Creating Public Service Leaders: Student-Led Work at Harvard College

The Stride Rite Community Service Program based at the Phillips Brooks House Association at Harvard College encourages the professional and personal development of future public service leaders. Between 35 and 40 “scholarships” (FWS awards plus additional stipends) are awarded each year to support students in a year-round commitment to service. The ideal program experience is one that provides the Harvard student with a quality service placement, an in-depth, continuous service experience, and mentoring and leadership development. The program has benchmarks in each of these areas to gauge success.

Harvard College

Moira Mannix

The Stride Rite Community Service Program based at the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) at Harvard College is committed to encouraging the professional and personal development of future public service leaders. To this end, the program provides emotional and financial support to student volunteers in public service at Harvard. The program also works to ensure that scholars are participating in meaningful service experiences that will help them learn and challenge them to grow.

Program Structure and Funding

The program is traditionally for Federal Work-Study’“eligible students but is also open to students receiving financial aid through Harvard but who do not receive federal funds. Undergraduate scholarship recipients take part in leadership development training that may focus on program management skills, diversity and multiculturalism, or working with community organizations. Students participate in a group project and receive individual support and mentorship.

Recipients are selected on the basis of financial need and the merits of their plans for hands-on community service. To view the application form completed by students, visit http://www.pbha.org/ and click on “Stride Rite.”

Between 35 and 40 scholarships are awarded each year to students to support a year-round commitment to service, from June to May. Community organizations are not required to pay any portion of the student wages; funding from the Stride Rite Foundation offsets the required employer match.

Benchmarks for Success

The ideal undergraduate program experience is one that provides the Harvard student with a quality service placement, an in-depth, continuous service experience, and mentoring and leadership development. The program has benchmarks in each of these areas to gauge its success.

Quality Service Placement

Key to the scholar’s leadership development is a quality service placement that provides for a meaningful experience and opportunities for growth.

Benchmarks to help assess a quality service placement include:

  • The service has a strong tie-in to and encourages communication with community partners (strong advisors, service site, coalition, board).
  • The service provides an opportunity to live in the community.
  • The service is direct and hands-on.
  • The program provides year-round services.
  • The program fills a defined need in the community.
  • The program has means for ongoing assessment/evaluation.
  • The program is well organized and has a strong infrastructure.
  • The program has strong volunteer support systems in place.
  • The program encourages leadership development (volunteers become coordinators become directors).
  • The program provides opportunities for entrepreneurship and initiative.
  • The service is complemented by strong training and reflection sessions.
  • The service occurs frequently (e.g., several times a week, vs. one-time).
Depth and Continuity of Service Experience

Even more critical than the quality of the student’s service placement is the depth and continuity of the individual scholar’s service experience over his/her undergraduate years (and beyond, for many). At the heart of the depth and continuity of the service experience is the scholar’s participation in an intensive summer component that complements their service during the year.

Benchmarks to measure depth and continuity of the service experience include:

  • Hands-on summer service placement that complements the term experience.
  • Summer service placement in the same geographical community (Mission Hill, Chinatown).
  • Summer service placement with the same service population field (homelessness, domestic violence).
  • Summer service placement that builds skills, experience, and understanding in linking direct service, organizing, and policy concerning a specific service area.
  • Long-term (years) of commitment to the same service field/ community.
  • In-depth, long-term relationships built with constituents.
  • Hours committed to the service project (summer, at least 20 hours a week; term, at least 8 hours a week).
  • Leadership role in the service program (director, efforts to build community partnerships, efforts to improve programming).
Mentorship and Leadership Development

The mentorship and leadership development component of the program is met through one-on-one guidance from the Stride Rite Program Director and/or Coordinator, service-specific reflection and training, and a group community project.

The small group community project is a community-based learning opportunity. Students build relationships with community members and help other volunteers with that connection. Small groups are asked to analyze the impact of their collective work (by common neighborhood or social issue area) and identify questions they have related to their work. They then find the answer to one of those questions through three community-based sources outside of Harvard. These sources can include any combination of community leaders (politicians, teachers, tenant task force members), constituents (parents, ESL students, guest at the shelter), or community presence (coalition meetings, school site council, community mapping/research). Students present their findings at the April Stride Rite meeting and also share their findings with another group of students at PBHA.

In addition to working with the Stride Rite Director or Coordinator, each working group may be partnered with a community member (parent, non-profit director, teacher) who guides them in their project and service experience.

To help guide their community organizing experience, students participate in learning modules facilitated by outside trainers. One year’s priority topics were “facilitative leadership” and “community organizing” with repeat trainers who developed the modules with student input and received strong evaluations.

Benchmarks for mentorship and leadership development include:

  • Two formal individual goal-setting meetings with the Stride Rite Director, Stride Rite Coordinator and/or Executive Director.
  • Individual mentoring with the Stride Rite Director and Stride Rite Coordinator.
  • One small group meeting per semester with the Stride Rite Director or Coordinator.
  • One check-in with the community mentor.
  • Three community meetings (community leaders, constituents, ongoing meetings).
  • Three whole-group meetings per year.
  • One 8-hour community-building module to facilitative leadership or community organizing.
  • One formal small-group reflection session per semester with the Stride Rite Director or Coordinator.
  • One summer component reflection paper.
  • One end-of-term reflection paper.
  • One end-of-term evaluation/reflection session.
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