By Natie Hara, DC High School Program Coordinator
Photos and Video Courtesy of AALEAD DC Youth Council and AALEAD Youth
AALEAD is proud to share highlights from our virtual service learning projects! As the pandemic continues, AALEAD youth and staff have openly discussed how they have been impacted by COVID-19. However, beyond our dialogue, the DC Youth Council chose to take action and complete two virtual service learning projects. Starting in November, they brainstormed ways in which they wanted to serve the community and decided on two projects: writing letters of gratitude and hope to frontline workers and people affected by COVID-19, and creating informational videos about the CDC’s COVID-19 safety procedures. In December, they facilitated two workshops, filmed and edited six videos, and sent over 40 letters to frontline workers and people affected by COVID-19.
“How has your life been affected by COVID-19?” AALEAD staff asked the youth. Throughout the semester and year we discussed the various changes whether in the college admissions process, the shift to virtual school and virtual AALEAD programs, the sudden scarcity of toilet paper, etc. COVID-19 has impacted youth in countless ways and many have felt “unmotivated” or “distracted” as it has dominated much of their headspace.
However, the DC Youth Council turned this pandemic into motivation and felt empowered to complete a service project around COVID-19. Based on their experiences with various other service learning opportunities, the DC Youth Council adapted those projects to an online space, writing letters and making videos virtually. The goal was to raise awareness for COVID-19 safety procedures and promote positivity for those fighting on the frontlines. They recognized the lack of youth voice within the COVID-19 conversation and sought out accurate information on safety precautions and ways to connect with frontline workers. Altogether, over 30 youth participated in writing letters to frontline workers and about 10 youth helped film, produce, and edit the video.
Afterwards, staff collected youth feedback on lessons learned and their reflections on the service projects. Many youth learned more about the specifics of COVID-19 safety practices, strengthened their understanding of the importance of consistent safety measures, and connected their personal and collective responsibility to COVID-19 safety. Youth shared about the biggest lessons they learned and the projects’ impacts on their views of COVID-19.
Youth also reflected that they learned more about the needs of the community and the roles that they play in promoting physical safety and mental health.
Despite the challenges the world is facing, AALEAD is inspired by the youth’s drive for a better future. Not only have these projects promoted positivity and raised awareness for the larger community, it also did so within AALEAD. While youth empathized with the struggles of frontline workers and spread positive messages to them, they also began to feel optimistic as they discovered the power they had to create change. They realized the interconnectedness of all people and the importance of working together for the common good and uplifting the work done by others. Additionally, the video project encouraged participants to research facts backed by credible sources and represent those facts in a way authentic to them, such as in a video on YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok. Youth recognized the power they have as a community of young people and together, they completed two incredible virtual projects.
Beyond AALEAD, we are confident that our youth will be leaders who converse about current issues and develop creative and impactful solutions. When asked, “How has your life been affected by COVID-19?” youth responded with, “What can we do to help?” and worked together to take action and make a difference in their communities. This cycle continues as youth align their values to issues important to them and then exercise their voices to facilitate positive changes. Through these projects, youth have had the opportunity to positively impact their current situations and AALEAD looks forward to the changes youth will facilitate in the future.