Today, we proudly celebrated the end of another successful school year by watching more than 40 local middle school students graduate from our Volunteer Project Leader (VPL) program. In the past year, these students completed 18 projects and gave 865 hours of service back to their own communities.
The VPL program was adapted from a national model that trains adults on how to lead and manage volunteer projects on their own time, helping transform casual volunteers into active community leaders. Since it launched, we’ve expanded the program to all three campuses served by our Target Graduation program – Mendez, Webb and Decker Middle School – bringing together UWATX’s volunteer management expertise with our efforts to help students stay on the path to graduation.
The program helps students become active in their own communities from a young age. The three schools that currently have the program all serve low-income areas, so students are paying back into a system of supports that they have benefitted from or improving neighborhoods where there are significant needs and barriers.
As part of the VPL program, students conduct community assessments to determine projects that could better their local community. Based on the responses they receive from the assessments, students devote their entire school year to these projects.
Last year at Decker Middle School, one of the key needs they identified was for a safer route to school, since the speed limit on Decker Lane was 50 mph. Students organized their classmates and the community – and received funding from the Texas Department of Transportation to build a sidewalk.
This year, at both Decker and Webb Middle Schools, students heard from their peers about needing easier access to healthier food, especially fruits and vegetables. The students at Manor’s Decker Middle School turned an unused space in front of the school into a community garden that is within walking distance to some of the community’s poorest areas. In the next year, the VPL students will encourage residents to use and take any fruit or vegetable. Students at Webb Middle School started a similar community garden.
Beyond this school year, these graduates will go on to be more engaged in their community and to keep making a difference for years to come. Congrats, grads!
TL;DR – check out the SlideShare highlights.