CIE’s Institute of World Affairs (IWA) has been working with Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) on an innovative new initiative to infuse global content into the high school curriculum through service-learning.

Service-learning is a high impact instructional practice that connects learning in the classroom to action in the world. During the process, students investigate issues facing our community and the world, prepare and plan how to take action on that issue, evaluate and assess progress, and demonstrate and celebrate their learning and accomplishments. Personal and group reflection is infused throughout the service-learning process. Global perspectives can be integrated into any phase of the process.

Through teacher trainings, discussions with inspiring global changemakers, and youth workshops and programs, IWA has provided support to teachers and students exploring solutions to a range of global issues, including access to education, refugee migration, and human trafficking.

IWA believes global issues play themselves out every day in our lives, and the struggles facing our community are shared with others around the world. By exploring global and local connections, Milwaukee youth gain a sense of where they fit in the world. They see that many of the challenges facing their community are present in other places, and people in every community are working tirelessly to address them.

A key assumption underlying this initiative is that youth can recognize their own experiences in the experiences of others around the world. The struggles many Milwaukee youth face due to poverty, segregation, violence and other challenges also equip them with insights that can help address the global issues that impact our community.

Introducing youth to the idea that their efforts are shared across the world increases the engagement in service-learning by elevating the meaning and significance of their service-learning projects.

For students whose circumstances my lead them to feel marginalized and powerless, this can be a transformative experience. Having gained a sense of their own potential to effect change in one area, they become empowered more generally. This is the real benefit of the IWA/MPS collaboration – to help unlock the enormous potential of the city’s youth as engaged global citizens!

To learn more about service-learning at Milwaukee Public Schools, visit