The Power of Civic Engagement

Why does civic engagement work?

Among researchers who have studied the impact of community service on youth are Miranda Yates and James Youniss. Yates is now executive director for strategy, evaluation and learning at Good Shepherd Services, a multi-service agency that works with young people in New York City. Youniss is a research professor of psychology at Catholic University.

Engaging in service gives youth a chance to experience a new role, Yates and Youniss wrote. Young people take on challenges and responsibility, and they report gaining confidence and “efficacy,” according to the researchers.

Students are able to use their own judgments, they said.

Service is a way young people develop self-understanding. They grapple with questions about meaning, according to Yates and Youniss, and develop a new sense of their role in the world.

Community service programs that are the most effective offer “intense experiences in which participants are given responsibilities and the chance to feel efficacious and social interactions, particularly with marginalized populations,” Yates and Youniss wrote in their literature review “A Developmental Perspective on Community Service in Adolescence,” published in the journal Social Development in 1996.

Read this article by Youth Today in its entirety here.