Alva G. Greenberg was first inspired to pursue the Serve Here initiative when she saw how divisive and stratifying the political and social rhetoric was becoming in the United States. While people of the Baby Boomer Generation were motivated to become civically engaged due to the environmental movement, movement for gender equality, and movement for racial equality in the last few decades of the 20th Century, Millennials and members of Generation X did not have childhoods and young adulthoods that were marked by so much social activism and all-encompassing social struggle. They reached adulthood at a time when communications and technological advances made for an environment when people were less focused on the collective and more focused on their own individual needs.
Serve Here is an answer to addressing the challenge of less civically engaged young adults. Serve Here aims to increase this nation’s social capital. Serve Here CT had many supporters in the State of Connecticut. Alva G. Greenberg, Thomas P. Gullotta, and Kevin Graff worked tirelessly to lobby for funding to bring this endeavor to life in the State of Connecticut. Thanks to the support of state legislators in Connecticut including David Alexander, Steve Cassano, Ernest Hewett, Beth Bye and Mae Flexer, Serve Here CT became a reality when Governor Dannel Malloy and the Legislature agreed to $100,000 in year 1 and $200,000 in year 2 for the program.
It all began as Serve Here Connecticut with two groups of fellows between the years of 2015 and 2017. Fellows participated in a two-semester learning module, received funds toward repayment of their college loans, ongoing, or future education. Their employers also gained from this endeavor through the allocation of funds for new jobs in the State of Connecticut that the fellows then occupied. Barret Katuna, a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Connecticut at the time, was invited to build and lead the Learning Module. Over the course of two years, Barret built the curriculum that is based on the text, “Social Capital and Community Well-Being: The Serve Here Initiative,” edited by Alva G. Greenberg, Thomas P. Gullotta, and Martin Bloom. Barret invited speakers from the community from the non-profit sector, politics, accounting, and sports marketing industries to come and address the fellows. The fellows went out in the community and learned more about each other’s’ places of employment too. Many success stories have come from fellows’ participation. Fellows have reported that they are more mindful of their civic engagement and many have joined clubs within their communities and some have even volunteered at their peers’ places of employment. Fellows are excelling at their jobs and they are becoming more confident with their skills. A few have even navigated successful job transitions and report high job satisfaction.
In 2017 Serve Here decided in go in a new direction. Having demonstrated a way to lower college debt, assist non-profits in their charitable mission and future social capital in its fellows program, a decision was made to focus on encouraging schools and colleges to incorporate social capital learning into their existing course offerings. Social capital has a variety of demonstrated benefits that improve an individual’s health, decrease likelihood of unemployment, and increase an individual’s sense of belonging and happiness – just to name a few. To that end, this website has been reborn from Serve Here CT to Serve Here America. In the coming months, it is our hope that teachers and professors from across the US and the world will share their curricula, reading lists and other materials to enable instructors everywhere to increase our youth’s involvement in their neighborhood, their town, their county, state, and nation.