Service-learning as building adolescents' relationships to their community: An exploratory case study of Catholic Academy

Pauline Modestus Obasi, Fordham University


The researcher explored the role service-learning plays in building adolescents' relationships to their community as it is played out in Catholic Academy. A qualitative approach was adopted; the fieldwork included interviews, observations, and document review to collect information on service-learning at the Academy. Twelve participants, selected via purposeful sampling techniques, were interviewed. The goal was to obtain an in-depth understanding of the influence of service-learning on the participants, who comprised three groups: four staff members, four young recent graduates, and four adult working graduates of Catholic Academy. Participants' perceptions about service-learning were elicited in the following areas, students' development of identity, relationships, the meaning of service-learning, educators' roles, and the impact of service-learning on the participants. A semi-structured interview format was used, modified to suit each of the three participant groups. To lend credibility to the study, the data from interviews, observations, and document review were triangulated. Six major themes emerged: (a) building relationships, (b) community involvement, (c) nurturing a sense of social responsibility, (d) promoting growth, maturity, and change, (e) experience, awareness, and career choice, and (f) developing values. These themes represent strategies used by the Academy to develop students' core value of service and to attain its goal of transforming society, as emerged from a study of the Academy's service-learning program. To be of service, students must acquire the values of strong relationships, social responsibility, and community involvement, with special emphasis on the poor and the needy. Together with reflection, service creates an awareness that leads to their growth and maturity and assists them appropriate career choices that position them to transform unjust systems in society. The researcher concluded that service is an integral part of Catholic school education and a value worthy of promotion in all institutions of learning for young people, Catholic and non-Catholic. Service-learning is a valuable strategy for building adolescents' relationships and connections with their community and society at large. When instilled at adolescence, the value of service has the potential to promote the acquisition of other critical values.

Subject Area

Social studies education

Recommended Citation

Obasi, Pauline Modestus, "Service-learning as building adolescents' relationships to their community: An exploratory case study of Catholic Academy" (2008). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3302123.