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. After the pandemic, the project has revived, with eight high schools in Orange County, New York committed to service-learning events in the fall of 2022. 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 service-learning 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 (e.g., New York State's new Seal of Civil Readiness, the National Honor Society, JROTC, etc.) a review of local organizations providing service learning opportunities (whether present at the service-learning fair or accessible through the guidance counselor's office and other sources, including virtual services).
Part II is a service-learning fair, usually a day-long job fair type event students cycling students through the day where…
Students on-stop shop for and consult with representatives of veterand, community, and volunteer organizations to find pathways to service learning that best suit their interests – in New York, schools get help from the Orange County Youth Bureau in finding and bringing in these organizations
To extend the fairs into the virtual space, online services that link students to service organizations include JustServe. In Orange County, NY, the Youth Bureau has teamed up with the United Way of the Dutchess-Orange County Region Volunteer Portal, which links these organizations with youth volunteers, both thorugh the schools and directly with the students – while schools are able to collect data on community service participation in response to service-learning curriculum and graduation requirements, students are able to obtain certificates for resume building, regardless of their future plans.