Kareemah Johnson’s 7th-grade students at Independence Charter School West weren’t too sure about service-learning.  The concept was unfamiliar to them, and they thought it might be one more boring thing they’d have to do during their school day.   

Then, a strange thing happened.  As Ms. Johnson began including Need in Deed’s service-learning framework, My Voice, in her lesson plans, the students became more and more engaged.  She encouraged them to discuss what they love about their community and what concerns them.  

Most of their discussions revolved around two issues: gun violence and litter.   

Of gun violence, Ahlee said, “It is sad to see how young people are being killed. I don’t like how families have to wake up to hear that their child has been killed.” 

Ibrahim, concerned about litter, said, “It’s very sad that a place of brotherly love is full of dirty trash. But if we could spend some time cleaning up, we can help the streets of Philly.” 

The students’ concerns were validated when during their community walk, a signature lesson in the My Voice process, Ms. Johnson encouraged them to interview community members in the grocery store near their school.  Armed with clipboards, interview questions, and a bit of nervous energy, the students asked shoppers to name their concerns about the community.  Many shared similar stories and sentiments about gun violence and litter and expressed how proud they were of the students trying to make a difference.  Now, students are excited to continue their investigation of these social issues and think about what social action they might take to make a change.  They have already created a chant about stopping the violence in Philadelphia.   

Ms. Johnson and her 7th graders are a shining example of how Need in Deed can transform the educational experience for students and teachers.  The students are using their academic skills to investigate real community issues.  Ms. Johnson says Need in Deed allows her to fulfill her school’s mission to “develop independent and thoughtful global citizens that understand the wider world.”    

Watching these students become changemakers in their community is inspiring.  As Ma’kah so eloquently stated: “I don’t want to wait for change, I want to be the change and help the community before it’s too late.” 

Join us in congratulating Ms. Kareemah Johnson and her 7th grade students for winning our fall My Voice Web Award!   

 For more of how the students’ thinking about service-learning has evolved, check out the videos below. 

Layla Haines first impressions of service-learning with Need in Deed 

Sanahj Lambert’s first impression of service-learning with Need in Deed