The National Service Ride’s main platform consists of local public events that any community can organize. Veterans of many kinds come to schools on their motorcycles to set off interactive sessions to help local youth understand the meaning and value of service, and how they can best help themselves by helping others. Then service organizations show them the many pathways to service learning. Then they sign up for service learning opportunities.
The project created and refined this platform at a number of proof-of-concept events in 2016 and 2017. Adaptable and flexible to the needs and capacities of all involved, these events are part of related school or community initiatives.
They connect schools, motorcycle clubs, and veterans, community, and volunteer service organizations, extending their own platforms and initiatives and reaching youth in a way none could do alone. Schools benefit from a scalable, "one-stop shopping" platform to inspire, motivate, and connect students with local service learning opportunities – the educational outcomes including well-rounded young persons better qualified as citizens, workers, and leaders.
Local communities stand to gain cohesion and resilience to mitigate many costly social problems through generational partnering in a bottom-up process of change management and youth and citizen empowerment. And veterans can impact their communities in a more direct and meaningful way. In addition to greater access to youth, service organizations gain public visibility and awareness, with impacts on branding, membership, volunteerism, and fundraising.
These events for large groups of students involve two parts. Part I is an hour-long seminar that involves:
- Opening up with: a veteran-led “mindful moment of gratitude” to honor the fallen by giving them “a country worth their sacrifice;” thanking military, police, fire, first responders, medical and health care services, public educators, etc. for their service; and, talking about “what is service?”
- Call forward of carefully selected local exemplars of service who provide two-minute testimonies of what service has meant to them and what they got out of it, personally and professionally, then move quickly to student-led storytelling on what some of their peers are already getting out of community service and a broader discussion of what others want to or can do.
- Answer “What’s in it for me?” with a review of the personal and professional benefits of service.
- Student-faculty review of curriculum or school award requirements for community service and a listing local organizations providing service learning opportunities (whether present at the "service learning fair" or accessible through the guidance counselor's office and other sources).
Part II, immediately following the seminar, is a "service learning fair" where…
Students shop for and consult with representatives of community and volunteer organizations to negotiate and sign "service learning contracts" for so many hours over the next school year.
Upon completion of the contract, students receive a certificate of completion (and possible letters of reference) to add to resumes, college applications, etc.