For some people, community engagement means donating money or volunteering at a local organization a few times a year. But in reality, it’s so much more than that. It’s meeting your neighbors, forging connections with people you don’t know, and lending your time and talents to causes that you care about.
At The Ellis School’s recent Girl Talk webinar, Change Starts Where You Are, a group of engaged educators and community members shared why community engagement is so powerful for young people and how it benefits their growth and development. Here are five reasons why you should support your daughter's involvement.
1. They Learn to Build Reciprocal Relationships
In the words of Ellis alumna Rebecca SUFRIN ’10, “The essence of life is human connection and connecting with others.” Building reciprocal relationships with people from all walks of life is an invaluable outcome of civic engagement. Girls ultimately learn through giving back that they are receiving something immeasurable in turn. They realize that community is not static and that through participation, they can become part of many different communities that will help them grow.
2. They See That Change Happens in Various Ways
When large-scale, systemic change is needed, it can be daunting to know where to begin. But girls need to know that they can start where they are. It’s not solely grand gestures that make an impact, it's the everyday ones too. It takes the small gestures, the behind-the-scenes conversations, and hard work to build something bigger and witness progress. Whether it's simply helping an elderly neighbor with groceries or starting a conversation with a stranger, these connections are in fact foundational parts of building community.
3. They Gain Valuable Life Skills
Building community provides essential life skills necessary for all youth as they grow into adulthood. Three of those indispensable skills include active listening, effective communication, and empathy. Active listening teaches girls to avoid the tendency to assume that they know what is best for a community without asking or speaking to stakeholders first. Effective communication skills prepares them to ask thoughtful questions, speak to their own experiences, suspend preconceived assumptions, and take feedback with grace. Lastly, building empathy allows them to better create connections, identify needs, and cultivate compassion.
4. They Learn Education Happens Outside of the Classroom
When education goes beyond the school setting and into the community, girls learn about themselves and the world around them. They begin to look outside of themselves, their location, and their demographic and discover new ways they can contribute. By building connections with diverse people and organizations, girls gain a greater understanding of the learning that happens outside of the classroom and their ability to make an impact, no matter how big or small.
5. They Feel Empowered to Make a Difference
Through community service and engagement, young people learn that they have the power to create lasting change. They meet real, in-the-moment changemakers who are dedicating their time and energy to causes they believe in, seeing firsthand that they have the ability to step up too. By interacting with people who are already doing the work, girls have the chance to collaborate with adults who are tackling difficult problems and using their voices and skill sets to solve them.
Learn more about the power of community engagement and tune into the virtual webinar, Change Starts Where You Are.