Youth Use PM Skills to Transform Lives Through Community Service


17 June 2019

Published inPM for Social Good

Topics Grants , Youth

Group of volunteers from Berea College

PMIEF's grant funded PFE's leadership initiative for youth in Appalachian Kentucky, USA.

In 2017, the PMI Educational Foundation (PMIEF) awarded a grant to Partners for Education (PFE) at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, USA for “The PMIEF – PFE Promising Appalachian Leaders in Service (PALS) Initiative.” The grant funded PFE to design, implement and pilot a project management-rich leadership development program for youth in Appalachian Kentucky, USA so they recognize the importance of civic responsibility. As a result, and in alignment with PMIEF’s mission, they developed the knowledge and skills necessary to execute projects that make a meaningful difference in their community. 

Young people in Appalachian Kentucky contend with myriad challenges that often sharply juxtapose the opportunities afforded youth in other parts of the country. For one, largely forested and remote, mountainous topography characterizes the region, with tortuous roads that can prove deadly during inclement weather. This leads to school closings that can exceed more than 25 instructional days each winter due to snow and flooding. When youth do attend school, it frequently requires boarding a bus at 5:00 a.m., only to return home after 5:30 p.m. 

Furthermore, Appalachian Kentucky is coal country and has suffered the loss of more than 8,000 coal-related jobs since 2009. High unemployment is compounded by low educational attainment, evidenced by the ever-widening gap between undergraduate degree holders in the region and the rest of the country. This limits young people’s understanding of career options they can pursue and the educational credentials these options require even as their geographic isolation complicates the ability to give back to their community. 

PMIEF funded PALS to help deeply connect young people to their region by assuming leadership roles within it. PFE reached more than 200 youth through the initiative, which leveraged PMIEF’s no-cost educational resources such as Project Management Skills for Life® and Project Management Toolkit for Teachers®. Engaging youth who attend persistently low-performing, high-poverty secondary schools, PALS deepened their awareness of community needs and encouraged them to design projects to help problem-solve them by learning and practically applying project management.

Young people executed projects that included creating a private locker for peers in need of hygiene products and school supplies as well as painting an eight-foot mural in recognition of veterans’ service. In addition, they organized tutoring activities, an art program for nursing home residents, and a library book night to promote family time.

Youth credit PALS for building their self-esteem, capacity to lead others and themselves, and enhanced academic performance. Moreover, the initiative allowed them to view community service through a lens other than punishment enforced by the penal system, which many have witnessed in their family. Without question, PALS also cultivated a greater sense of belonging to a community. As one participant said when discussing his project, “Every small ripple can make a wave. I made new friends and was able to make an impact in my community using project management skills for what seemed to be a tiny gesture.” 

According to Project Coordinator Tevin Shouse, “The empowerment of our youth to take ownership – not only of their service project, but also of their community – is the greatest result of this effort. Seeing them demonstrate an increased sense of belonging within their community as a result of this initiative allows for a paradigm shift in which community hopelessness becomes community hope over time.” 

To learn more about PMIEF, including the no-cost educational resources PFE used for this grant-funded initiative, visit


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