Global Pull of Community Engagement: Urban Students Growing Into Youth Ambassadors

Global Pull of Community Engagement: Urban Students Growing Into Youth Ambassadors

Samar El Hitti, Deborah Hecht
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2208-0.ch013
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This chapter discusses the CUNY Youth Ambassador Program, an undergraduate mentorship and leadership development program with an emphasis on global sustainability that focuses on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal Number 4: Quality Education. The creation and development of this program is one way two educators at the City University of New York responded to the global call for action on quality education, by initiating a collaboration with UNESCO to seed a movement of informed youth undergraduate advocates active in education spaces. This chapter showcases the framework and components of the CUNY Youth Ambassador Program and the aforementioned collaboration, as well as the experience and impact on the undergraduate students involved in this initiative.
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In the early 1900s, John Dewey (1916) first stressed the value of providing real-world, hands-on educational experiences to facilitate and to deepen learning. He noted that when educational experiences are relevant and meaningful to students, students better understand the reasons why they are learning the academic content. He also described how embedding learning in real world examples and experiences helps students understand and value service to their community. To Dewey, and to many educators since, there are strong connections between education and community engagement.

Federal initiatives throughout the 20th century stressed the importance of community engagement and community service, both for students and for the broader public. The creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933, the Peace Corps in 1961, and Volunteers in Service to America in 1965 promoted civic engagement and conservation through work opportunities in the United States and abroad (Bass, 2013). In 1950, as part of the White House Conference on Children and Youth, Congress formally endorsed the value of connecting community and schools, a message reinforced by the 1970 convening (Congress of the U.S., 1971). By the 1980s, many viewed community engagement as an important component of higher education. Organizations and federal initiatives—such as the Campus Outreach Opportunity League, Campus Compact, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the Points of Light Foundation— were established to support community engagement on college campuses.

Key Terms in this Chapter

GEM Report: (1) General Education Monitoring Report. (2) An independent team based at UNESCO headquarters in Paris that monitors progress towards SDG 4.

Case: Center for Advanced Study in Education.

SDG 4: Sustainable Development Goals 4: Quality Education.

CYA Guide: A comprehensive guide designed to outline the CYA’s experience, expectations and responsibilities.

CYA: CUNY Youth Ambassador.

Reflection: Thinking about one’s experiences, often making connections to one’s life or prior experiences.

CUNY: City University of New York.

Case Study: A research approach that allows for in-depth study of a person or program.

UNESCO: UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

Themes: Underlying patterns or ideas found within qualitative data.

SDGs: Sustainable Development Goals.

UN: United Nations.

Signature Project: A community event or advocate effort designed and delivered by the CYA.

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