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Kari Pardoe


Service & Leadership Camp

28 West Adams
Suite 1500
Detroit, Michigan 48226
Kari Pardoe believes that children can accomplish whatever they want and that drive, direction, and leadership can start with service learning. As director of The LEAGUE Michigan, a program for service, service learning, and philanthropy education, Pardoe sees amazing results with youth, who though they have little themselves, find ways to give to back. 
Michigan Nightlight: What does being a leader mean to you?
The LEAGUE Michigan Director Kari Pardoe: Being a leader means making a difference in the lives of others. It means setting the stage and laying the foundation for others to become engaged and to serve. 
As leaders, we have to be able to step back and recognize everyone’s strengths and figure out the best way to utilize them as an asset. We need to be willing to have conversations with the people we work with and the people we serve. I truly believe that, as a leader, I can learn to recognize that everyone, from kindergarteners to senior citizens, can become involved. Children are often not seen as leaders. But they really are leaders.
What is your dream for kids?
My dream is that each child has every opportunity available provided to them. By that, I mean, through education, that they’re
The fact that we are energizing young people and instilling philanthropic values that will last a lifetime tells me that we are making a difference.
set up to learn and succeed and that, through extracurricular activities they can try different things and find out what they enjoy and are good at, what they are interested in and what they are not interested in. Those experiences provide them with options.
I hope and I dream that we are instilling philanthropic values in kids so that we are helping to create civically engaged citizens as they become adults.
What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?
The biggest thing is the need for improved collaboration. Whether it is a humanistic organization, an environmental organization, or an educational institution, there are similar types of services being offered, and every sector under the nonprofit umbrella could do a better job of coordinating them.
You would see less duplication of services and a higher level of services and a higher impact on the people that each organization is serving. With that higher impact, we could really make a difference without wasting resources -- human capital, time and financial resources.
How do you know you’re making progress?
It’s a two-part approach, and the biggest part of it is the feedback we get from the K-12 teachers that we work with. We support them in integrated service learning and philanthropic education, and we help them tie this teaching methodology into their curriculum.
They share the impact they see in their students, and they tell us that attendance increases and grades increase, and that their students are becoming more aware of their communities’ needs. They want to give back and they want to make a difference.
...the kids that we work with are in need themselves, but, year after year, we watch them learn that there are always other people who have even greater needs.
The second part of this is the interaction we have with students. Through the Service and Leadership Camp and other training, they get to see other students integrate philanthropy into their daily lives. The fact that we are energizing young people and instilling philanthropic values that will last a lifetime tells me that we are making a difference.
One student just emailed me to say, “I know what I want to do with my life now.” He wants to go into social work and philanthropy, and he made that decision based on what he has done with us and learned from our camp. Results like this are amazing. Absolutely amazing.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud that we are teaching young people to use their talents and their skills to help others. For example, if a young person is very technically oriented, they could use that talent to build a website or manage social media for a nonprofit organization.
It’s not a new story; the kids that we work with are in need themselves, but, year after year, we watch them learn that there are always other people who have even greater needs. In turn, they will give up what they have -- and sometimes they have very little to give -- to help someone else.
What perceptions, messages, or historical influences create the most significant barriers to engaging Michigan's children in service learning and philanthropy?
Trying to engage teachers is the first thing. They are already so busy that we don’t always have the opportunity to educate them and share the importance of building service learning into their programming. Some adults, including parents, educators and administrators and community partners, don’t trust young people or believe that they can make a difference. I know that they can. I see it every day. 
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Program Profile


  • The LEAGUE Michigan
    The LEAGUE Michigan is a program for service, service-learning and philanthropy education that builds character and empowers young people to do well in their community, the nation and the world.


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