The mission of the International School of the Americas (ISA) is "to challenge all members of the school community to consistently reflect on and question what it means to be acting at one's fullest potential as a learner, leader, and global citizen." The ISA Service Program represents a significant means by which this mission is enacted and accomplished. In this program, students are asked to complete 120 hours of service and corresponding service reflections as apart of their ISA high school experience.
The ISA Service Program exists to actively engage students in meaningful, authentic, and personally relevant service activities. This service includes volunteerism, community service, and service learning. These three forms of service are defined as follows by Furco (1996) in “Service Learning: A Balanced Approach to Experiential Education.”
Volunteerism: “the engagement of students in activities where the primary emphasis is on the service being provided and the primary intended beneficiary is clearly the service recipient” (p. 13)
Community Service: “the engagement of students in activities that primarily focus on the service being provided as well as the benefits the service activities have on the recipients” (p. 13)
Service Learning: “the intention to equally benefit the provider and the recipient of the service as well as to ensure equal focus on both the service being provided and the learning that is occurring” (p. 14)
We value all three of these service activities and encourage students to pursue their interests and passions as they pursue both a breadth and depth of service experience in a variety of settings. Because we know that sustained service activities have the potential to deepen the experience, develop leadership skills, and build partnerships between students and their broader community, ISA recommends that at least 30 of the 120 hours to be spent with one service partner. These sustained activities are more likely lead to service learning, with mutual benefit for all partners. Partnerships can involve not only those being served but also businesses, community organizations, social service agencies, and other groups. By bringing people together in collaboration, these service partnerships can bridge intergenerational, ethnic, and cultural gaps, provide young people with strong role models, and strengthen community infrastructures.
Throughout the process, reflection is the key to student growth and understanding. Reflection on action ensures that the experience has meaning for students; it is the difference between simply “doing” and “learning from doing.” Reflection activities are used before, during, and after the service experience (as appropriate) to analyze and reflect on the activity and its meaning. Most often, students will be reflecting on the service experience after the activity has taken place.
Using the provided Documentation and Reflection Form, students can assess where they are in the learning process, get feedback from others, voice concerns, share feelings, and internalize the learning. They are asked to document the relevant facts and then select three of five possible prompts for reflection (note: students might also want to collect and upload artifacts, photos, etc). The forms will be stored in their in their four-year ISA portfolio.
Both the advisor and the grade-level team will provide both support and accountability over the four-year period. While we encourage students to complete at least 30 hours per year, students can, of course, pace completion of the 120 hours in any way they choose (including the use of summer). An ISA Service online community will also help to facilitate student planning, linking students to one another and to other members of the ISA community (faculty, staff, others) and provide resources and support.
ISA students will be able to use their service activities in support of their four-year portfolio. They can make connections between their service activities and ISA learning objectives. These connections can be made from two different directions: either by identifying specific learning objectives and developing a service activity that meets them, or by identifying the service activity and then exploring the many ways it can be tied to curriculum or learning objectives.
Finally, we recognize that ISA students are often involved in a variety of activities and are often highly committed to service through organizations they participate in. In fact, we anticipate that many ISA students will exceed the 120 hour recommendation and we will recognize that in the senior awards ceremony.
We want students to make discerning decisions regarding what they believe contributes to the ISA Service Program and their portfolio. As long as students provide the appropriate documentation and associated reflections and can accurately describe the learning, that service will become part of the students’ service hours (pending review by the advisor and/or team). Appeals to advisor and/or team decisions can be made to the ISA Principal or the grade-level board.
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