“Disadvantaged” Youth in AmeriCorps: Building the Ethic of Service

Degree Name

MA in International and Intercultural Management

First Advisor

Paul Ventura


This paper explores an under-researched area in service learning that focuses on building the ethic of service (EOS) with disadvantaged youth. The research question states: What methods, processes and approaches have been successful in implementing a service learning curriculum that develops the “ethic of service” with disadvantaged youth? Through literature review and original research carried out through interviews and surveys with youth and practitioners, it looks at the philosophical underpinnings, best practices, approaches and a model for the building of the EOS. It is framed within the context of increasing class and racial diversity in the national service movement.

Out of the literature, interviews and surveys, a multitude of findings emerged that will assist practitioners in conceiving, designing and implementing youth service programs focused on the youth corps model. The findings are focused in three major areas: core philosophy behind the programming, program design, and project characteristics. Core philosophical approaches that lead to an EOS were: a deep respect for young people, a focus on collectivism versus individualism, a social justice approach, and a balance between job skills focused motivation and community impact focused motivation. Key program design elements that emerged were: involving a diverse mix of members, youth-driven projects, a participatory development approach, creating space for meaningful relationship building with peers and adults, and building a deliberate organizational identity and esprit de corps. Finally, key project characteristics that emerged were: honoring the multicultural traditions of service and contemporary activism, seamless integration of service with learning, encouraging anger at injustice in combination with teaching project planning and community development tools, allowing for recognition, impact and celebration, and completing service that arises from community and is carried out hand-in-hand with the community. The research concludes that disadvantaged youth in service presents a significant challenge and opportunity for transformative individual and community impact.


Inequality and Stratification | Public Administration | Regional Sociology | Work, Economy and Organizations

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