Summer program engages students in service learning

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FULTON - This week, the Missouri Association of Student Councils (MASC) began its summer leadership workshop in hopes of growing the youth volunteer base within the state.

This comes after a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that says teenagers are the second largest age group to volunteer.

The seminar has been promoting service since the 1960s, and this year marked the largest turn out in the program's history.  The workshop filled 11 dormitories on the host campus William Woods University in Fulton.

The program spans the course of a week and will teach leadership, teamwork and the importance of giving back to their communities to the more than 750 participating students.

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, Missouri is ranked fifteenth among all 50 states for volunteerism, having more than 1.5 million civic participants.

Research by Child Trends Data Bank indicates youth that are communally involved have greater development of academics, work ethic and character - all of which carry over into adulthood.

Terri Johnson is the executive director of the Missouri Association of Student Councils. She said teaching kids about the principles of hard work and integrity is the reason why the program has been around so long.

"The purpose is really twofold. One of our mottos for the association is ‘serve others' so we believe this is an opportunity for us to serve," Johnson said. "The second thing is we have to teach project planning which helps kids learn how to do a project from the very beginning to learn everything it takes to make it successful all the way to cleanup and evaluation."

The students participate in a variety of character building activities, one of which was planning and hosting a public carnival to unite the community and raise money for the Special Olympics.

Taylor Burdiss is a high school workshop participant but also serves on the National Student Council Advisory Board as the region six representative. Her leadership and participation in public service helped get her elected as the representative for Missouri, as well as five other states. She said civic service builds character.

"At a young age, I think it helps develop who they are themselves. Serving others and helping out others and getting closer and forming relationships with others helps you figure out who you are yourself," Burdiss said. "I've seen over the past couple years the impact student leadership can make."

The program has activities planned each day this week. The workshop concludes on June 12.