5 Steps to Ensure Impactful Service
Here's how to ensure volunteer fulfillment beyond hour requirements.

Service learning offers high school students the opportunity to positively influence their community and acquire valuable skills. By implementing the following 5 steps - showcasing achievable goals, recognizing impactful efforts, seeking captivating opportunities, promoting reflection, and supporting ongoing impact - students can ensure that their service learning is meaningful and impactful. Let's motivate our students to participate in service learning and create meaningful change in their communities.

1) Don’t Just Set a Goal - Show It

Proper preparation and planning are essential for a successful service learning project. This includes setting clear goals and expectations, creating a timeline, and assigning roles and responsibilities for each student.

Let’s say you have a 50 hour service requirement per year. Instead of just setting this, try to help your students contextualize the impact and offer an example timeline. For example.

This year’s community engagement minimum is 50 hours! Every hour of engagement gives us an opportunity to give back to our local communities & shape a brighter tomorrow. While it may sound overwhelming at first, here’s some resources to help you complete your service learning requirement while maximizing your impact:
  1. FoodBank Volunteer Shift (5 hours) * 10 shifts = 50 hours
  2. Peer Tutor (2 hours) * 25 Sessions = 50 hours
  3. Book Sorter & Distributor (5 hours) * 10 shifts = 50 hours

For both 1 and 3, meeting our community engagement minimum would only take 10 days which you can spread out across both semesters.

2) Reward Students Who Emphasize Impact

Service learning is not just about completing a certain number of community service hours. It is about understanding the purpose behind the service and how it benefits both the community and the students. This understanding is crucial for students to fully engage in the service and learn from the experience.

  • Consider explaining the benefits of service learning for both students and the community at the beginning of the year.
  • For any new volunteer opportunities, consider adding a service hour reward for any student who is willing to spent 1hr+ researching and condensing that nonprofit’s work into a presentation for their peers.
  • Lastly, share examples of successful service learning projects that had a meaningful impact on the community

3) Find Service that Aligns with Student Interests

One of the key factors in ensuring impactful service learning is finding the right service project for the students. This means choosing a project that aligns with the students' interests and skills, as well as the needs of the community.

  • Require or reward students for completing a form to reflect on their skills and passions
  • Meet with students individually or provide a list of different volunteer opportunities based on their interests. Tools like Othea.org can automate this process by notifying your students of nonprofits and student leadership opportunities specifically related to their interests.
  • Incentivize community engagement beyond hours by offering career or learning development workshops as well.

4) Reflection and Learning

Reflection is a crucial part of service learning, as it allows students to process their experience and gain a deeper understanding of the impact they have made. It also helps students to recognize their own personal growth and development through the service.

  • Explain the importance of reflection in service learning
  • Share different methods of reflection, such as journaling or group discussions
  • Encourage students to think about how the service has impacted their own personal growth and development

5) Sustaining the Impact

The impact of service learning should not end once the project is completed. It is important to find ways to sustain the impact and continue making a difference in the community. This can include creating a long-term partnership with the community organization or finding ways to continue supporting the cause.

  • Encourage students to think about long-term solutions and partnerships
  • Share examples of successful sustainable service learning projects


Service learning can be a powerful tool for high school students to make a positive impact in their community while also gaining valuable skills and experiences. By following these 5 steps - demonstrating the achievability of goals, rewarding students who emphasize impact, finding interesting opportunities, encouraging reflection, and helping students sustain impact - students can ensure that their service learning is truly impactful and meaningful. Let's encourage our students to engage in service learning and make a difference in their communities.