The Volunteer Service Clearinghouse works to connect volunteers with community-based organizations through the centralization and creation of service opportunities and ensure student voice is represented in the community. It began as a student initiative in February 1998 at the local President’s Student Summit when two students from Roncalli High School identified the need to connect volunteers with service opportunities in the Aberdeen area. In partnership with the Aberdeen Service-Learning Center (ASLC), the students created a strategic plan which included an AmeriCorps*VISTA to coordinate the student-managed volunteer center. In the fall of 2000 the Clearinghouse received a $50,000 grant from the Knight Foundation and transitioned to become independent of the ASLC, which allowed an expansion of programs and the employment of a full-time coordinator.
A board of high school and college students govern Clearinghouse activities and are the key decision-makers. This board is expected to assess the community needs and resources, create service projects, raise funds and stimulate involvement in volunteerism. The Clearinghouse also facilitates meaningful opportunities for young people to be represented in the community through youth-adult partnerships. Student teams work with community partners to instigate various channels for the ideas and voices of students to be heard in the community. Examples include ServiceVote 2000 and the South Dakota Student Issues Forum.
The Clearinghouse collaborates with 25 community-based organizations to centralize service opportunities. The student board also creates and implements several service opportunities. During 2000, the Clearinghouse mobilized more than 600 volunteers that contributed 2200 hours of service. Another highlight includes the Clearinghouse initiating the establishment of the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce Students Taking Active Responsibility (STAR) award to recognize the accomplishments of students and student groups through service and the Coordinator receiving the Firestone 100 Who Serve Award. The following are some project summaries:
Each year the Clearinghouse coordinates service projects for national service days, suchas Martin Luther King Jr. Day and National Youth Service Day. The Clearinghouse hosted a “Day of Learning” educational program on the civil rights movement with approximately 150 individuals from the Boys and Girls Club, YMCA Bridges and the community for the 2000 King Holiday. The day consisted of speakers, art projects, skits, games and other breakout sessions involving 35 community volunteers.
To celebrate National Youth Service day, the Clearinghouse organizes an annual Youth Volunteer Fair. Youth have the opportunity to participate in 20 arts and crafts projects hosted by volunteers from community-based organizations. During the inaugural year of the event, more than 700 projects were completed that impacted 1,000 individuals!
Some of the other service projects implemented by the Clearinghouse have included playground construction, tree planting, and winter survival kit assembly.
The Clearinghouse also implements alternative breaks, a mentoring program and monthly service-learning projects through the Into the Streets program. In January, a youth benefit concert will be held to raise funds for the skatepark and the 10-week Prudential Youth Leadership Institute will commence.