Summer Community Leadership Institute!

Service Learning Curriculum empowers students with the skills to build their community and become more college ready!

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Context: Our Students!

Leadership Public Schools - Richmond (LPS) is a college preparatory charter high school in Richmond, CA that is committed to sending 100% of students to and through college. 98% of students are first generation college bound students. 98% of students are either Latino or African American, and 30% of the Latino population are English Language Learners. 94% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

LPS Richmond students aspire to meet and exceed rigorous academic expectations, and they respond positively to the college preparatory opportunities provided. 95% of students complete the UC/CSU “A-G  Required” course path; 85% complete the “A-G Recommended” path. Students’ average daily attendance is 96% and attrition is under 1%. One third of our student body (191 students) took an Advanced Placement class school year 2015/16 and completed a total of 329 AP Exams.  95% of the junior class participated in the annual Southern California College Tour. 100% of 10th graders take the PSAT as an early indicator to determine their college readiness. Since the graduating class of 2014, LPS Richmond students matriculate to college at a rate of 99%.

To achieve these results, LPS Richmond has developed a rigorous academic program that is constantly being refined through a data analysis process that relies on a range of data sources including assessment data, standardized test scores, grade data, attendance data, English language proficiency data, reading and math growth data, as well as suspension/expulsion data. The Instructional Leadership Team, comprised of teachers and administrators, as well as Department Teams and Grade Level Teams, are all involved in the analysis and cycle of inquiry process. We ask difficult questions about our students’ academic performance. We focus on improvement and innovation that will lead to strong academic outcomes.

Need: Summer!

In addition to our academic curriculum, LPS Richmond has prioritized placement in a summer program as a critical way to prevent learning loss. We believe that participation in a meaningful Summer Experience that encourages students’ growth mindset and strengthens their non-cognitive skills, is an important pillar of college readiness. Therefore, our goal is for 100% of 9th through 11th graders to have a Summer Experience.

We know that students who are not engaged in any type of summer programming can experience “Summer Learning Loss” (Cooper, H., 1996). This is true for all students, but disproportionately affects students from low socio-economic backgrounds. “While all students lose some ground in mathematics over the summer, low-income students lose more ground in reading, while their higher-income peers may even gain. Most disturbing is that summer learning loss is cumulative; over time, the difference between the summer learning rates of low-income and higher-income students contributes substantially to the achievement gap” (Rand Corporation, 2011).  Given the clear implications of “Summer Learning Loss” on our student population, it is imperative that LPS supports our students in finding a meaningful Summer Experience.

LPS has always placed a high value on Summer Experiences for students, however school year 2015/16 was the first year a Summer Experience Coordinator was hired with the sole purpose of pursuing and coordinating more summer opportunities for students. During the 2015/16 school year, student participation in Summer Experience programs among eligible 9th through 11th graders increased from 15% to nearly 50%. 155 students participated in a variety of programs reflecting the number of partnerships developed the previous year.

In addition to preventing learning loss, LPS Summer Experiences help our students to grow as leaders, to build their academic and personal identities, and ultimately, to be ready for college. Summer Experiences provide first generation students the opportunity to step outside of their comfort zone, to persist in new environments and to face the culture shock of being around students from different racial and economic backgrounds.  Below are some alumni testimonials relating their Summer Experiences to College:

  • “If it wasn’t for going to a different country (through the Amigos de las Americas program)  in high school, I would never have stepped out of my comfort zone to go away for college, much less study abroad for six months.”  
  • “The Summer Programs I did through Summer Search were difficult and amazing. Overcoming those obstacles in high school only helped me every time I faced an obstacle in college.”
  • “National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) was the first time I was exposed to the culture shock which prepared me with the correct mechanisms to navigate it in college. NOLS taught me that to persist in these environments, I needed to hold space, be ok with not having the same experience as the non-scholarship students, and be proud of where I come from. “

LPS Richmond firmly believes that Summer Experiences provide highly structured and supported low-stakes opportunities for students to navigate personal challenge and external obstacles before facing the same in college. We celebrate the leadership and growth our students gain through their Summer Experiences by dedicating school time for post-summer individual and group reflection. Students share in both written and verbal form what they experienced, learned, and what challenged  and surprised them.

The Idea: Community Leadership Institute!

What if students could be empowered with the skills, knowledge, and political capital to effect lasting change in Richmond as a lever for college success?

To further this critical work, I am proposing to create a Community Leadership Institute based on the structure and values of current Summer Experience programming. The Institute would engage a cohort of students interested  in social justice issues who will strengthen their college-ready skills through deep experiential learning. Although stepping outside of one’s comfort zone by leaving the Bay Area is an important type of Summer Experience, it is only one way to expose, empower, and prepare students. Another vehicle for this identity development is to embed students deeply in their own community to understand social issues impacting it, and teach students strategies for making change. The Community Leadership Summer Institute would be a next step in guaranteeing that all LPS Richmond students have access to a Summer Experience that encourages personal growth and college readiness.

With LPS’ core value of community leadership in empowering students for success in college and a strong emphasis on summer programs, the incorporation of a summer service-learning curriculum is a critical next step.  The Community Leadership Summer Institute would bring together these understandings with a powerful service learning curriculum. This experiential curriculum provides students with the skills to build a community from the inside out.  Through the development and facilitation of a community engagement project, students will be able to address a real-life issue in a positive and productive way, while developing a sense of unity. Students will recognize the assets inherent in Richmond and identify ways to best use them for the betterment of the community.

Community Leadership Institute: Course Scope

The curricular arc will include an examination of citizenship, community-building, social advocacy, and local political structures.  Students will examine the various levers required to effect widespread change, and will organize a community service project or advocacy event to raise awareness and/or address an issue central to the community.  Students will identify their own topics for advocacy. The curriculum will teach concepts of citizenship and leadership, community building and event planning, modern political processes and tie a rigorous social justice curriculum to college readiness. By the end of the Institute, students will have the skill-set and knowledge base to effectively advocate and organize in, around, and for their communities and how this knowledge affects their educational goals.

The curriculum’s centerpiece is a student defined community engagement service-learning project. Over the course of the Institute, students will identify, define, and address an issue integral to the Richmond community. They will also conduct community mapping and research in Oakland and San Francisco to deepen their understanding and to inform their Richmond action research.  The curriculum will be a combination of classroom learning, service in these three communities, and speakers and seminars run by local civic leaders.

Community Leadership Institute: Enduring Understandings

Through the Community Leadership Institute, students will become empowered advocates for their community.  To do so, the following overarching understanding must be reached: The world is malleable and you have the ability to change it. In order to internalize this understanding, students must reach additional enduring understandings that support this goal.

The following concepts will be integrated into weekly lessons to scaffold the overarching understanding.  The understandings are listed in the order of their introduction and they will interact and build upon each other over the duration of the course. Each idea holds the same significance; they create a continuum for the development of an empowered, caring, and critical community member.

  • Education is an integral launch pad for creating the change you wish to see.
  • Being an engaged member of your community is linked to college readiness.
  • Belonging is linked to college readiness.
  • Communities can come in many different forms, but they have shared values.
  • Existing systems, structures, and curricula are value-laden.  Our backgrounds and positions shape how we relate to the world.
  • There are many strategies for change, which can be utilized depending on the problem to be solved.
  • Youth voice is essential for community change.
  • Leadership takes many forms and anyone with courage and commitment can be a leader.

Community Leadership Institute: Program Details Year One

  • A three week program (5 days/week; 6 hours/day) for a cohort of 28 students.
  • The program will be facilitated by four Teachers, four LPS student Teaching Assistants, an Operations Assistant, and a Program Director.
  • Students will be divided into four groups of seven and each group will be supported by one Teacher and one LPS student Teaching Assistant.
  • Each week of the program is dedicated to a different region of the Bay Area: Richmond, Oakland/Berkeley, and San Francisco.
  • Students will engage in community-based work two to three days each week. The remaining days will be spent on the LPS campus in class and conducting research.
  • The curriculum will follow a thematic sequence: Self and Community; Critical Perspectives on Social Change; and Levers for Social Change.
  • The program will include students across grade levels to promote caring, belonging, collaboration, and leadership across age and class-level distinctions.
  • Participants will be solely LPS students with the goal to include students from other Richmond high schools in following years.

An Essential Element: Community Collaboration!

Richmond is a city with a wealth of grassroots efforts to empower youth voice. Some of these include the Ryse Center, Students for Education Reform, the City of Richmond Youth Council, ACCE, The Watershed Project, YES: Nature to Neighborhoods, along with a host of other other non-profits and programs. The Community Leadership Institute (CLI) will collaborate with these partners by bringing students to their sites to learn of their programming; by coordinating with staff to serve as guest speakers and instructors for the Institute, and by designing and building projects that directly connect to the work these organizations do. The LPS Summer Programs Coordinator is developing partnerships with these collaborators and will continue this work with more groups throughout the East Bay to further develop programming for the Institute as the curriculum will involve site visits to Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco. The goal is for students to be exposed to and be informed by the work of these community and civic organizations. The Community Leadership Institute is committed to deepening this community-focused work collaboratively and not replicating or functioning outside of these programs activities.

Intended Outcomes

The Institute will have several outcomes, both quantitative and qualitative, cognitive and non-cognitive. The Institute’s outcomes are informed by best practices in the field as articulated by the National Commission on Service Learning and Mt. Holyoke College. Effective service learning experiences include problem analysis and complexity of understanding; real world relevance and significance to community need; the integration of academic study with community service; and a contribution to the participant’s career development. Service learning must be connected, continuous, challenging, and contextualized.

The Community Leadership Institute’s curriculum will culminate in presentations by students who have asset-mapped a community and taken on a real-world social issue and developed a plan for solving it using community assets. This will be a cumulative/summative assessment of the enduring understandings.

  Participants will complete a pre and post assessment to measure their understanding of the key concepts in the curriculum including: Critical Perspectives in Social Justice; Identifying Social Issues; Asset Mapping; Asset-Based Community Development; Cycle of Poverty; and the Social Change Wheel.

Additionally, participants will develop and strengthen their non-cognitive skills as demonstrated

by their ability to:

    • identify personal and academic strengths and skills
    • demonstrate self advocacy through development of a community project
    • articulate short and long term goals
    • develop a 10 year plan that includes a passion and purpose statement

Best Practices

The Community Leadership program will combine practices from existing Service Learning Leadership programs to ensure the highest quality experience for students. These include The Civic Leadership Institute, The Mikvah Challenge, and BuildOn.

The LPS Community Leadership Institute will be significantly informed by the structure of The Civic Leadership Institute  (CLI), a partnership between Northwestern University, UC Berkeley, University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins University, along with the Center for Talented Youth and the Center for Talent Development. The CLI is a three week summer program dedicated to empowering students to learn about social issues.  

The LPS Community Leadership Institute’s model for encouraging youth voice will be informed by the Mikvah Challenge, a Chicago-Based school year program that engages youth to be informed, empowered, active citizens and community leaders.  Youth are involved in action civics, an authentic and transformative learning process built on youth voice and youth expertise.  

The LPS Community Leadership Institute will use BuildOn’s key terms and topics to provide exposure to global service projects that will contextualize Richmond-based service work.

BuildOn is an international organization whose mission is to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through service and education. BuildOn participants engage in local service learning throughout the school year and then travel to other countries to expand their horizons and continue a cycle of empowerment.


I am hoping to get full funding for this program. That being said, there are so many different ways to run a Community Leadership Program without this level of funding. Programs could be shorter, service sites could be walkable, and instructors could be volunteers. Below is a potential budget for what a fully funded program would look like.

Community Leadership Institute Budget

Summer 2017



Program Director stipend


4 Instructors’

stipends @ $1300 each


4 Teaching Assistants’ stipends @ $1000 each


Speaker stipends


Food & Beverage

(lunch & snacks)


Public Transportation


Program t-shirts





Join the conversation:

Photo of Ellen Deutscher

Love this idea! Have you tried it out?  I'm also in the Bay Area.  Would students from different schools come together in each region?  

Photo of Maddie Orenstein

Hi Ellen! I have run service learning programs in Chicago, at the college level and have taught at the Civic Leadership Institute, a service learning program at Berkeley for students from all over the world. I have a good sense of best practices but have never tried it locally at high schools in the Bay. I am SO excited about the concept of students from different schools coming together for this. In the pilot year I may stick to just LPS students, but significnat learning for students could happen through cross-school dialogue. Glad to hear you're in the Bay too! I would love any feedback you have and will look out for your idea:)

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