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Traditionally, the school has been the primary role model for citizenship development. One method schools may use to convey the roles and models of involved citizens is through community service experiences.

Public and private schools throughout the United States include community service as part of the curriculum and/or extracurricular activities. Service promotes responsibility, a caring ethic, and growth of community. Service can improve society through individuals working together and forming a bond with one another. Service provides opportunities to witness the diverse cultures of society. Through service, students may experience affective and cognitive development, form relationships with community members, and relate their schools' commitment to the community.

Although current research focuses on the service experiences of public school students, private school students have been consistently noted as being more active in community service (Eberly, 1993; Frase, 1995; Newmann & Rutter, 1985/1986). Therefore, this study examines the impact of community service in private high school settings.

The study explores service learning, its connection to civic education, and its effects on students, their communities, and their schools. The central questions are these: What insights do students gain from service experiences? What motivates students to serve? How do students' expectations of service match their experiences? What is the school's role in service? What characteristics make a school service program successful? The research methodology for the study is qualitative to describe and to explore what students experience and internalize from community service.


@ 1998 Ellen Clarissa Reynolds

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