So the election is over and for so many people the abiding question is, “What next?” This question resonates throughout the country as we all look to see who will fill out new leadership positions, what new policies will come, what future direction will we move in together. For me, the greatest lesson this election has to teach us is about the power of youth in America. Much is being written about the youth vote and about President-Elect Obama’s harnessing of youth energy to build his grassroots movement. While the numbers on how many more young people actually voted this year are still out, the more important fact is in. Young people got actively involved in this election with unprecedented energy and passion. Whatever your political persuasion, you have to take that as a good sign, a sign that young people are interested and engaged, that they believe in their ability to influence the country and to have a positive impact on their neighbors whether they live next door or on another continent.
The relationship between building on student’s strengths and the call to service is obvious. Building on strengths from an early age is part of the process of determining where you will make your best contribution in life. That contribution will be in your job, your family and hopefully in your community. Kids who know their strengths feel a commitment to putting them to use serving others. They feel empowered by their self-knowledge. We as a nation need to continually provide young people with outlets and opportunities for their drive to serve others. Service to others has innumerable benefits for young people, not the least of which is to volunteer their strengths to a team and refine their own self knowledge.
There are many organizations out there promoting youth service. One of my favorites is The League. The League uses classroom teachers to engage kids in friendly competition with others all around the country (and the world) in service projects. While service projects which are contained within a school are great, The League’s structure helps classrooms connect with each other and see how others are engaged in the same work. Right now, they are promoting The Drive, the largest student-run food and clothing drive in the nation. Their website also has lots of resources for teachers, lesson plans, how to guides and much more. So if you are in a school and you want to see your students put their strengths to work for others, check them out. They are just one of many organizations working to create a revived social consciousness in today’s young people. Hope starts here, one act of kindness at a time.