South Lake High School Service-Learning Program
dynamic vision for youth in service began in 1993, with Evelyn Robinson
leading an after-school community service program at Groveland’s
South Lake High School in Lake County. By 2001, her vision expanded to
a network of 27 student designed service-learning projects, involving 2,800
students and 25 in-classroom partnerships with teachers.
The South Lake program consists of student volunteers who engage at various levels of the design, leadership and tracking of dozens of service-learning initiatives. Students participate in trainings that promote teamwork, leadership and creativity before leading workshops for other students on the development of individual projects. Completely owned by
the students, each project’s facilitators develop agendas, determine leadership roles, produce materials, document outcomes, forge community and business partnerships, provide logistical support to projects and throw much-deserved celebrations at the completion of each one. In this model, students are assigned to help teachers in their project development and execution as part of their leadership classes. This approach provides the program with the key to its scale and success. Students are empowered as partners in the entire process, from in-classroom training to the implementation of service. Designed to distribute much of the instructional load from already overburdened teachers to excited and engaged youth, the South Lake High School program is innovation at its best. Past projects have included ESE art students making bowls in cooperation with Empty Bowls, a homelessness action group. At-risk and traditional students have built parks and gazebos, made flower arrangements to deliver to local nursing home facilities, and improved community spaces with several murals. students have been invited to speak and provide trainings all over the world, including Lithuania, Spain, and at this year's National Service-Learning Conference in Denver. This is truly a program whose singular goal is to empower youth and challenge them to succeed. Ms. Robinson's vision has been to give students the authority and skills to be thoughtful, successful citizens, and she adds “the more you expose kids to serving others, the more they see they are worth something”.