high place of power, basically a representative of the Latino community. Based on the time I shared with him and the time I helped out editing the video, I learned so much more about the Latino Americans living in the U.S. and what difficulties are really out there for people who are illegal aliens and are looking for work. I have to say that my attitude towards the service-learning that we do has changed because it is greatly beneficial to us in more ways than one. It has showed me that there is much more out there that I can learn, and that there are many ways to learn them.

I wonder if the school did not offer this type of opportunity for us to go out and get first hand experience, to actually talk to people, if I would ever have done something like this. I mean politics interests me but if nothing would have made me go out and find something, then I don't think I would have done it. I am grateful that the school makes the students do this because whether the student knows it or not, they are benefiting from the experience and are walking away with something special that they can use in the future. I know I was hesitant in the beginning, but now I know I'm definitely going to do internships in college.

    Jones College Prep

"I have learned so much this past semester in Future Leaders Colloquium. Not only about libraries, the Dewey decimal system, and how to plan a ceremony… but more about me, my community, and others will disabilities. I came into this colloquium not knowing what to expect. When I first heard about the library project, I was very excited to become part of it and start working. However, I was a little doubtful it would go through. It seemed like such a huge task to take on, and like everyone says, "we're just teenagers."

But we did it! All those hours spent rummaging through books, cataloguing them, alphabetizing the shelves, and arranging everything to be ready for the big night paid off. I have so much respect for librarians right now. Even at this stage after the ceremony, there is still so much to do. But I am very glad to have gotten to work with everyone that helped at the library, including the Vaughn students.

Those Vaughn students taught me so much more that I ever would have thought, or that they will ever know. We always seem to look down upon them; we think that they are handicapped, not as smart as us, and are part of a totally different world than us. However, upon my initial meeting with them, I couldn't even tell them apart from our own Northside students.

I share several common interests with those kids. Many of those hours working in the library were spent talking about B2K, dancing, cars, and sports. I was amazed that I was able to talk to them as if they were my own best friends, and we were all a group of friends working to get this great project done.

Their dedication and optimism really had an effect on me. No matter what they were asked to do, they did it… diligently and without complaints. They were a great complement to us. We worked together well and got a lot of things done. Something I never would have expected from kids that I used to think were "lower" than us.

And as one team… not two schools, not one rich school helping a poorer one, but one team… we built a library. It could not have happened without each of the people that were there each week, willing to work hard with a smile on our faces.

I've realized that those students are just like us. They have the same opinions as us, like the same things, and act the same way. There is so much more to each person than their disability; something most of us fail to look past. That's what this colloquium helped me do. I was able to look past the outer covering, past their disability, past the rumors that I heard about them… and see the teenager, the fun-loving hard-working student inside.

I am so happy that I was able to give them something that has been a part of my life since I was small, and I often took for granted. I realize now that they deserve all things that I have, and more. Even after this project is over, I hope to stay in touch with them, visit them every once in a while, and maybe even read a few books in their new library.

This colloquium has offered me numerous opportunities to learn more about myself and open that door to the world. Instead of staying inside my sheltered home in the north side of Chicago, I have been blessed with the chance to give as much my fortunate life to others. I know that from now on I will keep this door open, and continue learning about the world outside my front door."

    Northside College Prep, Future Leaders Colloquium

"I learned a lot from tutoring kids, how to be more patient and understanding. I felt like I was actually doing something proactive for the community, helping kids how to learn better."

    Senn Metropolitan Academy

"I learned that with just a couple hours you can make many people happy."

    Senn Metropolitan Academy

"From this project I have learned that Service Learning is important because it helped me go outside in the world and explore new things."

    Senn Metropolitan Academy

"Through all the service Learning hours I have done, I've learned many things. A few of the things that I learned were that if there is a problem there is always a way you can help to get closer to the solution, if the solution seems hard to reach. Another thing I learned is that when you do Service Learning hours, no matter what it is you do, you are helping the community that you are in. After a day of volunteering/doing Service Learning hours, it feels great to come home and think about what you just did that day, whom you helped out, how many people you helped out, and if you made a difference in some people's lives that day. It feels great to know if you have changed someone's life in some way from bad to good."

    Prosser Career Academy

"Ever since I was a freshman, I have continually been hearing counselors, teachers, and parents, telling students, "You must complete 40 hours in order to graduate." At first I really did not think much of it. Honestly, I thought it was a waste of time and a technique by the Board of Education used to add more stress on students. Freshman year passed, and I had no intention of completing my Service Learning hours, but once I began my sophomore year my opinion on the subject changed drastically. My most memorable experience during Service Learning was this year, when my shop teacher asked me to help him tutor some students during my lunch period. I was very honored by this proposition. I thought it would be a great opportunity to gain more knowledge when it came to working with people. The first day was difficult. I was so used to being the student in class. The challenge came when he assigned me to work with three students. I was in shock when I found out these students were not just any students; they were special education students who needed extra help and guidance. At first it was very difficult, each and every one of them were very different. I had to use different tactics when teaching them. Not all of them responded in the same manner, for some it took longer to decipher the information. It was very rewarding to seem them learn and improve their drafting skills.

It is very ironic when I look back and see that at first I was 40 Service Learning hours as a burden, and now I see it as a rewarding experience. Now, I completely understand why it is called Service Learning, because I sure did learn valuable things that I will take with me when I graduate from high school."

    Prosser Career Academy

"When I first entered Prosser, I heard that every student had to do 40 Service Learning hours. When I heard that, I thought that it would be boring doing these hours, but I was wrong. At Lloyd, I had a lot of fun doing my 40 Service Learning hours. When I was doing my hours at Lloyd, I learned many things I did not know about before.

For example, I learned that teaching young kids can be very pleasant or can also be very difficult. Luckily, the students I tutored were very nice and were willing to try their very best in order to learn. I helped the kids to read, spell, and also solve math problems. Teaching the kids how to read and spell can be very difficult, but eventually the kids that I taught learned and that was very satisfying.

I found that teaching young kids how to solve math problems is very easy, especially teaching addition and subtraction. The only thing that the students need to do in order to learn and make what they learned stay in their head is to practice how to read, spell and solve problems in their houses and to practice every single day, especially in school. If the students do this, then they will be smarter and they will have greater opportunities throughout their lives.

Doing my 40 Service Learning hours, the most important thing that I learned is that teaching is the most important job in America. Without teachers every little boy and every little girl would not have the education that is needed to succeed in their lives. Over the last few days I have developed more respect for my teachers because now I know that teachers push students so that we benefit from it in the future because all their work is for our own personal benefit.

I also know that doing Service Learning hours was not a bad thing because I enjoyed doing these hours and it was a good thing. I enjoyed helping kids gain knowledge. I first thought that doing this project did not make any sense but I think I know what the purpose for assigning this project was. In my opinion the purpose for this project was to give students an understanding and knowledge of life in the real world. This project was very beneficial to me and I hope that other students learn what I learned during my service learning hours. If they learn at least a little bit of what I have learned they will also appreciate people and our community more."

    Prosser Career Academy

Student FAQ's

Printable Version of Student FAQ's

What is Service-Learning?
What is Preparation?
What is Action?
What is Reflection?
How many hours or projects do I have to earn?
Why do I have to earn 40 service-learning hours?
How can I earn my service-learning hours?
How do I select an organization with which to work?
How are my service-learning hours recorded?
Do I need approval before I begin my service project?
What resources do I have to help me?
Do I just show up?
If I performed service in elementary school, can those hours be counted toward my graduation requirement?
Can I get paid while I am earning service hours?
Can I earn service-learning hours by helping family members?
If I go on a field trip or attend a workshop or conference, can I earn service hours?

What is Service-Learning?
Service-learning is a teaching and learning methodology that connects classroom curriculum with identify community issues and needs. Service-learning engages students in projects that serve the community and build their social, civic, and academic capacities. Each service-learning experience must have three distinct components in order for it to count toward the graduation requirement: Preparation, Action, Reflection. Students can earn service-learning credit by participating in a classroom service project, an after-school project, or a student club service project provided that all three components are in place.

What is Preparation?
Students prepare for their service experience when they have spent time learning about the issue they will work on and/or the organization they will be working with. For example, if students in an Environmental Science classroom work to restore a wetland area, they will learn about biodiversity, the importance of wetlands, and the fact that wetlands have diminished dramatically around the United States during the last century. This knowledge helps students understand why the work of wetlands restoration is so important. If students work with an environmental organization, they will also come with knowledge about the organization. Students completing service-learning hours outside of the classroom must complete a Pre-Service Preparation form prior to a service project.

What is Action?
Civic action takes place in many shapes and forms. The three primary forms are:

  • Direct Service – students work to help people or the environment directly by helping at a food pantry, shelter, senior citizen center, natural area, etc.
  • Indirect Service – students provide supports to the work of an organization such as creating hygiene kits, raising money, making a micro-business loan.
  • Advocacy – students write letters, make phone calls, participate in a rally, recommend new policy or advocate for community improvements or changes by contacting legislators.

Effective citizens learn about the tools of democracy by participating in diverse forms of civic action.

What is Reflection?
When students have a chance to talk about, discuss, or present information from their service experience, they are engaging in reflection. If a group of students conducts a project that addresses the problem of hunger, for example, they will also have an opportunity to discuss, write about, and/or present based on some of the following questions:

  • What did we do?
  • Did we make a difference?
  • How did we change?
  • What would we do differently?
  • Where will we go from here?

Students earning service-learning hours outside of the classroom must complete a Post-Service Reflection form. Student may also submit their reflections to the Manager of Democracy Education and Student Leadership for posting on the CPS Service-Learning website at

How many hours or projects do I have to earn?
All CPS students must earn the equivalent of 40 hours of service-learning in order to graduate. Students may, of course, earn more than 40 hours, and we encourage you to do so. Your school determines the combination of projects/hours you need to qualify for graduation. Consult with your school's Service-Learning Coach or school website for information. Your school can choose one of the following three 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

All sophomores must earn at least 20 hours or one project in order to achieve junior status. It is a major problem for you, the school, and any potential community organization if you wait until your senior year to earn your hours.

Why do I have to earn 40 service-learning hours?
Service-learning is hands-on, project-based learning that contributes to the common good. Great projects teach important civic and leadership skills while reinforcing and strengthening classroom learning. If you participate in a great project with your heart, soul, and mind, you can enjoy some of the following:

  • Participate in hands-on learning;
  • Understand the relevance of academics to the real world;
  • Positive impact on social problems;
  • Learn how to get things done;
  • Learn about and explore a potential career interest;
  • Address social injustices and work to remedy them;
  • Strengthen your civic skills;
  • Build your self confidence;
  • Give of yourself and enter into caring relationships with others; and
  • Develop responsibility for your own learning.

We think it is important for our students to develop these skills and behaviors during their years in high school.

How can I earn my service-learning hours?
Students may earn service-learning hours in the following ways:

  • Participate in an approved classroom-integrated service project;
  • Participate in an approved after-school project with a teacher or community organization;
  • Participate in an approved project of an extracurricular club at your school;
  • Volunteer with an approved community organization

How do I select an organization with which to work?
Each school maintains a list of service opportunities and service organizations. Check with your Service-Learning Coach. CPS also maintains a database of approved service organizations. You can view the database and navigate it based on zip code and issues area at At that site you will find additional websites that list volunteer opportunities. Select an organization that works on an issue that is important to you and is close to you.

How are my service-learning hours recorded?
If you participate in a classroom-integrated, your teacher will submit a classroom list of students who completed the service-learning project successfully. Typically, students earn 15 hours by completing a classroom-integrated project. If you are volunteering on your own, you must carry a time sheet with you and have the organization supervisor sign it. Submit your Pre-Service Preparation and Post-Service Reflection forms to your school's Service-Learning Coach along with the time sheet in order to receive credit. Your hours will appear on your report card. You can also ask your SL Coach to print a copy of your current hours.

Do I need approval before I begin my service project?
Yes. It is extremely important that you receive prior approval for your service project before you begin. Each school's Service-Learning Coach must grant approval for a project.

What resources do I have to help me?
Your school's Service-Learning Coach or your classroom teacher is one of your biggest resources. Family, friends, or classmates who have already earned hours can be a valuable resource as well. The Service-Learning Coach can help you get connected to many service-learning opportunities throughout the year. You can also visit the CPS Service-Learning Website at for a list of more than 250 agencies, a calendar, and other ideas for service.

Do I just show up?
No. You should always contact the organization first, set up a first appointment and then show up on time. You should also prepare yourself by completing the Pre-Service Preparation form. Be enthusiastic and prepared to support the work of the organization.

If I performed service in elementary school, can those hours be counted toward my graduation requirement?
No. You must earn all 40 hours during your high school years. Of course, we do encourage you to be involved in as much serve and activism at all times.

Can I get paid while I am earning service hours?
No. If you do get paid, you cannot count those hours toward your graduation requirement. If you work at a for-profit business (restaurant, clothing store) and work some hours without pay, these hours cannot be counted toward your graduation requirement.

Can I earn service-learning hours by helping family members?
No. Service-learning is designed to expand your horizons and help the broader community. We want you to learn about new organizations, new issues, and new ideas through your service-learning experience.

If I go on a field trip or attend a workshop or conference, can I earn service hours?
No. The only way that students can earn hours by attending raining events or workshops is if the workshop or training is directly connected to a service project. For example, if a group of students attend a workshop about human rights advocacy and then develop a project to free someone who has been falsely imprisoned, the hours spent in training can be counted.


Page Last Modified on Friday, May 22, 2020