Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Gary Kelsey


Passage of the Kennedy Serve America Act in 2009 led to wide support for service-learning programs in high schools. The effectiveness of these programs on future volunteerism in college, however, has not been established. In the absence of research clarifying the variables that might influence programming effectiveness, it is difficult to design and adapt such programs to increase their impact. This study explored how high school service-learning programs could be improved to encourage greater student participation and to motivate continued volunteerism in college. A multiple case study methodology was used that included face-to-face interviews with 7 teachers and service-learning coordinators from private, public, and faith-based high schools in the Los Angeles area. Also, phone interviews were conducted with 6 experts in the field of service learning who were identified in a review of the literature. Interview data were coded based on findings from the service-learning literature. Data analysis included a comparison of the 3 types of schools as well as identification of strategies for effective service learning in high schools, areas of improvement, and obstacles that may be encountered while implementing improvements. Each of the schools integrated only some of the identified practices, which included increasing student reflection, giving students a stronger voice in the program, and tying service learning with standardized test outcomes. Recommendations from this study provide high school administrators and service-learning teachers with ideas and tools to enhance their programming. Thus, the results of this study can be used to improve the likelihood that high school students will have high-quality service-learning experiences and will continue volunteering in college.