Virginia Students Pursuing A Year of National Service
Click HERE to visit the Service Year Alliance homepage.
Click HERE to read about the Governor’s Summit at the College of William & Mary on October 4-5, 2015, where Virginia college presidents discussed the “big idea” of a service year.
Click HERE to find out how James Maddison University is adapting the service year model.
Just Imagine…If Every Person Gave a Year of National Service
Karen Kennedy Schultz
Winchester Star Submission, Commentary
October 19, 2015
The wrong question was asked. Three years ago, General Stanley McChrystal was asked if he thought the military draft should be resurrected. He responded, wrong question. The question should be: How would our nation be different if every person would give a year of national service? How would that lead to greater understanding and connectedness? We cannot simply legislate a brighter future nor can we expect our political leaders to come up with the solutions. What we can ask is for each of us to contribute time and talent to service. We can share a sense of connectedness and greater understanding through this service.
In June of 2013 at the Aspen Ideas Festival, General McChrystal moved forward with leaders in the non-profit, government, private industry, health care, and education. The concept of the Franklin Project was announced. “We are leading the effort to improve citizenship by giving every young person in America the opportunity to serve. Sometime between the ages of 18 and 28, the young person would do a fully paid, full-time year of service in one of an array of areas, including health, poverty, conservation, or education.”
Virginia is doing its part in moving this conversation forward. Early October, the Governor and First Lady of Virginia convened Virginia college and university presidents, members of their staffs, students and others at the College of William & Mary for the purpose of considering higher education’s role in a service year. President Cheryl Thompson-Stacy of Lord Fairfax Community College and Shenandoah University’s president, Tracy Fitzsimmons were two of the conveners. John Bridgeland, Co-Chair of the Franklin Project, encouraged attendees to consider new ways to support the service year. Uniting higher education and the Franklin Project would create a natural link between the mission and vision of our colleges and universities and our nation’s great need for a renewal of citizenship. Preparing young adults for community engagement is the aim of our most forward-thinking schools. For example, the president of James Madison University has spearheaded a university-wide shared vision for JMU to be the national model for the engaged university, Shenandoah University encourages all students, faculty, and staff to be involved in service throughout their time at our university. Many others seek to inspire a lifelong commitment to the benefit of the common good.
One-third of American adults are now earning bachelor’s degrees. By acknowledging the role of colleges and universities in the formation of social networks that influence civil discourse, it becomes clear that these institutions should become a place where long-lasting relationships with diverse others can be established. If our nation’s colleges and universities do more to encourage a commingling of students with liberal and conservative leanings, students would begin their service year with developed skills in discourse, civility and understanding. General education courses aimed at addressing controversial topics with civility could have long-term transformational effects well beyond the college setting.
Might a service year emerge as a counterweight to the growing divide between citizens who have vastly different expectations for the future of our country? And, might colleges move more closely toward their great aspiration: to cultivate an engaged and enlightened citizenry where understanding and appreciating differences as essential to a flourishing democracy is the goal?
Colleges and universities in partnership with non-profits and businesses can help prepare citizens for the challenges and opportunities related to working in their community by developing new programs and structures that meet their civic-minded vision and mission. In doing so, many of the one million young adults fully immersed in community will be equipped with the tools to foster connectivity and to embrace diverse perspectives. The Franklin Project can be a part of the solution to our national conundrum of failed common citizenship and higher education can play a role in preparing many of the service year participants for the challenge.
For information or questions contact:
Director, Dr. Karen Schultz at 540-678-4385, firstname.lastname@example.org
CPSS Administrative Assistant at 540-665-4696
The Center for Public Service and Scholarship is located in Gregory Hall, room 157.