Landmark Harvard study reveals six things that contribute to long, healthy lives

A Harvard Medical School study that tracked 800 people through their entire lives recently revealed six things that made the biggest impact on their happiness, health and longevity.

The study involves several types of participants, from Harvard graduates born around 1920 to blue collar, inner city adults and intellectually gifted women specifically. And while many of the findings seem like common sense, others were less obvious, Business Insider reports.

Smoking and excessive alcohol use showed to have the biggest impact on health, while exercise and and weight management played key roles in longevity and happiness. Heavy smokers generally died sooner than others, while those with a healthy weight who enjoyed regular exercise lived longer with a better quality of life.

Years of education also made a difference. The study found “the physical health of the 70-year-old inner city man was as poor as that of the Harvard men at 80. But remarkably, the health of the college-educated inner city men at 70 was as good as that of the Harvard men at 70,” according to “Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Study of Adult Development,” a book by George Vaillant, the lead author of the study for over three decades.

“This was in spite of the fact that their childhood social class, their tested IQ, their income, and the prestige of their colleges and jobs were markedly inferior to those of the Harvard men. Parity of education alone was enough to produce parity in physical health,” Vaillant wrote.

He found that having a happy childhood is important, as well.

“For both inner city men and the Harvard men the best predictor of a high income was not their parents’ social class but whether their mother had made them feel loved,” according to Vaillant. “Perhaps the best summary statement is, What goes right in childhood predicts the future far better than what goes wrong.”

Relationships, and the emotional intelligence to deal with others, showed to be other big predictors of happiness later in life.

“The lives of all three cohorts repeatedly demonstrated that it was social aptitude — sometimes called emotional intelligence — not intellectual brilliance or parental social class that leads to a well-adapted old age,” Vaillant wrote.

The final two elements predicting a long and happy life involve coping skills, and generativity.

Those in the study who used “maladaptive coping” – blaming others, being passive-aggressive, living in denial or fantasy – did not fare as well as those who used “mature methods” like altruism, sublimation, suppression and humor, Business Insider reports.

Generativity – giving back through service as a consultant, mentor, coach or other youth leader – also benefitted participants later in life.

“In all three study cohorts mastery of Generativity tripled the chances that the decade of the 70s would for these men and women be a time of joy and not of despair,” Vaillant wrote.

He summarized the overarching message from the study – the longest prospective study of its kind in the world – with a single sentence: “Whether we live to a vigorous old age lies not so much in our stars or our genes as in ourselves.”

The findings underscore the notion that personal character is perhaps the most significant determining factor for quality and longevity on earth, a realization that some schools are taking to heart.

Daniel Scoggin explained to CultureFeed why character development is critical to the Great Hearts charter school network he founded in Arizona and Texas:

As the ancient Athenian statesman Pericles described the virtues of a free democracy and its citizens as, “. . . knowing the secret of happiness to be freedom, and the secret of freedom a brave heart.”

In the spirit of Pericles we named our public charter organization Great Hearts. It is a reminder to us of our heritage of freedom. But it also is a reminder to us of what we want our students to have, and who we want our students to be, as we inspire our students to fulfill their calling and prepare for the adventure ahead.

The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham offers a teacher handbook to help educators develop students’ character and improve their outlook on life. The handbook provides activities that encourage youngsters to “cultivate a sense of appreciation for the network of people from whom they receive benefits,” and “to reflect on the meaning of gratitude” outlined in an associated workbook.

Texas middle-schoolers focus on leadership, service work, and financial responsibility

At Texas’ White Oak Middle School, students are learning about leadership, setting goals, career opportunities, and service work.

It’s part of an effort to give students “extra encouragement” to become role models for their classmates and others, and to help develop kids into responsible, respectable citizens who contribute to their community, the Longview News-Journal reports.

About 40 students enrolled in semester-long courses in leadership or career investigations this year, assistant superintendent Mitzi Neely said, and school officials are already noticing a “mindset shift” that’s making a positive impact.

“I had a student that came to me at the beginning of class who said, ‘I just wanted you to know I had a situation, and I wanted you to know how I handled it,’” Neely told the news site. “It was the total opposite of what he would’ve done four weeks ago, and he said, ‘It’s just about taking the high road … and not give in to what the negativity is.’”

Neely and White Oak principal Becky Balboa are working with the leadership students, while coach Roy Boyett leads the career investigations course, which involves online modules, personality and career survey, question-and-answer sessions with local professionals, job fairs and other work to help students get a head start on planning for high school and beyond.

In the leadership class, the focus is on developing character virtues, personal finance and service projects like a recent luncheon to give thanks to local police and firefighters on September 11, the News-Journal reports.

“I think (the community service project) will help us be more thankful for what they do for us,” eighth-grader Landyn Grant told the news site.

The intent, classmate Dyllon Heist said, is to show “a great respect for what they do.”

Heist told the News-Journal that while he initially signed up for the leadership course to spend time with Landyn, his best friend, the class has ultimately helped him “be a better person.”

“After being in there for a couple of weeks, it was like I’m having fun with Landyn, plus I’m learning,” he said. “(Before the class) I was, like, ‘I’m going to fight everybody,’ but taking the high road’s better. It really taught me to be a better person.”

The approach at White Oak Middle School is similar to “alternative pedagogy” schools in that it provides needed context for moral formation.

David Sikkink, researcher with the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, explained how alternative pedagogy schools work in “The Content of Their Character,” a summary of character education in a wide variety of different U.S. high schools.

At alternative pedagogy schools, Sikkink noted “a distinctive organization and distinctive practices and orientations that generated a particular context for student moral and civic formation,” as well as “a fairly explicit understanding of student formation goals, which to a large extent were an outgrowth of an alternative vision of the educational task.”

The Jubilee Center for Character and Virtues provides resources for educators who want to help students develop their own “good sense,” a foundational concept that factors into everything from leadership to college and career planning to community service work.

“Living with ‘good sense’ sets out the ways and means of realizing the good in the down to earth, concrete realities of any given situation,” according to the lesson “An Intellectual Virtue: Good Sense.” “When it is well practiced, it enables suppleness in the face of the complexities of the ethical life. It is the essence of a life well-lived.”


Students learn about sustainability, helping others through community garden project

Students at an Australian primary school are learning about sustainability, reaching out to the homeless, and helping to supply fresh food to area restaurants, all through the same project.

The Barossa school, Tanunda Lutheran School, in Tanunda, South Australia sits adjacent to local businessman Scott Rogasch’s family vineyard, and the former TLS student is working with his alma mater to launch the first of several community gardens. Rogasch runs Forage Supply Co., a nonprofit food van, with buddy Justin Westhoff, and the duo are teaming up with schools to educate students about sustainable farming practices through work in the gardens, which they’ll use to feed folks who are struggling to get sufficient food to feed themselves.

In mid-June, Rogasch converted a plot of land into five large garden beds, with seats and trellises for students gather for outdoor lessons.

According to the Barossa Herald:

For school principal Darren Stevenson, the initiative was not only a “stroke of luck” to be located next door, but also a great opportunity for student learning.

He, with Mr Rogasch, said the garden beds would be worked on by students from the Out of School Care Hours program who would in turn learn about sustainable practices and have access to healthier food. 

In addition, Forage Supply Co and other local restaurants will purchase produce from the school and use it to create sustainable meals. 

The garden, the first of more to come if all goes well, would also use the fruits of students’ labor “to donate more meals to the homeless at the Hutt Street Centre,” Rogasch told the news site.

Forest Supply Co. is now raising funds for several community gardens, and it has so far received about $5,500 in donations toward a goal of $20,000. Rogasch said he started the company with Westhoff last year because the world “consumes too much food and materials,” and the two are ultimately hoping to change that dynamic.

“The world’s population is growing by 228,000 people every day and the earth contains a finite amount of resources,” he told the Herald. “It’s vital we play our part to restore balance and protect the natural world from further destruction.”

Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture highlight the importance of adult role models in “The Content of Their Character,” an analysis of character education programs in a wide variety of school settings.

“What these case studies also consistently show is the importance of the informal articulation of a moral culture through the example of teachers and other adults in the school community,” IASC researchers wrote. “The moral example of teachers unquestionably complemented the formal instruction students received, but arguably, it was far more poignant to, and influential upon, the students themselves.”

The Jesuit Schools Network provides a helpful starting place for educators to consider how community service can cultivate strong character virtues in students with its “Profile of the Graduate,” which examines what the school system expects from students before they graduate.

“The Jesuit high school student at graduation has acquired considerable knowledge of the many needs of local, national, and global communities and is preparing for the day when he or she will take a place in these communities as a competent, concerned and responsible member,” the profile reads.

“The graduate has been inspired to develop the awareness and skills necessary to live in a global society as a person for and with others.”


School board to hire Arabic-speaking ‘school-community ambassador’ to reach out to refugees

The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board in Windsor, Ontario, Canada wants new students to feel welcome in school, especially those who come to Canada as refugees.

So when Catholic Central High School Principal Danielle Disjardins-Koloff proposed the idea of creating an Arabic-speaking “school-community ambassador” position to help connect families with schools and services, district officials were quickly on board, CBC reports.

“What we’ve found is that a number of families are not really aware about the school in the school system and how it operates in the province of Ontario, so in creating this position, we are trying to really enlighten families about all of the opportunities in the educational system here in the province,” superintendent John Ulicny said.

Desjardins-Koloff said she’s identified language, transportation, and the lack of knowledge and comfort among caregivers as reasons many new students aren’t as engaged in school activities as their classmates.

“I’m hoping to build community,” she said. “I’m hoping to remove barriers …. So that parents can become more involved in their children’s educational careers and be more knowledgeable about decision they are making for their child’s futures and lives.”

Officials said the new ambassador will be required to speak Arabic, and will be responsible for communicating with parents of refugee students, hosting information nights and other community outreach.

Arabic is the most common language in Windsor behind English and French, according to the news site.

“We know that if the community is actively engaged, the parents are actively engaged, then student achievement results go up enormously,” Ulicny said.

Recent Catholic Central graduate Karla Alnajm told CBC she thinks the ambassador idea is a good one.

“Transitioning schools is hard for any kid, but speaking a whole different language was like – I was freaking out on the first day,” Alnajm said.

“I think that would be so helpful, especially that when I was here, I didn’t have that kind of help,” she said. “My parents had no clue what was going on in school the first two years. They’d ask me about stuff, I’d try to explain it, but they just wouldn’t get it.”

Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture strongly support an emphasis on creating a strong school culture. In the “Tragedy of Moral Education,” Institute founder James Davison Hunter points out that a student’s learning environment extends beyond school to their mental state, home life, and after school community.

“The form of character is one thing,” Hunter wrote, “but the substance of character always takes shape relative to the culture in which it is found.”

Improving school culture has a direct and positive impact on students’ character and other educational outcomes.

Educators working with marginalized students, such as refugees or those who don’t speak English, can find resources on “Flourishing From the Margins” from the Jubilee Centre for Character & Virtues.

The project offers research into thousands of young people in a wide variety of educational settings, as well as recommendations and teaching materials to help teachers develop character among their most vulnerable students.

Catholic student launches charity for the homeless

Not long ago, Ashton Brown was struggling with his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, getting in trouble at school as his symptoms continued to get “worse and worse,” said Jacqui Brown, the 11-year-old’s mother.

But over the last 18 months, things have drastically improved since Ashton came across videos of homeless folks online that revealed the harsh realities of life on the streets, the Catholic Leader reports.

“Every time I watched a video it was just really sad and I started to cry a little bit,” Ashton told the news site. “I just went up to mum and said, ‘mum, I want to help people around the world that don’t have a home.’”

Brown helped her son organize a car wash fundraiser to purchase supplies for the homeless in their hometown of Goodna, Australia, and the determined sixth-grader raised $310. Ashton then built on that success to raise thousands more by his 11th birthday in May, using the money to buy sleeping bags, blankets, toiletries, coffee and other supplies. In the months since, Ashton has combined the supplies with collected donations and distributed the goods to about 150 “rough sleepers” who attend weekly Street Feed events in the area, according to news site.

“We usually get at least four garbage bags of donations a week,” he said. “We fill the car every week.”

The Browns are now launching a charity called Homeless Helpers and already have plans in the works to eventually buy a caravan to expand their outreach.

“It’s going to be called Homeless Helpers Happy Place,” Ashton said.

“One side is going to be shelving, and that’ll have food, coffee, first aid and toiletries, and the other side we’ll give free hair cuts and flu shots,” his mother said. “I just wanted to show him that I believe in you and if you want to do it, let’s do it.”

Ashton also changed schools to St. Francis Zavier Primary School, Brown said, which has also been “a savior.”

“He’s got a new focus, the happy school and we’re away,” she said.

St. Francis Principal Veronica Lawson told the Catholic Leader she had no idea about Ashton’s charity work, but since she found out the school launched a fundraising event to support Homeless Helpers.

“I think he keeps his light under a bushel,” Lawson said. “I’m on bus duty and every afternoon and every day he tells me how his day has gone, but never once has he said, ‘I do this really important work,’ or ‘I do this for other people.’”

Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture note the strong emphasis Catholic schools put on community service in “The Content of Their Character,” a summary of research into character formation in a wide variety of different schools.

Political scientist David Campbell found “that private school students were more likely to engage in community service than their public school counterparts and that the Catholic schools primarily drove the effects.”

Jon Davison, with the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, offers further insight into “characteristics and complexities of charitable giving” and the motivations behind it.

“It is evident that without clarity of understanding the reasons why people give to particular charitable causes, it is almost impossible to understand how to encourage children, young people and adults to engage in charitable giving,” according to the report.

Kentucky high schoolers renovate historic school for senior service project

Seniors at Newport High School are connecting with their community while fulfilling their service project graduation requirement by renovating the city’s historic Southgate School to prep for a new Newport History Museum.

“All these students live in Newport, and so they’re all doing work that will benefit the city they live in,” media arts teacher Bonnie Stacey told the Northern Kentucky Tribune. “This is a unique experience that offers a different kind of learning.”

Students learned about the historical significance of the school, which was originally built for black students only. Some students hauled furniture from the basement of the building, or cleaned off steps, while others worked on painting a fence in front of the building and finishing floors.

Some students also worked on landscaping the site, and hauling away junk.

“I’m hoping to help the community, and help restore everything for the museum,” senior Jordan Peoples said.

After the hard work, students are tasked with reflecting on what they learned and sharing it with district officials.

James Davison Hunter, author of The Death of Character, underscores the value of such activities. “It is through experience that students participate in moral community and practice moral action…. Experience is always a precursor to the possession of character and practical wisdom (p. 113). It is almost a cliché that experience is the best teacher.

“Every single one of the students will go and speak to the Board of Education about their experiences here today,” Stacey told the news site.

Senior Mercedes McCullah said she was unaware of the school’s history until she started work at the building.

“I knew what the building was because I would always see it when I would go to 4th Street,” the teen said as she painted the fence. “But working and being involved in the community, it just makes you feel good.”

Classmate Kiara Wheeler is already looking forward to when all of the hard work pays off.

“One day we’ll take our children here and we’ll tell them we helped make that,” she said.

One of the challenges of being a teacher is trying to instill in young people a sense of obligation to others than just the self.

The UK’s The Jubilee Centre  has a useful paper about teaching students to serve others and not just themselves. The paper, can be found at The Jubilee Centre for Character and Values Portal.

‘Daughters of Worth’ nonprofit reaches out to engage, inspire young girls

North Carolina mother Liz Liles is making it her life’s mission to help young girls in her community.

Liles told The Daily Reflector she was adopted as a child and struggled during her youth with questions about why her birth mother gave her up, an insecurity that had a strong impact on her life and ultimately compelled her to reach out to young girls questioning their own worth.

“A lot of that deep-rooted insecurity stays with you, and it really begins to shape the way that you see the world,” she said. “Unless you really heal from those wounds, they just go with you.”

That realization became especially clear when Liles, a mother of two boys, moved back to North Carolina after a failed marriage. She accepted a job at The Salvation Army that put her in regular contact with young girls facing serious life traumas, including one girl who was gang raped, and another who fears for her life and sleeps with a knife under her pillow.

“That really opened my eyes to the needs that are here,” Liles said. “We don’t realize the depth of the need that’s in our own backyard.”

Especially when children feel abandoned by their parents, deep psychological deficits persist. Research shows the heightened importance here of adult examples, encouragement, and mentorship. Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture state that it is “far more poignant and influential” than merely classroom instruction (The Content of Their Character, p. 285).

The situation convinced Liles to create the nonprofit Daughters of Worth in 2015. With the help of volunteers, Liles created GLAM (Girls Living A Mission) groups at area elementary schools to mentor young girls. The GLAM Girls, which have steadily grown from about a dozen to roughly 90 girls, take field trips together and work to help groups like the Community Crossroads Center, a Greenville homeless shelter.

“We try to give them experiences they may not have had outside the group,” volunteer Alyssa Hardee said.

“I guess my experience of being a school counselor, seeing what some girls are up against, I just see so many of them struggling with not having positive interactions or role models,” she said. “I just thought it was really important to be someone who could make a difference.”

In more recent years, Liles has expanded the program to offer “Notes of Hope” for first- and second-grade girls to offer regular, positive affirmations, as well as “Grace Gifts,” which offers lessons about financial management and philanthropy. In total, the Daughters of Worth programs have reached about 300 girls.

Kelli Joyner, a counselor at H.B. Sugg Elementary, said many girls at her school have received the “Notes of Hope,” and it’s obvious Daughters of Worth is making a big impact.

“They tell me, ‘I have my other ones pinned up in my room,’” she said. “It means a lot to these girls.”

When teachers and principals think about how to motivate students who have suffered setbacks and adversity in their lives, there are lesson plans at the UK’s the Jubilee Centre. These lessons plans focus on flourishing from the margins and can be found here.

Earth to Table field trip connects students with government leaders, community groups

Third-graders in California’s Rialto Unified School District recently trekked to City Hall for an Earth to Table event that offered lessons in civics and the environment, while also providing an opportunity for students to help others in their community.

“This is an opportunity for students to learn that what the earth produces can be on their table, or even be their table,” Rialto Mayor Deborah Robertson told well over 1,000 students at the April event, according to Island Empire Community News. “This is also an educational opportunity for students to become familiar with government and know that government isn’t foreign, but here for them.”

Too many community service projects or moral development activities seem like arbitrary add-ons to the academic curriculum. By connecting these endeavors more closely to the academic enterprise, they reinforce their importance in the minds of students. Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture have demonstrated that “moral thickness” is enhanced when grounded in authoritative sources. This program links the social, civic, moral, and scientific into a coherent whole thus strengthening its impact.

The third-annual event involved lessons about the benefits of planting trees, and other environmental topics, but the main event was centered on volunteer work for the Community Action Partnership Food Bank.

Students were divided into groups to pack a total of 250 boxes to help feed folks throughout the county.

“You will be packing 45 boxes in about 10 to 15 minutes,” food bank director Brandon Romano told the first group of students.

“Thank you for coming out and helping people who are less fortunate than us,” Mayor Pro Tem Ed Scott said as he banged a gong that set off the student production.

The Rialto Unified School District posted about the successful fieldtrip on Facebook.

Teachers and principals working to strengthen moral and citizenship formation in their students will find information and strategies at the UK’s The Jubilee Centre. The Jubilee Centre also has lesson plans for teacher use that supports the inclusion of moral and citizenship formation into the daily life of students at school.

Jewish Day School offers scholarship for service

A Jewish day school on Long Island, New York recently launched a unique scholarship for students that makes tuition more affordable for families while encouraging them to give back to their community.

The new Community Service Grant is funded by “a donor who wanted to honor the memory of his father in a meaningful way,” Joshua Trump, board president of the Westchester Day School, told Jewish Week. “The priorities were: do something that would help the school by growing enrollment, do something that was mission-oriented and do something that would impact the community,” he said.

WDS officials devised the grant program to offer families $15,000 in tuition assistance over two years in exchange for a pledge to complete at least 75 hours of community service each year. WDS will give out two to three Community Service Grants in the first year, officials said.

“It provides an attractive incentive to prospective young families looking to move into the community or considering Westchester Day School, but it also highlights the priorities of WDS. We place a premium on families who are doers in the community,” said Trump (no relation to the president).

“The mission statement says, we’re here to ‘prepare students to live as mensches; first and foremost a WDS student is a mensch,’” Trump said. “It’s as blunt as it could be. And we’re really trying to demonstrate that and articulate that message in everything we do.” Mensch is a Jewish term that refers to a person of integrity and honor.

So far, two families have applied for the Community Service Grant, which requires applicants to detail exactly how they plan to volunteer. The volunteer work could involve only one family member, or several, and those who organize larger events would get credit for hours worked by everyone who participates, according to the news site.

“Part of the message here is, not only are we hoping families will show up and spend time working in the community, but they’ll also take leadership roles by creating programs and encouraging others to do more,” Trump said.

Paul Bernstein, CEO of the Jewish day school organization Prizmah, told Jewish Week the Community Service Grant is likely the first of its kind in the nation. “We don’t know of anyone else who’s done a similar community service (program) and tied it to tuition assistance,” he said. “We think this is a first, and we’re just delighted that people are trying different ways to really serve families and make it more affordable.”

Head of School Rabbi Joshua Lookstein said he hopes other schools adopt similar programs, which benefit both students and local communities. “One of the exciting things about it is that we think it could be a model for day schools across the country,” he said. “We feel it’s a win-win situation for everyone—more students in Jewish day schools and more of those in need being cared for.”

As Trump’s appeal to the mission of living as mensches suggests, scholarship programs like the Community Service Grant are not incidental to the culture of schools, or to character formation in students.

James Davison Hunter and Ryan S. Olson, editors of The Content of Their Character, a publication of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, write:

The commitments and beliefs inculcated by the school may or may not be articulated, but they are nonetheless promoted and reinforced in school settings . . . How a school is organized, the course structure and classroom practices, the relationship between the school and outside civic institutions—all of these matter in the moral and civic formation of the child.

The Jubilee Centre for Character & Virtues and others offer resources to help teachers cultivate honesty in their classrooms and encourage giving back to the community.

Future Farmers of America chapter creates leaders

Despite burgeoning urban populations, Future Farmers of America (FFA) demonstrated record involvement this year with about 680,000 members. In Tenino, Washington, the student-led FFA chapter is building community leaders.

Geraldine Maxfield, the local agriculture teacher and head of the FFA chapter, told the Thurston Talk that she sees the club’s role extending beyond the development of interest or skill in agriculture: “I’m a firm believer that when kids leave here, they are going to be good citizens.”

Maxfield, a Tenino native and graduate of Chico State (CA), has been running the FFA for almost 25 years. The organization has been a near constant presence in her own life, as she was an active participant throughout her own high school and college education.

According to the FFA website, the organization’s mission is to make “a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.” Tenino’s chapter is just one of 8,500 nationally.

Educators are increasingly finding that it is easier to motivate students when learning is seen to have consequences outside of academic grades. Hence, the recent surge of interest in service-learning projects. Maxfield says of FFA, “The idea is that they are taking what they are learning in the classroom and applying it outside.” It turns out that students relish the opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning and the community’s well being.

In Tenino, FFA members participate in a range of activities throughout the year, many of which involve community service: running a community garden, hosting a holiday wreath sale to raise donations for a local charity, collecting food donations, and even constructing a house for the Seattle homeless. All these various projects really are student-led. Maxfield provides direction for the students, but ultimately she says, “it’s all about providing opportunities to plan and organize.”

The chapter also takes students on several field trips each year. These trips include stops at colleges so that students can explore environments where they could continue to build and refine their skills. “To help them become productive members of society, they need to have something to offer to the community. Whether it’s learning a trade or going to college,” says Maxfield.

This likely sums up why Maxfield, and subsequently the chapter she stewards, have been so successful. She is firm in her belief that educators need to be thinking of their students as citizens as well as scholars, and she gives them countless opportunities to develop in both facets.

Rural students like those in Tenino are no small part of American education; they comprise 28.9% of all non-charter public school students.  The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture studied rural schools as part of the School Cultures and Student Formation Project to better understand how schools and organizations like FFA interact. Editors James Davison Hunter and Ryan S. Olson write in The Content of Their Character “Character in [rural schools] involved strong links to the local community and thus the obligation to represent one’s community well.”

In Tenino, FFA is one of those strong links to the community.

For rural communities, keeping the leaders that they develop is a perennial challenge. Maxfield isn’t worried. She grew up in Tenino and returned to Tenino to teach agriculture. Living to Serve is one way that FFA equips students to serve their communities. They provide a planning guide that anyone can use to put together a service learning project.