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Service-Learning with Impact Alabama

Divya Kumaraiah, Policy Assistant to the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, highlights the important community work Impact Alabama is doing through partnerships with 25 Alabama colleges and universities.

Impact Alabama, a non-profit run by recent college graduates, serves communities across Alabama through a series of learning projects.  The young staff engages college and graduate students through partnerships with 25 of Alabama’s colleges and universities.  These partnerships seek to help college students gain job skills while enhancing their sense of social responsibility and serving Alabama’s communities.

Impact Alabama focuses on a model of service-learning and partnerships that can be applied to many issues, which allows the organization to create initiatives that meet present needs.  There are four current projects: FocusFirst, SaveFirst, SpeakFirst and CollegeFirst.

FocusFirst has trained and deployed over 19,000 college volunteers to provide vision screenings for young children in low-income neighborhoods.  Over the past six years the program has provided eye care for approximately 9,000 children with poor vision.

SaveFirst trains college, graduate, and law students to offer financial literacy information for low-income families.  Since 2006 nearly 800 college students have prepared 4,438 tax returns, resulting in almost $8 million in refunds.

SpeakFirst engages inner city youth in a multidisciplinary debate program.  Through training, competition, internships and scholarship guidance, students sharpen their debate skills and increase their opportunity to attend and finance college.

CollegeFirst addresses Alabama’s poor achievement scores in math and science.  Volunteers tutor and mentor students who are enrolled in or preparing for Advanced Placement courses.

This month, the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation is spotlighting individuals and organizations that are serving communities across the country and around the world.  We applaud Impact Alabama for its innovative model that simultaneously prepares young graduates for civic-minded careers and addresses local community needs.

Do you know of an individual or organization that is creating a new model of service?  Click here and tell us your story.

Divya Kumaraiah is the Policy Assistant to the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation