Introducing Service Academy: A New Service Project

How can we start a New Service participation revolution?

A photo of Ryan and Thomas Growney side by side

Hi – we’re Ryan and Thomas Growney. We’re twin sixteen-year-old brothers who are juniors in high school at St. George’s School in Middletown, Rhode Island. And we want to change the world!

We believe in the untapped potential of young people and youth service. That’s why we created Service Academy, a social innovation project dedicated to reimagining youth service and developing young entrepreneurs and leaders. At the heart of Service Academy are New Service opportunities that align purpose with endless possibilities.

Service Academy started as an interesting discussion about what we each had to give back to our communities. We want to make a meaningful impact and we’ve been in conversation with a range of people about how to best go about it. What we discovered is that performative community service that only checks a box for a school requirement isn’t going to make the kind of impact that can shape the future we want to live in.

Service opportunities should be exciting!

The term “service” doesn’t feel like it encapsulates how important and transformative the experience can be, so we’re calling for a New Service participation revolution.

What is New Service?

New Service is an expansive, more holistic definition of “service” with a wider range of inclusive, accessible social impact activities. Through service engagement, we develop a deeper understanding of systemic inequalities and cultivate the courage and skills to challenge them. New Service empowers young people to expect more from youth service, and to help co-create activities that motivate us to act.

We realized the power of New Service on a group volunteering trip to a rural school in Costa Rica. The service activity involved designing and painting a mural on the school. We collaborated with the students to discover what would be most meaningful and inspiring for them to see every day. The experience served as a motivating force for us to make a positive difference in the world. For Thomas, the incredible personal connections he made with the children and other volunteers was the most memorable aspect. Meanwhile, Ryan realized the profound value these purpose-driven activities have to develop leadership skills and change communities for the better. 

Because of this service activity, Thomas wants more people to experience the power of personal connections and community belonging through service. Ryan wants to scale the experience and build networks so every student in every community can use service to develop the skills to be a future leader. New Service brings these together by co-creating an ecosystem of meaningful service experiences that align values with actions, forging new pathways to purpose and mutually beneficial outcomes.

Social Innovation & Youth Service

Born from a conversation, Service Academy is a continuation of our effort to make the world a better place. It represents the kind of people we want to be — ones that take action and stand up for what we believe in. Service Academy combines our interests in entrepreneurship and social innovation, large-scale problem-solving, and working with people we admire and love. We have found belonging, confidence, self-esteem, learning, and fulfillment through this process. And we hope others will too.

After starting the St. George’s Social Entrepreneurship Club (SE@SG) last year, we saw at a hyper-local, community level the power of bringing together students who want to make a positive difference in our community. We even created a card game, Multiplicity of Pursuits, as an icebreaker and brainstorming tool designed to inspire revolutionary ideas and motivate extraordinary life choices.

We want to take what we’re learning and doing at a local level and scale it so other student advocates can adapt it in their own communities. Service Academy will connect and motivate young people to create an exponential, collective youth service impact — put simply, we want to start a New Service participation revolution.

We need your help.

Service Academy is dedicated to:

  • Raising the social value of youth service through awareness of the incredible benefits to young people and their communities;
  • Helping grow a vibrant, contemporary youth service ecosystem in every community; and
  • Achieving more meaningful youth service activities in our local communities. 

We just launched The Service Academy Podcast, where we share what we’re thinking about related to New Service and who is motivating us to act, including Alessandra Orofino in the first episode who inspired the term “participation revolution.”

We’re also proud of the resources we’re building out here on the Service Academy website, including the Service Academy Blog. Be on the lookout soon for the Resource Lab, Youth Service Research and Learnings, and the Service Academy New Service Framework.

We invite you to join us! 

There are a lot of ways to get involved:

We also need adults and other community stakeholders championing New Service. If you’re interested in helping elevate the youth service ecosystem, please email us — we’d love to hear from you!

Thank you!

To the dozens of people that have already believed in us, supported us, and given their time, energy, ideas, talents, money, and mentorship to make Service Academy possible, thank you.

A special thank you to the incredible adults and students at St. George’s — we are so proud to be Dragons!

And to our family, including our little brothers, Henry and James, who make us want to do great things to make the world a little better for you. We love you.

We’re just getting started. Our communities and the world needs us. Let’s start this New Service revolution together.

Thank you for being part of the Service Academy journey!

– Ryan & Thomas Growney SG’24