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Personal History of Civic Responsibility

October 01, 2012

This exercise is designed to help you understand your students’ backgrounds regarding service and civic responsibility. It is a good idea to use this exercise early in the academic term, before your students have begun any service assignments.

Give students these questions or similar ones and ask them to respond in a short one- or two-page written essay. In a subsequent class session, ask students to pair up and share their personal histories with each other, or present them in class by reading their essays and showing any photos or other visual aids they may wish to share. Then lead a classroom discussion on similarities and differences among students.

  1. What has been your history of service or civic involvement as a child, teenager, young adult, or adult? If you have not participated in service, describe some examples of service of which you were aware
  2. Did you participate with your family in any regular service projects? If so, what were they? What were your feelings about participating in service at that time?
  3. Were you involved in service with any other organizations, such as church, synagogue, temple, mosque, youth league, Boys and Girls Clubs, Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, or elementary school? If so, how?
  4. If you were involved at an early age, do you think it affected the service you do today? Did it affect your desire to serve? Positively or negatively?
  5.  How has service in the community affected you, your family, or someone you know?
  6. Would you classify yourself as someone who has a strong sense of civic responsibility? Why or why not?

Now consider the questions above in terms of your own personal history of civic responsibility.Whether you are a faculty member, service learning coordinator, or agency supervisor, it is important to discuss your service experiences with students and your colleagues. After answering these questions and sharing them with others, consider doing a service project of your own. Select an agency whose mission interests you and dedicate a regular number of hours there each week over a period of time. Be sure to reflect on your involvement, either in a journal or in discussions with students, colleagues, or others.


Assignment adapted from Integrating Civic Responsibility into the Curriculum.