Service-learning & Youth Service

Service-learning is an approach to teaching and learning in which students use academic and civic knowledge and skills to address genuine community needs that are clearly related to the academic objectives of a course and/or major field of study.

Youth Service occurs when young people are actively engaged in opportunities to improve their community. Youth service projects are youth-led volunteer projects that encourage young people to identify needs they are passionate about and use their own unique set of skills to make a positive change.

Process for Creating a Service Project

Service-learning and youth service projects can be best understood through the five step model that is to be followed when conducting a service project. This model is known as I.P.A.R.D.

  1. Investigate: Students identify community needs and brainstorm potential service projects
  2. Plan: Students create an action plan and partner with a community member for their service project.
  3. Act: Students implement their service project.
  4.  Reflect: Students reflect on their experience throughout the project.
  5. Demonstrate: Students share their project results with others.

To learn more about the process of creating a service-project, download our toolkit.

Benefits of Service-learning & Youth Service

For Schools

  • Service-learning increases youth participation in-class and boosts attendance rates.
  • Engages 21st century skills and is a form of social-emotional learning.
  • Evidence shows academic gains in classes that participate in service-learning, including improvement on achievement test scores.
  • Youth are 19% more likely to graduate from college than those who did not do service-learning

For Youth

  • Service-learning makes volunteering accessible to all—allowing those who may be recipients of service realize their capacity to effect change and give back to others.
  • Service-learning provides career experience and real-world application of learning
  • Service-learning allows youth to explore interests and skills, helping to enhance one’s personal identity
  • Service-learning creates a community reflective of youth’s interest.

For Nonprofits

  • Involving youth in service at a young age often leads to them becoming life-long volunteers
  • Nonprofits receive access to new skills and capabilities beyond their organization
  • Grows nonprofits volunteer pool via youth, K-12 staff, and families of youth
  • Provides nonprofits with creative & energetic volunteers who bring diverse and new perspectives to work

For Communities

  • Service-learning decreases incidences of negative social behaviors.
  • Youth are more likely to engage with their community after a service-learning project.
  • Those who engage in service-learning are more likely to vote and/or run for office than their counterparts.
  • Service-learning can reduce stereotypes and facilitates cultural and racial understanding

Join our Youth Service Committee

Volunteer Iowa is seeking youth volunteers for our Youth Service Committee, a part of the Iowa Youth Service stakeholder group. Volunteers will act in a capacity-building role and work to identify and implement strategies to increase youth-initiated and youth-led volunteering and service learning.

Learn more and apply to join the Youth Service Committee.

National Service-Learning Conference

The National Service-Learning Conference® hosted by the National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC) highlights and promotes service-learning as a way of teaching and learning that builds academic and citizenship skills while renewing communities. Registration for the 35th Annual Conference is now open. Join NYLC April 3-6, 2024 in Minnesota and explore how #ServiceLearning can move our work with young people from passion to action. Head to for more information!