Student service learning model should be expanded

Austen Klein


“We have to,” said Julie Burchett – Chelsea Center coordinator, in relation to whether teachers have an obligation to promote student participation in the community.

“Active citizenship is a key thing and an important part to a student’s education,” said Burchett.

The Chelsea Center is a program involved in providing real-world opportunities of experience, relations and change for students; the program allows students to pursue an area of their own interests or to find an interest in experiential pursuits the program can help provide.

Saint Louis city and the county schools have faced intense financial stress, adapting to large influxes of students constantly transferring to other schools in search of better education, competing with other states and nations in education, and still being able to promote youth-community relationships.

Students are really given power to decide what passions they are willing to pursue and how they want to approach their goals in the program. Along with a database of organizations and businesses that help students with experience, perspective and pivotal relationships to construct, the Chelsea Center is a concept of community-youth relationships – and certainly a relationship that can be reconnected for a student’s future career, passion or both.

Additionally, students discuss their experiences in a group and contemplate ways to improve the impact of their service. Ideally, students are encouraged to recognize that there are differences in privilege among people, and disadvantages do exist, but people reach across to one another, recognizing each other’s dignity and worth in a partnership. The Chelsea Center can provide a service that is mutually beneficial to all persons involved in the program.

“On a national scale, only a handful of high schools have experiential learning services,” said Burchett. Webster Groves High School is truly unique to have the Chelsea Center, whereas most other schools are deprived of this invaluable benefit.

City schools are losing their accreditation, and students receiving education in that vicinity – as a consequence – are always in dire search for education and thus, also lose a form of support from the community.

Politicians are so concerned with the fiscal needs of failing schools of Saint Louis City, that communitarian necessities are being neglected. Schools aren’t being able to forge relationships with an entire generation of city youth, and as a result, many resort to drudging, alternative activities because of the lack of academic and community support. Failing schools aren’t the result of failing communities; failing communities are the result of failing schools.

There are many good teachers in Saint Louis as well, and the Chelsea Center provides an opportunity for them to form bonds with students.

The Chelsea Center is more than a program: it is a solution and a critical model that should be applied to all other high schools.

Webster Groves has a very unique opportunity with this, and the student population is generally well-off, but there are realities, like the effects of gang violence, of which most of the population has no proportional emotional sense. For most, it only becomes a reality through having, in some way, been affected by it.

The Chelsea program offers more than a means of escape from the overwhelming conflicts an unacceptable number of teenagers face; the Chelsea program offers, support, a future and genuine hope for Saint Louis youth.

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