Overview of Project Impact
What is Project Impact?
The Governor's Commission on Volunteerism & Community Service (Volunteer Florida) created Project Impact to foster collaboration between Florida's national service programs (AmeriCorps and Senior Corps) and disability organizations serving high school students with disabilities transitioning into college or employment.
Volunteer Florida has joined with the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMASS Boston and the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at USF to establish Service Works and expand this initiative to high school students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) throughout Florida.
The goals of Project Impact
The goals are to connect students with ASD to AmeriCorps or other service programs for the development of a semester service project. Through exposure to community service, students with ASD increase employability skills, gain mentors and learn about challenges facing their community. Through Project Impact students have implemented over 30 community-service projects with 300 students with disabilities in 12 Florida counties including initiatives addressing issues hunger, homelessness, crime and the environment.
How Project Impact works
Project Impact is a 5-month, intensive community service experience that includes a student-led community mapping exercise. Community mapping is an approach where students identify needs and a community problem and resources needed to address the problem. The students develop a plan for a service activity that will address the problem and then implement the service activity. Youth are guided through the model with the assistance of trained Americorps facilitators and mentors.
Each month, students meet with peers and their facilitator. Together they decide on a service activity to address an identified community problem. They participate in regular reflection activities that allow them to consider both the skills they are developing and the impact they are having in their community. Please see Table 1 for a month-by-month overview of Project Impact student activities.
Once the plan is developed, the students identify supplies for the activity as well as expenses that might be required. The students discuss areas of collaboration with other entities in the community and plan for marketing the service project. Together the students outline exactly how the service project will unfold, their roles and responsibilities. After completion of the service project, they reflect on, and celebrate, their accomplishment.