Personal Injury

Student Service Projects Benefit Communities

On April 23, 1951, Barbara Johns led a student strike at the racially segregated Robert R. Moton High School in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Four hundred and fifty students joined Johns, all protesting the education they were receiving in an eight-room facility designed to accommodate 180 students. Lacking at the black high school, but part of the facilities at the school for white students, were a gymnasium, locker room facilities, cafeteria, teachers' break room, and infirmary. White students could take courses in physics, world history, Latin, advanced typing and stenography, drawing, and wood, metal, and machine shop work that were not offered to black students.

On the same day that the student strike began, Barbara Johns and Carrie Stokes, a classmate, sent a letter to the office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the state capital of Richmond requesting the NAACP's assistance in the students' quest to improve their school. Impressed by the commitment of the students, the NAACP decided to bring suit against the Prince Edward County school board. That lawsuit eventually became one of four cases consolidated under the name of Brown v. Board of Education, which resulted in the landmark Supreme Court decision that in 1954 declared unconstitutional the racial segregation of America's public schools.

The story of Johns and her classmates demonstrates what changes can be brought about by students committed to action. In every community, high school students from all walks of life continue to volunteer to serve or assist other young people, adults, or the community at large. Typically, these service projects benefit the target audience and enable the students to learn valuable lessons about themselves and their communities. Read the stories below, then think about what you could do with your classmates to make your community a better place.

In Camp Hill, Alabama, students mounted a local campaign to keep a core group of African-American teachers at their school, as part of a national civic engagement initiative of Project 540.

In Cheyenne, Wyoming, another group of students—with the help of their social studies teachers and funding from the community—formed an improv performing troupe to help other young people grapple with issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, school violence, and bullying.

If your school has a special story to share about "students in action," be sure to contact us at

Student Central | Students in Action | Student Service Projects
Camp Hill, Alabama | Cheyenne, Wyoming