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EDUCATION REPORT – June 26, 2003: Community Service by American Students - 2003-06-25

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Millions of American students take part in service programs. They help people in their communities as part of their education. They work on projects like improving the environment and feeding homeless people. Many school systems in the United States now require students to do some kind of community service as part of their studies.

Students involved in service projects help themselves as well as their communities. They learn about the needs of people and aid organizations. Some college administrators say public service may also help high school graduates gain acceptance to the college of their choice.

Many schools in the United States offer courses in what is called service-learning. These educational programs teach methods to aid the community.

Nicholas Senn High School in Chicago, Illinois, is one of these schools. It has received national honors for its service-learning program. Students there were not doing well in their studies back when the program began in nineteen-ninety-seven. Teachers say doing community service has led many students to work harder in school. School officials say mathematics and reading skills have improved.

Teachers try to link their classroom material with current community needs. For example, a history teacher talked about the issue of hunger in some American communities. After that, students helped at a food center for poor people.

Students at Nicholas Senn High School come from seventy-five countries. They speak fifty languages. Even students who have just arrived from other nations perform community service.

Wilkinson Junior High School in Middleburg, Florida, also has received national honors for its service-learning program. Its twelve- and thirteen-year-old students work on two major projects. They are helping to find the best ways to restore trees to an area of land that was used for mining titanium. They also test water from the nearby Saint John's River and report the results to local water officials.

Public schools are not the only ones that require community service. Bishop Ireton High School is a private Roman Catholic school in Alexandria, Virginia. In one project, students there organized programs for people who live in a retirement center near the school.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.