For the second year now, veteran bikers in Orange County have rushed into schools to mobilize young people to better themselves, their community and their country through service learning.
The Runners, teaming up with the Orange County Youth Bureau, are helping schools teach teens the meaning and value of service to others — first at a service-learning seminar. an hour, then at a service-learning fair. The impetus for this comes from the National Service Ride project, a community initiative that leverages the appeal of motorcycling for freedom, adventure and riding together to promote citizenship and service, beginning with the House.
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 country a worthy of his sacrifice”; how “to serve your community is to serve your country; and how “the service does not require a uniform, a good GPA or a change of address”.
In support of New York State’s Civic Readiness Program, the Orange County Youth Bureau helps schools identify community service and veteran organizations, volunteer and charitable groups, and local businesses for fairs organized by schools. In cooperation with United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region, it provides a virtual portal for young people to find community service learning opportunities after school, during the summer or after graduation to create their RESUME. Schools, in turn, can track and certify their service learning hours and collect data on program outcomes.
Doing good work and solving common problems also develops leadership, team building, problem solving, and other interpersonal skills essential for economic sustenance and social viability in the 21st century. To meet the growing need for service-learning, schools are discovering how the project’s “one-stop-shop” delivery method and adaptable, low-cost, high-performance platform expand the curriculum and help students effectively find and effectively the service-learning opportunities that best suit them – improving civic-type educational outcomes to produce more balanced young citizens.
So far, eight Orange County high schools have registered 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. find a better connection with their communities in a positive and meaningful way. The project’s social and mass media-friendly platform also helps these organizations increase visibility and public awareness, with impacts on branding, membership, volunteerism and fundraising.
By passing on the baton of generational leadership, we give our young people a better chance to move forward together in a complex and demanding world. We veteran riders begin every school ride at the Orange County Veterans Memorial Cemetery, reminding ourselves that our mission is truly not over until we pass on to our young people what we have learned about the service so that they can make their way through the future, just as we did those who came before us.
Working with veteran cycling groups, the County Youth Bureau, the Veterans Services Agency and the Veterans Coalition, as well as the Hudson Valley Veterans Task Force, the National Service Ride is looking to expand the project statewide and nationally – starting here in Orange County.
Christopher Holshek, Colonel, US Army (Ret.), founder of the National Service Ride project.