Service-Learning Project Benefits Men Experiencing Homelessness

Service-Learning Project Benefits Men Experiencing Homelessness

A group of PEP Phoenix upperclassmen have just completed a service-learning project that gets them one step closer to earning their high school diploma. The project is part of a national leadership program for 6th – 12th graders called Lead4Change, in which students research and propose a project to improve their communities. Those with the strongest proposals can win funding to complete the project.

The students at PEP Phoenix, who regularly volunteer at St. Herman House, a local homeless shelter, talked about ways to help the men who were staying there. The group decided to create hygiene kits for the men. The students saw that they didn’t always have easy access to items like soap, shampoo and toothpaste.

Leadership and Self-Awareness through Service Learning

“This project was student led,” said Michele Dubbs, the life skills teacher-counselor at PEP Phoenix and the one who shepherded the group through the project. Lead4Change requires that students identify a problem in their school or community and come up with an idea to fix it. Dubbs said her students saw the need at St. Herman House and they wanted to help. She was impressed by how impactful the service-learning program through Lead4Change has been for her students.

“For many of our students, their lives are filled with traumatic experiences, and while doing Lead4Change a lot of the students opened up about the traumas that they have suffered,” says Dubbs. “They also were able to see that trauma in other people.”

Michele Dubbs explains how her students understood the trauma experienced by the men at St. Herman House.

Goal Setting

Another important component of the program involves goal setting. Students begin the project by setting goals. Dubbs says her students wanted to focus on things like negotiation, compromise, listening and respect.

“The students really demonstrated that,” says Dubbs. Students at PEP, who face many mental health and behavioral challenges, can sometimes struggle to get along with their peers. Yet, they did. “I think they were thinking about the greater good and the people that they were helping.” Because the students were working together to solve a concrete problem, they were able to focus on the task at hand and get it done without conflict.

Meeting Diploma Requirements

In addition to the service-learning benefits of this project, students can also earn credentials toward their diploma by participating. In Ohio, there are many ways for students to demonstrate competency to earn their high school diploma. Many young people at PEP achieve some of the credentials they need by demonstrating competency in career-focused activities. The service-learning program through Lead4Change is one way for students to demonstrate competency. Through the program, they can earn three of the 12 credentials needed to demonstrate competency in career-focused activities.

Julie Lanigan, educational services coordinator, explains how Lead4Change meets diploma requirements in Ohio.

We won’t know if the students win the Lead4Change grant to complete their project until later this year. In the meantime, staff have donated to ensure the students are able to put together one set of hygiene kits. The hope is that Lead4Change will see the group’s commitment and award them money so that they can expand their project.

Learn More

For more information about service learning at PEP, visit our website. To see if a student in your district is a good fit for Positive Education Program, contact Nicole Molnar, clinical coordinator, at 216-361-7760 x 110 or via email.

Please note, referrals to PEP’s Day Treatment Centers are made through school districts in consultation with parents. Interested parents or caregivers should contact their school administrator.