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Orange County Schools Build Civic Education with Disney

By Stacy Andell for

If it wasn’t a big enough perk to grow up next door to the Magic Kingdom, Orange County high school students are also being sought out by nonprofit organizations in their area. As part of Disneyland’s 50th anniversary celebrations, high school students from Orange County Schools have the chance to participate in community outreach projects with local nonprofits.

Show Your Character

The “Show Your Character” competition encourages local nonprofits to design projects that get high school students involved. Beginning in 2004 and continuing through 2006, Orange County nonprofits submit project proposals designed to help local teenagers give back to their community. If selected, the nonprofits are paired with Orange County high school students and given the resources they needed to complete a community service project in their neighborhoods.

Projects for the competition must meet the California curriculum standards for Service Learning Projects. In this way, students earn academic credit while learning valuable skills from nonprofit groups.

A Service Learning Project must meet four basic goals (provided by the Volunteer Center of Orange County, ):

Meet a Real Community Need

In partnership with your organization, students should gain an understanding of how the needs of the community you serve are identified. After developing an understanding of these needs, students will actively participate in a service-learning project designed to effectively meet those needs.

Gain an Understanding of the Connection Between School and Community

Students should develop an understanding of the relationship between the school and the community and the value of school-community partnerships. This will be gained through direct interactions with your organization, staff and/or clients to develop and implement meaningful service activities that meet the needs of both the students and the community you serve.

Develop a Sense of Civic Responsibility

Students should be able to demonstrate an understanding of civic responsibility through their participation in this service-learning activity. The project must meet a real community need and improves the quality of life in the community.

Strengthen their Understanding of Core Character Traits and Values

Trustworthiness - Respect - Fairness - Caring - Citizenship

Benefits for Students

In addition to the school credit, participation in the competition also benefits students and their schools in other key ways. Students will gain from an increased awareness of the nonprofits operating in the community. In working with a nonprofit organization, the student will learn about how nonprofit groups help at risk members of the community and see for themselves how they and others can contribute to building their community in a positive way in the future. Participation also qualifies the student to apply for a Disneyland Resort Legacy Scholarship Award. The Disneyland Resort Scholarship Program, called Making Magic Through Community Service, plans to grant ,000 in scholarships, with a minimum scholarship of 00 each.

Benefits for Teachers and Schools

Teachers and schools can get in on the action too. In assisting their students to participate in the competition, teachers and schools meet the standards in character education and have the opportunity to build character and civic responsibility in their students. Teachers and students will have the advice of a Disney VoluntEAR Project Leader who is knowledgeable about their nonprofit organization partner as well as the character education curriculum education standards to be met. In addition, teachers and schools will have the expert assistance of the Volunteer Center of Orange County, the California State Regional Lead for Service Learning. There are financial benefits for teachers too, such as earning a Golden Performance Award worth 00 to further improve the learning environment for their students.

Disney’s community outreach programs for Orange County high school students combine learning with public service and specifically address the character education curriculum standards for the state of California. Students in the area have been given the opportunity to learn from Walt Disney that, “the greatest moments in life are not concerned with selfish achievement but rather with the things we do for the people in need.”

About the Author: Stacy Andell is a staff writer for Schools K-12, providing free, in-depth reports on all U.S. public and private K-12 schools. Stacy has a nose for research and writes stimulating news and views on school issues. For more on Orange County schools visit

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