Chicago Cares

Chicago, Illinois

Our Project:

"The Student Service and Leadership Program (SSL) is designed to prepare high school students to become active and committed members of their communities. The SSL program is focused on activation: we educate youth about social issues and the need for community involvement by engaging them in hands-on service on an ongoing basis. Each student builds awareness of and develops an investment in community issues. Our curriculum strengthens students’ communication and interpersonal skills, encourages analytical and critical reflection and facilitates positive involvement in the school and surrounding community.

The curriculum is intended to be flexible based on the need of the school and the students involved. The service clubs meet during or after school and complement and expand on school curriculum. As a whole, the curriculum requires that students complete between 40 and 44 hours of service.

• The typical SSL curriculum lasts 24 weeks and includes discussion and activities components for one hour per week.
• Students complete three service projects lasting a total of nearly 12 hours.

Chicago Cares Youth in Service staff facilitate the groups, supplementing the students’ education with contextual materials throughout the course of the program. Importantly, Chicago Cares empowers SSL students to be the program drivers; students begin by identifying and mapping resources in their community, interviewing community members, and participating in volunteer projects planned by Chicago Cares staff. Students then present their findings and engage in debate to select an issue the entire group will address that semester. These student-selected issues range from children’s education to the environment, from senior services to hunger and homelessness, or any other local, viable topic of interest.

After deeply exploring their chosen issue, the students identify ways that they, themselves, can address the need in their community using their group’s distinct capabilities. They complete their service projects and engage in thorough reflection. Invariably, this reflection helps students find ways to continue to make a difference, sustaining the tools and skills they gained. By the end of the program, youth have a comprehensive understanding of the breadth of issues that face their communities, the ability to solve problems and come up with creative solutions and the confidence to take action."


24 weeks of service-learning curriculum, supplies for 24 meetings, supplies and staff time for 4 off-site service projects, staff support for teachers facilitating the program

Kids Helped: