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NCJ Number
Social Policy Volume: 24 Issue: 2 Dated: (Winter 1993) Pages: 17-20
M J Brown
Date Published
4 pages
As the Nation begins to put President Clinton's National Service Program into action, the author recalls his participation, as a 16-year-old, in a community renovation workcamp in a low-income suburb of Detroit, in the summer of 1963.
He poses the questions, "What will the youth of today learn about and from the communities they go to serve?" "What will the people in those communities served learn about themselves?" and "For whose benefit is national service intended?" He then describes his own experience-- painting houses, clearing rubble-strewn lots of weeds and debris, and building a basketball court on a vacant lot. Through most of the summer, he worked with other workcampers, and learned what he could do for others and how to get along with co-workers. Toward the end of the program, people from the community came in to help paint the town hall and firehouse. Then, he learned what people in the community can do for themselves. He concludes that national service programs should not "serve" so much as organize communities, such that people will learn and do whatever they can for themselves. Participants in these programs, then, should keep in mind that the people they "serve" have strengths and ideas--not just needs and disadvantages.


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