Snapshot: Louisiana Council Passes Bill Recognizing Service on Diplomas

September 30, 2013

In Louisiana, this year’s incoming high school freshmen are the first students who will be officially recognized for their volunteer work.  Those who have completed 80 hours of service work by the time they graduate will be recognized with a "distinction for community service" seal on their diplomas and a note in their transcripts.

The Community Service High School Diploma Endorsement  program is the work of the Louisiana Legislative Youth Advisory Council (LYAC), which suggested the idea to the state legislature as a way to raise awareness about the value of community service.

Former LYAC member and chair Robert Lancon says the program “promotes service, recognizes outstanding students, and helps to bring even the lowest performing students to a brighter future” by giving colleges and postsecondary training institutions something to consider in addition to test scores and GPAs.

Students led the work from the very beginning. Inspired when Janet Pace, executive director of the Louisiana Service Commission, came to a LYAC meeting and talked about the need to raise the visibility and value of service, members came up with the idea as a low-cost solution that would honor diverse student achievement at the same time. They proposed the idea to local legislators, who liked it. They then worked closely with Representative Steve Carter (Chairman of the House Committee on Education) and Senator Conrad Appel (Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education) to craft resolutions in the House and Senate.

These resolutions called for a study of the costs of the program, as well as how volunteer hours would be tracked and calculated, and passed both houses of the legislature unanimously in the 2012 legislative session.

The State Board of Education, which undertook the feasibility study, thanked the Council in its official report to the state House and Senate committees considering the bill. It noted that:  “The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education recognizes the benefit of community service in developing a sense of civic responsibility and strong life skills such as communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, self-esteem, and cultural awareness.” The recognition program was officially created by rule in April 2013.

Individual school districts can determine which activities count toward the 80-hour requirement.

With program enacted, council members are now planning a statewide campaign to make sure all high school students know about the recognition, and are active in their communities. Stay tuned for more on that as it rolls out!  
 

About the Louisiana Legislative Youth Advisory Council

LYACThe Council was established to advise the legislature on issues that matter to state young people, including education, school violence, substance abuse, youth employment, and ways to motivate young people to actively participate in their community and government.

The Council comprises 21 young people ages 14-19 who are appointed each year. Two student members are selected from each of the seven congressional districts (14 members) and seven (7) additional youth members may be designated by and represent a school-sponsored or community service club or organization which has a civic mission.  Members study and craft solutions to issues of importance to young people, including education, employment, strategies to increase youth participation in government, safe environments for youth, substance abuse, underage drinking, and youth health and physical fitness. The resolution creating the council is online.

For a personal take on what it means to be part of LYAC, check out this member commentary from Hanhville High School student Michael Bell. 

 


 

This snapshot is part of SparkAction's Youth Impact  series, short profiles of youth councils and commissions that are influencing local and state policies and practices. SparkAction is producing this series in partnership with the youth-led Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council and with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

To suggest an impact story, please contact Caitlin Johnson, managing editor, at caitlin@sparkaction.org.


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