For the second year now, veteran motorcyclists in Orange County have been roaring into schools to mobilize youth to better themselves, their community, and their country through service-learning.
The riders, teamed up with the Orange County Youth Bureau, are helping schools teach teenagers the meaning and value of service to others – first at an hour-long service-learning seminar and then at a service-learning fair. The impetus for this comes from the National Service Ride project, a community-based initiative that leverages motorcycling’s appeal to freedom, adventure, and moving forward together to promote citizenship and service, starting right at home.
Using adult role models and peer examples, the seminar mobilizes interest by explaining why we serve others: how, for example “the best way to thank a veteran is to make this a country worth their sacrifice;” how “serving your community is serving your country;” and how “service doesn’t require a uniform, a good grade point average, or a change of address.”
In support of the New York State Seal of Civic Readiness Program, the Orange County Youth Bureau helps schools identify community service and veterans’ organizations, volunteer and charity groups, and local businesses for the school-run fairs. In cooperation with the United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region, it provides a virtual portal for youth to find community service-learning opportunities after school, over the summer, or beyond graduation to build their resumes. The schools, in turn, can track and certify their service-learning hours and gather data on curriculum outcomes.
Doing good work and solving common problems also grows leadership, teambuilding, problem-solving, and other interpersonal skills vital to economic livelihood and social viability in the 21st century. To meet growing service-learning requirements, schools are finding how the project’s “one-stop” delivery method and adaptable, low-cost, high-return platform extends curriculum and helps students efficiently and effectively find service-learning opportunities best for them – enhancing civics-type educational outcomes to produce more well-rounded young citizens.
So far, eight Orange County high schools have signed up for events for the 2022-23 school year. Is yours one of them?
At the same time, military veterans, police, firefighters, first responders, medical services, etc. are finding better connection with their communities in a positive and meaningful way. The project’s mass and social media-friendly platform also helps these organizations raise public visibility and awareness, with impacts on branding, membership, volunteerism, and fundraising.
By passing the baton of generational leadership this way, we give our youth a better chance to go forward together in a complex and challenging world. We veteran riders begin every school ride at the Orange County Veterans Memorial Cemetery, reminding us that our mission is really not complete until we have passed on to our youth what we’ve learned about service so they make their way through the future, just as we did from those who went before us.
Working with veteran riders groups, the County Youth Bureau, Veterans Service Agency, and Veterans Coalition, as well as the Hudson Valley Veterans Task Force, the National Service Ride is looking to scale up the project both statewide and nationally – beginning right here in Orange County.
Christopher Holshek, Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret.), founder of the National Service Ride project.