Project SUCCESS is a unique service-learning program in which youth with and without disabilities use community service activities to apply academic lessons to the world beyond the classroom. The Project SUCCESS curriculum addresses team building, diversity, effective communication skills, civic leadership, accessing community needs and community service. Through the curriculum, students learn how to assess the needs and problems of their community and work together to create solutions. In many cases, Project SUCCESS leads to a long-term solution because students from the program experience the importance of service learning and continue to give back to their community.
Historically, youth with disabilities are the recipients of service and rarely seen as possible service providers. Because of this viewpoint, many young people have been prevented from accessing the valuable personal and professional opportunities provided from the experience of serving. Project SUCCESS offers all youth a chance to experience the benefits of volunteerism. By building on the skills that each member possesses to overcome societal and personal limitations, the students in Project SUCCESS can create an environment where diversity and individualism are celebrated.
UCPA of San Diego launched Project SUCCESS in December of 1997. Currently, the project is held at eleven school and community sites in the San Diego Area. During the 2004-2005 school year, over 215 students completed 160 service projects and volunteered over 2,500 hours. Nearly half of those students are young people with disabilities. Every year new students are invited to participate in the program. This ongoing enrollment leaves room for more students to learn the importance of service learning. Project SUCCESS is funded through the UCP and is paid for through fundraising events, local and state grants.
Through this project young people are given the opportunity to contribute to their own communities while at the same time learning about the value of inclusion and volunteerism. Past service projects include visiting the Children’s Convalescent Hospital and nursing homes, beach clean-ups, graffiti paint-outs, sponsoring a can food drive for the San Diego food bank, organizing a book drive for a local library, holding fund-raisers to support local charities, making cards and crafts for military and elderly and participating in local events such as Martin Luther King Day festivities with Volunteer San Diego. Through evaluations and feedback from the community, it has been demonstrated that project SUCCESS has made an impact on the youth volunteers and their community.
Project SUCCESS involves innovative and unique ways for youth to give back to their community. The all inclusive model and curriculum help students to choose service projects that will improve their community and impact serious social problems. Project SUCCESS recently started an interactive website, (www.sdprojectsuccess.org) which illustrates various service projects students have been involved in and is helpful for teachers who want to start a Project SUCCESS Site at their school.