2015 Community Service Award: Empowering Students Through Service
First Place: Phillips Exeter Academy
Exeter, New Hampshire
Head of School: Thomas E. Hassan
Community Service Coordinator: Elizabeth Reyes
In light of this year’s service award theme, Empowering Students, CSEE was thrilled to see that Exeter students wrote and submitted their school’s application. The Exeter Social Service Organization, or ESSO, is student run and thus gives students great autonomy and a plethora of leadership opportunities. ESSO is led by a hard-working board of 9 students, with guidance from two staff members. These students are responsible for putting on an annual assembly, organizing an interest night, strategic planning, oversight and accountability, and training the club heads.
ESSO is a wonderful model of empowerment, as any student can be an ESSO club head. Even more than numbers, however, is the way that ESSO allows—even encourages—students to find projects in the areas of their interests and expertise, to channel their passions into service, on a voluntary rather than mandatory basis. Students are encouraged to identify needs in the community, be inspired by an issue meaningful to them, and use that motivation to create a club, or organize a one-time service event. There are currently 70 student-led clubs, in which the club heads manage all of the day-to-day activities and logistics. One student writes, “Being a club head is a large responsibility, one that requires students to be proactive and reliable and provides valuable leadership experience.”
The service activities under the ESSO umbrella are as varied as the students who create them. Music-loving students teach lessons at local day cares or perform at community venues. Students motivated to address health and hunger issues organize groups to work at area farms, or cook and serve food at local meal centers. Others share their talents in sports, teaching lessons to young children or people with disabilities. ESSO gives students the framework to share their talents and pursue their interests, toward the goal of strengthening their communities.
If you’d like to see a complete list of ESSO Clubs that Exeter Students have created, please visit http://www.exeter.edu/student_life/11569_11579.aspx
Second Place: Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart
Head of School: Catherine Ronan Karrels
Upper School Director of Social Action: Lauren Brownlee
Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart is a pre-K through high school for some 675 young women just outside of Washington D.C. Like all schools in the Sacred Heart network, the school is guided by the five Sacred Heart Goals, one of which is a “social awareness which impels to action.” At Stone Ridge, not only are students moved toward social action, but the movers are largely students themselves.
One of the practices that holds the best promise for moral growth is precisely that of fostering students’ autonomy by empowering students in age appropriate ways (the benefits tend to spill over into academics, also). The committee this year was impressed by the number of Stone Ridge students who manage to play roles on the School’s Social Action Student Advisory Board; the committee liked the way the SASAB offers opportunities to develop leadership skills while entrusting students with some of the responsibility for the growth of Stone Ridge’s social action program. The Board is divided into four teams, which see to preparation, action, reflection, and infusion of each of the school’s Social Action Days. The first three of the teams see to the specifics of individual programs, while the “Infusion Team” works to make sure the school is living its Social Action mission outside the time frame of specific projects.
Other service positions that rely on student leadership exist outside the SASAB. The committee was similarly impressed by the SAL program: a great way for older students to train younger ones about areas of social justice. The Campus Ministry Board, for example, also has service coordinators, and the School Community Governance groups are social justice oriented clubs that build social justice into the school day. Other, similar opportunities for student empowerment and engagement in service abound. We salute the number of ways Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart has found to offer students meaningful roles to play in the life of the school.
Honorable Mention: Flintridge Preparatory School
La Cañada Flintridge, CA
Head of School: Peter Bachmann
Upper School Director of Social Action: Heather Clark
Flintridge Preparatory School serves 500 students in grades 8-12 in La Cañada, California (outside of Los Angeles). The school’s mission is to help students live balanced, engaged, and responsible lives. Focusing on engagement rather than obligation, 10-hour service requirements were replaced to allow for student ownership and creative, authentic engagement. Among other things, the committee liked the way Prep has its program driven by the school’s mission, which is frequently not the case. Similarly, Prep’s emphasis on “engagement” was noteworthy, precisely because it suggested a continuous atmosphere of reflection about the program and what you want to accomplish as a school.
The committee especially focused on the way Prep have given responsibility to students for initiating and maintaining the school’s connections and collaborations with some two dozen community organizations. SCAC, the Student Community Action Council, consists of 11 student leaders who organize various community impact events, fundraisers and fairs each year. In the beginning of the year SCAC invites local community organizations to the Community Impact Fair, and connects students with projects they can work with and build onto throughout their time at Flintridge Prep. SCAC is in place to support students and help them find ways to passionately engage in community and worldwide social causes, while assisting with resources to effectively realize these plans. The fact that your program is not mandatory only adds to the empowerment we see happening there.
Currently, 82% of students are meaningfully engaged in service projects. Beginning with the 8th grade “Community Impact Project” and extending through high school, each level is involved in age-appropriate ways, from a semester-long service project within science class, 9th grade Peer Counseling group, 10th and 11th grade personalized impact projects, and culminating in senior students’ cumulative reflection of their community impact.
Reflection and assessment are a major component in Flintridge Preparatory School’s service program, and students are asked to voluntarily submit self-reflection pieces at the beginning and end of the year. In these pieces, students consider and document the impact they have had and take time to develop and plan their continued involvement in varied projects.
- - - - -
Overview of Past Themes and Recipients:
Addressing Poverty and Hunger (2004)
-Katherine Delmar Burke School - Middle School
- La Jolla Country Day, The Bishop School, and Francis Parker - All Ages
- Katherine Delmar Burke School - Middle School
- National Cathedral School - Upper School
- Beaver Country Day School - Upper School
Outstanding Relationships with Agencies (2005)
- Milton Academy - All Ages
- Christ Church Episcopal School - All Ages
- Punahou School - All Ages
- Castilleja School - Middle and Upper School
- Urban School of San Francisco - Upper School
- Head Royce School - Upper School
Pairing Classrooms with Communities (2006)
- Brooklyn Friends School - All Ages
- Harpeth Hall School - Upper School
- St. Paul's Episcopal School - Lower School
Integration with Academics (2007)
- La Jolla Country Day School - All Ages
- Athenian School - Upper School
Making Connections Between Ages (2008)
- 'Iolani School - Lower School
- Louise S. McGehee School - Middle School
Exemplary Elementary School Programs (2009)
- The Hewitt School - Lower School
- Marymount School of New York - Lower School
- The Blake School - Lower School
- The Ensworth School - Lower School
Empowering Students (2010)
- La Jolla Country Day School - Middle & Upper School
- North Shore Country Day School - All Ages
- St. John's School - Upper School
- National Presbyterian School - Lower School
Stewardship of the Earth (2011)
- The Willow School - Lower School
- Far Hills Country Day School - Lower School
- The Lovett School - Upper School
Outstanding Relationships with Community Agencies (2012)
- Rivers School - Middle & Upper School
- Nightingale-Bamford School - Upper School
Outstanding Programs that Integrate Service with the Curriculum (2013)
- Greenhill School - All School
- Casady School - Upper School
- The Hudson School - Upper School
Addressing Social Justice through Community Service (2014)
- St. Agnes Academy - St. Dominic School - All School
- - - - -
2014 Theme: Addressing Social Justice through Community Service
St. Agnes Academy - St. Dominic School, Memphis, Tennessee - All School
Head of School: Ms. Barbara Daush
Directors of Service: Ms. Kathleen Toes-Boccia, Ms. Julia Schuster
St. Agnes Academy - St. Dominic School is a place where Catholic social justice teaching rests on the deeply rooted foundation of the school's Dominican heritage and its commitment to the four pillars of Dominican spirituality: Prayer, Study, Community, and Service.
Beginning even with early childhood classes and extending through grade 8, each grade at SAA-SDS has both its own local service project and a larger project that unites the entire school in a social justice ministry. These individual projects are developmentally appropriate and range from helping at a local food bank (in earlier grades) to assisting at a Memphis soup kitchen, to outreach to a local nursing home, to forming personal relationships with students from a school in a part of the city where fewer advantages are available. Seventh-graders visit Heifer International's Global Challenge Camp, to learn about real-life challenges that people face in many parts of the world. Eighth-graders participate in an annual "Day of Caring," which sets them up for designing a plan to improve one of the situations they encountered; plans are designed to be implemented later. At the macro level, the philosophical underpinnings of the entire program are held in place by social justice lessons woven throughout the curriculum at each grade level.
The high school at St. Agnes Academy - St. Dominic School has been recognized on numerous occasions, both locally for students' involvement with the Memphis area community (with original projects like Fleece for Faith and donations to Anna's Closet), and nationally; on three different occasions the school has been a recipient of a Jefferson Award for Public Service. As with the younger grades, the high school's work has been for a range of projects that in all cases "provide good" for others, but in most cases also involve students personally and in meaningful ways with members of the community outside their school.
St. Agnes Academy - St. Dominic School's commitments to the Saruwe Junior School in Selous, Zimbabwe especially stands out—not because of the fact that it's a connection to a school in a faraway country, but precisely because it is an ongoing relationship between two schools. SAA-SDS has worked in so many different ways, in so many different grades, both to establish meaningful personal relationships and to provide resources to their Zimbabwean sister school. Students at SAA-SDS provide for their peers in Selous through donations of both money and materials, and this relationship is backed by a number of initiatives that involve students in meaningful exchanges and opportunities to build relationships. Grade levels are paired and letter, photo, and video exchanges help students get to know one another, one another's lives, and one another's worlds better. Much of this work is overseen and guided by a volunteer group of junior high "Global Ambassadors," who plan specific fundraising events to support specific needs at the Saruwe Junior School.
2013 Theme: Outstanding Programs that Integrate Service with the Curriculum
First Place: Greenhill School, Addison, Texas - All School
Mr. Scott Griggs, Head of School
Sally W. Rosenberg, Director of Service Learning and Community Service
From Pre-K to 12th grade, service learning at Greenhill School is an integral part of the student experience. Greenhill’s mission is to graduate students who have not only spent quality time improving the community, but who have the knowledge, training, and instilled sense of responsibility to keep serving their community in the future.
In the Lower and Middle Schools, service is integrated into grade-level curriculum to gradually teach students about community needs and the role they can play to help meet those needs. Students start by learning about basic human necessities, such as adequate food, housing and clothing, and move on to more complex issues like supporting people in times of crisis, helping the elderly or ill, care for the environment, and more. Some of the projects include Meals on Wheels, in which they learn about the importance of basic nutrition and human connection, and The Veterans Project, where they learn about heros through a curricular unit, and then write letters to veterans and raise money to help with local veterans groups. Service integration with the curriculum really shines in Greenhill’s Upper School. Several classes are designed to teach students skills, while simultaneously providing a service to the community. One of these stellar classes is Website Design for the Real World, where students learn to function as a small web design firm would, while they create a working website for a local non-profit agency. Another impressive class is Financial Analysis, where students learn the ins and outs of the stock market, CDs, IRAs, and income taxes. For the service component of the course, students prepare basic tax returns for clients through a local non-profit agency. Some students also participate in Service Learning in Spanish, where they find a service project that allows them to use their developing Spanish language skills at least 75% of the time. CSEE applauds Greenhill School for finding dynamic and challenging ways to serve the community.
Second Place: Casady School, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma - Upper School
Christopher Bright, Head of School
Carmen Clay, Community Service-Learning Director
The mission of Casady School’s service program is to cultivate well-educated individuals who are also “entrepreneurs of peace and social change.” Though students are required to serve 45 hours over their high school years, many surpass this minimum, finding motivation in diverse opportunities and student-led initiatives. In addition to many faculty-led service opportunities, Casady has a student service council, YAC, that does great work collaborating with school clubs and sports teams on projects. Casady students have also developed their own award-winning service-learning experiences, like Sow Love Zambia, which has raised money to build schools in Zambia, and Students Against Destructive Decisions, which inspires students to be involved in positive endeavors.
On the theme of integrating service with the curriculum, Casady has impressive initiatives like The Blue Thumb Project, in which science students monitor water quality and affected habitat in a local stream. Students collect and chemically test water samples, identify local fish and bugs, and complete data sheets on their observations. The Fair Trade Chocolate Project in the lower school teaches students about social justice and environmental stewardship, as they sell fair-trade chocolate and donate the proceeds to charity. The project is woven into the curriculum in so many ways: graph skills in measuring sales, awareness of business concepts such as expenses, gross sales and profit, language arts skills in reading about the topic, art skills in recreating West African Adinkra symbols – art from the region where their fair-trade chocolate originated. This project and others at Casady are great examples of service through cross-discipline collaboration.
Honorable Mention: The Hudson School, Hoboken, New Jersey - Upper School
Suellen Newman, Head of School
Michael Strom, Without Walls Educational Director and Yotam Marom, Service Director
The Hudson School has created a dynamic program called Without Walls where, for 90 minutes each week, all upper school students discuss themes of social justice and are empowered to create community action projects. Themes include “Practicing Community,” which explores students’ identities in relationship with their community, “Exploring Injustice,” which examines injustices that students see and aims to get at the root causes, “Youth and Social Change,” which looks at the role of youth in society and the creative ways they can promote social change, and “Life Beyond High School,” where students develop their own curriculum with a focus on their lives as young adults. Hudson’s program excels through their autonomy-driven approach: having students reflect on issues, then design and implement their own action plans.
2012 Theme: Outstanding Relationships with Community Agencies
First Place: The Rivers School, Weston, Massachusetts - Middle and Upper
Mr. Thomas P. Olverson, Head of School
Jeanette Szretter and Laura Brewer, Community Service Directors
The Rivers School’s mission wants each student to be an active, contributing member of society. To this end, Rivers has made available a variety of age-appropriate outreach opportunities for all students (grade 6-12) to foster a spirit of commitment to the broader community. Long-lasting relationships have been developed with several community partners. The Massachusetts General Hospital Bloodmobile, The Romanian Children’s Relief Partnership, The Special Olympics, Sages and Seekers (bringing the voice of older generations into the English classroom), and Rivers Givers Youth Philanthropy Program— among others—both benefit from and contribute to the strength of the relationship.
One relationship that stands out as a prime example is the Rivers connection with the Natick Service Council. Rivers has been working with the Natick Service Council for over 20 years! What started out as an annual school-wide holiday food drive to fill the pantry has expanded to regular student administrative work in Natick’s offices, and students engaged in such activities as baking pies for the holidays, raking leaves for elderly residents, cleaning, sorting, and stocking the food pantry. A few senior students did a mural installation for staff, volunteers, and pantry users to enjoy, and one student created a website for the Natick Service Council to reach out to users and donors. This is a wonderful example of students using their diverse talents to deepen their relationship with an organization. Most recently, Rivers has been developing a program where fresh produce is grown through the school’s greenhouse and garden to donate to Natick.
Over a third of Rivers’ seniors choose to do their senior capstone projects with nonprofit organizations—many of which they were introduced to, and developed a relationship with, during service work in earlier grades. This is a testament to Rivers’ fulfilling their mission!
Second Place: Nightingale-Bamford School, New York, New York - Upper School
Dorothy Hutcheson, Head of School
Kristen Mulvoy, Community Service Director
Nightingale-Bamford School has many service projects in place throughout all grades (K-12), but Kristen Mulvoy, Director of Community Service, relates one very important relationship with a nearby school, the Sisulu-Walker Charter School.
Each ninth grader at Nightingale takes a semester-long class entitled “Civic Engagement and Social Leadership,” the cornerstone of which is weekly trips to neighboring Sisulu-Walker in East Harlem. Here, Nightingale students work with the fourth and fifth grade students on math and other various projects, such as research on the history of Harlem. The schools also participate in a canned food drive together, collecting for the local food pantry.
These repeat visits create a meaningful relationship between the older Nightingale and younger Sisulu students. Aside from developing friendships, Nightingale students observe and reflect on public charter school education, gain experience tutoring and being role-models for younger students, and learn more about a neighborhood only a few blocks away but rich in a tradition that most of them are insufficiently familiar with. Sisulu students receive one-on-one attention and tutoring that they don’t typically get due to larger class sizes, collaborate with older students on challenging projects, and make meaningful connections. Many students keep in contact via email, and several Nightingale students return regularly to Sisulu to tutor after school. Students write reflections on their time at Sisulu, and many report how the experience has piqued their interest in education and working with other communities. A current goal is to expand this program and get other grades involved, to further deepen the partnership with Sisulu.
2011 Theme: "Stewardship of the Earth"
First Place: The Willow School, Gladstone, NJ - Lower School
Willow is one of those rare and beautiful schools whose work for environmental stewardship has clear roots right in the mission statement. In addition to academic excellence and "the joy of learning," Willow is committed to having students experience "the wonder of the natural world." Willow's students are from preschool through grade eight. The school's environmental stewardship program is intertwined with its virtues program, which intentionally encompasses ethical relationships: relationships among human beings, and relationships between human beings and the natural world. The goal is to develop in children a sense of personal stewardship and love for the earth.
As early as kindergarten, students are made aware of problems facing landfills, oceans, and rivers- as well as the damage done when what we throw away gets eaten by creatures that live on our land or in our waterways. Students do their part by collecting bottlecaps and sending them to a company that recycles them into new tops. In true service learning fashion, the students also count and weight what they collect.
Third graders collect other non-recyclable products and send them to a company that transforms the "garbage" into new products. Juice pouches, for example, will later become lunch bags. In this case, also, students are not only working with the outside world, but also learning in the classroom.
Older students work with an outside agency called Charity: Water, on a project that brings clean, safe drinking water to developing nations. Part of the project entails raising money for the charity; another facet works toward conservation of water, keeping the water supply safe, and protecting fragile watersheds.
Older students at Willow take on independent community service projects; though it is not a mandate that service have an environmental sustainability focus, a number of students do design innovative projects that entail earth stewardship.
The environment has been a central theme of the Willow School experience since the school's inception. The school staff is convinced that such a focus builds a foundation for respect, and motivates young people to want to do more.
Second Place: Far Hills Country Day School, Far Hills, NJ - Lower School
Far Hills Country Day School is a Pre-K—8 school that is serious about global citizenship. Students participate in some form or service at every grade level. Not only is service linked to in-class learning at Far Hills Country Day, it is also regularly accompanied by reflection. The service program’s emphasis on stewardship of the earth stems from key statements in the Far Hills Country Day School mission statement, most notably the call for responsible citizenship and the importance of valuing all relationships. The development of empathy is an essential component of both curricular work and service work. The school is intentional in its efforts to nurture skills and capacities for environmental stewardship at every stage of children’s development.
The youngest of students at Far Hills plant seedlings in a student-designed garden-and some of their harvest makes its way into the school cafeteria. Older students are active in recycling efforts and making presentations about renewing and reusing. By the seventh and eighth grades, FHCDS students have developed their skills such that they can extend their influence in a variety of ways, and with multiple audiences. Middle school students have formed an Energy Task Force to help lead their peers, and the community as a whole, to reduce energy consumption.
Honorable Mention: The Lovett School, Atlanta, GA - Upper School
Lovett School’s community service sustainability work is led by “The Green Team,” an upper school group of students that have developed and supported numerous activities and initiatives on campus. Some of these green activities include a school-wide terracycling program, composting on campus, monitoring food waste, and holding e-waste drives. The transportation subcommittee has staged walk to school days, and carpool days, involving 1122 students and faculty! They’ve also activated Carpool Finder software on their school website, and instructed parents on how to use the system. Community Service Coordinator Angela Morris-Long also notes that, “Lovett’s Strategic Plan calls for the school to pursue environmental sustainability… Lovett students are learning from their surroundings, practicing sustainability, and making respect for the environment second nature.”
2010 Theme: "Empowering Students"
First Place: La Jolla Country Day School , Ojai, California - Middle & Upper School
Chris Schuck, Head of School
Susan Nordenger, Community Service Coordinator
At La Jolla Country Day School, the service program seems to have student empowerment as its very life blood. Every service project from fifth through twelfth grade is student lead and student driven. Indeed, according to the school, “every community service initiative hinges on the interests, concerns and passions of the kids.” The focus is not just on service, but on leadership development.
In the middle school, eight 8th-grade student leaders are elected to oversee the 5th-7th grade student council. It is this Middle School Advisory Council that is responsible for the community service program in the middle school. This is valuable early experience for the greater responsibilities students will have in the upper grades. On occasion, upper school leaders even work with the Council for the purpose as making the whole school program as seamless as possible.
La Jolla Country Day’s upper school service program is directed by a 42 member Community Service Board (CSB) made up of tenth, eleventh and twelfth grader students who apply to be board members. It is these student leaders who create and implement all projects. The CSB students, according to Community Service Coordinator Susan Nordenger, “are creative, self motivated and internally driven to help lead our school community in their understanding of global issues, social responsibility and justice.”
One student leader and an assistant oversees each individual project. It is understood that the assistant will lead the project the following year. At the conclusion of every event, the assistant is responsible for making a list of what worked well, what needs improvement and what else should be considered for the following year. Service “works” because it matters, says Nordenger. La Jolla Country Day has done what it can to integrate service into every aspect of school life.
Runner Up: North Shore Country Day School, Winnetka, IL - All Ages
Tom Doar, Head of School
Drea Gallaga, Community Service Coordinator
North Shore Country Day’s motto is “Live and Serve,” and it is clear that this ethos is in practice at every grade level. To make each service learning opportunity meaningful, the students are given control over selecting and planning the projects, and learning about the issues at hand. In the Lower School, most service projects come out of the grade level, and it is typically student ideas that generate each project. For example, the Kindergarden class brainstormed and designed a pumpkin bake sale that turned their curricular study about pumpkins into a fundraiser for Heifer International.
In the Middle School, students do service in classes, in advisory groups, and through their student council. It is the student council that takes the reins and organizes non-curricular service projects and, impressively, they have also raised money to create budgets for their classes’ service learning projects.
Students are asked to take on even more responsibility in the Upper School. Community Service Coordinator Drea Gallaga describes the process: “In setting the year’s schedule, the students brainstorm potential organizations and projects, assign research tasks, report back to the group, vet the information, and agree on a roster of projects. Once they have finalized a list, they contact organizations, procure materials, negotiate assembly or advisory time if necessary, create publicity, and lead the other students.” Ms. Gallaga notes that her job is simply to support students through this process and - to empower the students further - she does not intervene, even when mistakes are made.
In culmination of their years of service learning at North Shore Country Day, each Senior is required to complete a self-planned Senior Service Project. This project takes place during the final two weeks of the school year, and the students must devote at least sixty hours of service to a non-profit organization. Thorough this opportunity, students get to pursue an individual topic of interest, build a relationship with a local organization, and be ambassadors for their school.
Honorable Mention: St. John’s School, Houston, TX - Upper School
Dr. James Hedrix, Head of School
Marci Oesch Bahr, Community Service Coordinator
Community service at St. John’s School is voluntary, but 92% of the Upper School student body participates. Perhaps this is because service is such an integral part of the St. John’s community. The projects start in the lower school, with a strong educational component to teach the young students about the needs of the group they are serving and to understand the value that they provide. Middle School students are challenged to be hands-on, and to make a difference through their physical presence and efforts, instead of collections.
In the Upper School, students apply for a Student Officer Board: a group of 15 students charged with meeting weekly to discuss and plan upcoming community service projects. In addition to the board, all interested students are able to volunteer for existing project leadership positions, or to create, plan and implement a brand new project. These projects are funded by grants raised by the volunteer-run snack bar, which generates approximately $60,000 annually. Last year, 21 grants were fully funded.
Honorable Mention: National Presbyterian School, Washington, DC - Lower School
James T. Neill, Head of School
Dale Glass & Laura Krentel, Community Service Coordinators
Through their “Learning in Deed” program, National Presbyterian School does a terrific job of creating age-appropriate leadership opportunities for their Kindergarten through 6th grade students. The new program is student-centered, giving kids the opportunity to brainstorm ideas, research options, and generate action plans for projects - which are related to their curriculum, a community need, or a special interest.
National Presbyterian Students have taken the lead and created wonderful projects. For example, the Kindergarten students initiated a project called “Happy in the Hospital” out of concern for a sick classmate who was hospitalized. They chose books to donate and created artwork to make the hospital cheerful. In the sixth grade, students decided to help a foreign community with funds traditionally raised for a class gift. Sixth grade students researched and decided on the non-profit organization they would give to, Heifer International, then made educated decisions on the type of gift to give. In planning the fundraising event - a pizza night at a local restaurant - they split into different committees and came up with ideas to market the event. When the students raised more money than they had aimed for, they were faced with the decision to put the extra money toward a class gift, or donate it all to Heifer. The students chose to donate it all.
2009 Theme: "Exemplary Elementary School Programs"
Winner: The Hewitt School, New York, NY - Lower School
Linda MacMurray Gibbs, Head of School
Dara Broxmeyer, Isabelle de Trabuc, Carrie Starr, Service Coordinators
The Hewitt School’s community service program is guided by the school’s mission to “broaden students’ perspectives and increase their awareness of problems” in a variety of areas. One admirable characteristic that helps the school stand out is that service at Hewitt is not limited to students; the Hewitt faculty members model engagement in service by also being involved in service projects. A third impressive factor is Hewitt’s ongoing evaluation, and fine tuning, of what seems to be working in the program and what does not. All four of these components are integral not only to quality service endeavors, but also to great moral development programs. Hewitt’s program aims both to challenge students and to foster on-going relationships with community agencies.
Among a host of other, shorter-term projects, Hewitt students in grades K-3 make 75 to 100 sandwiches per week, on “Sandwich Fridays,” for a community agency, while those in grades 4-6 volunteer in conjunction with Children for Children to do service learning projects with a local public school. Though the entire school has recently begun a “Hewitt Goes Green” campaign, the initiative is led by 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students.
Second Place: Marymount School of New York, New York, NY - Lower School
Concepcion Alvar, Head of School Sr. Clevie Youngblood, Director of Service
Susan T. Johnson, Associate Head of School
The mission-driven service program in Marymount’s lower and middle schools intentionally fosters awareness of others and their needs, in acknowledgement of the school’s goal to help students of the school community learn to respond compassionately. Projects are long standing and—extending the ministry work of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, the school’s founders—aim primarily to support women and children in need. The entire Marymount program is integrated into the religious studies and social studies curricula. Two specific long-standing programs, one local and one global, are known to all students. Through the Incarcerated Mothers Program, students collect food for the children and other family members of women in prison. A global initiative, now ongoing for over a half century, supports educational ministries in Zimbabwe.
Honorable Mention: The Blake School, Minneapolis, MN - Lower School
John Gulla, Head of School
Beth S. Hower, Lower School Director
Nan Peterson, Service Director
Like other great programs, including the two listed above, the Blake School’s service endeavors are mission driven. At Blake, however, the service program has its own mission statement, in order “to keep everyone unified” in their service endeavors. Students are involved by identifying projects needed in the community: issues they note through their exposure to the media, sometimes even on the way to school, or that they learn about through community leaders or experts who visit the school to talk about community needs. Projects are both local and international in scope. Seventy-five percent of service activities at Blake have ties to the curriculum and the program has an extensive, and exemplary, evaluation process.
Honorable Mention: The Ensworth School, Nashville, TN - Lower School
Will Moseley, Head of School
Bruce Libonn, Lower School Head
Roc Batten, Service Director
Ensworth’s commitment to service learning, as with the other schools noted here, is rooted in the school’s mission to inspire students to be contributors to society. In celebration of Ensworth’s 50th anniversary last year, the entire school community partnered with the local branch of Habitat for Humanity to build four homes in the Nashville area. Students at every grade—along with faculty, parents, alums and friends—worked on the project. The Habitat for Humanity connection is long-standing; Kindergarten children have been collecting pennies for the non-profit for 15 years (over a million in all, so far!), and have helped carry gravel for sidewalks and driveways. Children in other grades have long-standing relationships with other organizations, providing assistance to premature babies (knitted caps for warmth), abandoned pets, and disadvantaged or disabled children, among others. Like the other schools recognized this year, Ensworth looks for projects that are meaningful, in the sense that the relationship can both be helpful and allow Ensworth students to develop ongoing relationships with specific agencies.
2008 Theme: "Making Connections between Ages"
First Place: Louise S. McGehee Middle School, New Orleans, Louisiana - Middle School Program
Head of School: Eileen Powers
Head of Middle School: Connie Hartlan
Coordinator of Service Learning: Carla Robertson
CSEE’s Award Recognition Program for Community Service in 2007-08 focused on schools that make connections between ages, either by hooking older students up with younger ones, or by involving students in the lives of the elderly.
The beauty of the application submitted to CSEE by Louise S. McGehee School in New Orleans shone through in a variety of ways, not the least of which is that in making age connections the program is a wonderful example of service learning at its best, for it is incorporated seamlessly into the middle school’s curriculum. The school’s schedule allows time for planning and reflection, and the service learning components themselves relate to coursework in the students’ classes.
Sixth graders at Louise S. McGehee all participate in a program called Celebration Literacy: Rebuilding through Reading. They meet with their “reading buddies” once per month, alternating meetings between McGehee and the partner school. Each partner visit involves a series of literacy-related activities, engaging partner pairs in reading, writing, and art. A number of field trips also take place, with a focus on poetry reading and writing, attending plays, making bookmarks, and cooperative writing activities, among others.
The seventh grade program, called BRIDGES (Because Reuniting Intensely Different Generations Enlivens Spirits), is now in its ninth year. The “bridges” are between students and the elderly residents at St. Anna’s, who participate with students in craft activities, sing-alongs, and oral history projects. Students do all the work choosing activities and events. Meanwhile, the seventh graders are learning about bones and muscles in science class, and researching conditions like osteoporosis and arthritis. Because the bridges built are year-long connections (visits are at least three times per month), the school reports the development of rich relationships between students and residents.
The service-learning partnership in eighth grade is called Science Connections, through which students partner with fourth graders at a neighboring public school. Eighth graders teach their younger counterparts about the Mississippi River, about local ecosystems, food chains, animal adaptations, and predator-prey relationships. Student families work together to create educational “field guides” to local ecosystems; these guides include research, photographs, artwork, and poetry.
We congratulate the students and staff at Louise S. McGehee. The frequency of contact and breadth of experiences their service learning program offers at this middle-school level makes it a model in a host of different ways. As McGehee Middle School Head Connie Hartlan told us, their program “touches many lives outside of our school, while positively encouraging those within our school. From seven-year-olds to 77-year-olds, we feel that this program is impacting our community in ways beyond our imagination.”
Runner Up: 'Iolani School, Honolulu, HI - Lower School
Head of School: Dr. Val Iwashita
Coordinator of Service Learning: Joann Stepien
CSEE's Award Recognition Program for Community Service in 2007-08 focused on schools that make connections between ages, either by hooking older students up with younger ones or by involving students in the lives of the elderly.
'Iolani School, in Honolulu, has second-grade students involved in one of the most creative-and perhaps one of the most important-projects we have seen in recent years. Their program made the school a close runner-up.
Veterans of the Second World War are now in their eighties and nineties. As the years pass, fewer and fewer of them remain with us. Students at 'Iolani have learned to respect the contributions of those veterans, and simultaneously to learn more about history, government, war time, and the contributions of veterans.
Their project forms part of a social studies unit called "Celebrating Our Heritage." After practicing with a World War II military intelligence officer who visits their classroom, the students prepare interview questions and later meet with veterans from the 100th.
Infantry Battalion at the veterans club in Honolulu. Interviews with these veterans are taped and notes are taken. Students use their note-taking, sequencing, and story-writing skills. The information gathered is later used to create a multimedia program, "Honoring our Veterans." Lunch is shared, and both students and vets write greetings to current soldiers serving abroad.
An extension to the service learning project-and study about the government-takes place as the students participate in the project to encourage development of a U.S. postage stamp to honor Japanese-American World War II soldiers, "The Nisei." These men "served with outstanding valor despite war hysteria and racism."
2007 Theme: "Integration with Academics"
La Jolla Country Day School, La Jolla, CA - All Ages
Susan Nordenger, Directory of Service Learning
La Jolla Country Day School is a school on fire. The story they tell is remarkable- and exemplary- in its genesis and its development. La Jolla Country Day's "fire" began with the book They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan, about three cousins caught up in the horrific violence of their country's civil war after losing their homes and families to raiders.
Author and San Diego resident Judy Bernstein did a presentation at school, and the rest is history in the making: a program we hope will perpetuate itself. There are some 3,500 Sudanese refugees in San Diego. After Bernstein's presentation, Upper School students and a number of parents began volunteering weekly with the Sudanese tutoring center. Elementary and secondary students began devouring time every Wednesday to help refugees with homework, English, and basic skills. About 25 volunteers participated the first spring.
Bernstein and one of the Lost Boys, co-author Benson Deng, opened the following school year by spending two days on campus and addressing the parent body one evening. By that time word had traveled to such an extent that the theater was full. A bake sale organized by the Upper School Community Service Board netted $2,200 to support Sudanese refugees.
One exemplary facet of La Jolla Country Day's program is the way it was integrated into the school. They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky was discussed in all history classes the first weeks of school. Each teacher integrated the book into his or her course. Bernstein, Deng, and another Lost Boy visited classes and spoke in assembly.
After the two days, an increasing number parents and students began to volunteer at the tutoring center: a clothing drive was organized, the tutoring program grew, and monthly activities to bring the school community and the Sudanese refugee community together began. Students organized barbecues, soccer games, and caramel apples at Halloween. Food collections focused on helping La Jolla Country Day's newfound friends.
The Middle School caught the fever, and home rooms prepared boxes of toiletries for families. The number of parents taking an active interest continued to grow: a March benefit screening of a new film about Sudan netted over $25,000. The film was followed by a panel discussion for parents and students. Upper School students created a PowerPoint presentation for the evening: reflections on their growth and learning over the past year as a result of this project. Eighth-grade students focused on semester-long research papers on Sudan for their course, Facing History and Ourselves, and a number of students planned science, drama, and creative-writing projects as summer activities for the Sudanese students.
Rarely do we hear of projects that so powerfully connect needs of the community, academic learning, and collaboration among the school, the parent body, and community agencies, and we laud La Jolla County Day's energy, creativity, and commitment to working as a team on a tremendously meaningful project.
Athenian School, Danville, CA - Upper School
Mark Friedman, Service Director
Community service at Athenian School is a required year-long course in which students participate each year of high school. Students are also involved in service on orientation trips, in the school's Interim trips, and on Tim Holm Day, when the entire student body engages in a variety of projects. Most importantly, in light of the theme of the 2007 award, at any one time two-thirds of Athenian students are enrolled in an academic course where service and classroom learning are intertwined.
Our summary statement is that Athenian is a school in search of ways to exemplify what integrated service learning is, at its core. In the ideal service learning world, all classroom lessons are supplemented and enhanced by service in the community, and classroom learning's lessons come to life in serendipitous moments as students and their teachers interact with the community they serve. Most of us live, learn, and work in less than ideal situations, but Athenian is clearly a school with a mission for teaching and learning through meaningful interactions with the community around the school.
We are impressed by the variety of ways Athenian teachers have found to make their courses more relevant to the world through service. Here are a few examples of how service and academics are integrated at Athenian, among the many that Head of School Elenor Dase and Service Director Mark Friedman offer:
- World Cultures students choose to focus on a specific religious tradition; they then interview two members of the faith, and work with an organization liked to that tradition.
- In U.S. History, student groups focus on a topic (e.g., racism, sexism, religious tolerance), track that topic over the course of the country's history, and work with an organization that addresses the issue.
- In a course called Race in the U.S., students recently made recommendations to the administration about how better to hire and retain faculty members of color. Other sections of this class have produced reader's theaters on the topic, or produced an all-school assembly on diversity.
- In Environmental Science, students have worked with a variety of departments at the school to make significant changes; they also produce organically-grown food that is served in the school's dining room.
- Spanish students work in a large child-care center where 80 percent of the children speak Spanish as their first language.
CSEE lauds all the initiatives Athenian has developed, and is developing, to make service and academic learning more relevant to our world's needs, but we also celebrate three other components of the school's program that fit so closely wit our stance on moral development and how it is best fostered in schools:
1) the program is visibly and audibly supported, and encouraged, by the school's administration;
2) service is addressed squarely in the school's mission, which embraces "service as a way of life," and aims specifically at the principles of democratic governance, stewardship for the environment, and respect for human dignity; and
3) service and the development of student leadership skills are integrated; students take increasingly large and independent roles in their service to the community as they progress through Athenian, to the extent that some juniors and seniors lead group projects for younger students.
2006 Theme: "Pairing Classrooms with Communities"
Brooklyn Friends School, Brooklyn, NY - All Ages
Carla Precht, Director of Community Service
Participation in community service is mandatory at all grade levels at Brooklyn Friends, a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade urban school with a diverse population. The community service program grows out of the school's mission and philosophy. Ethical and social values rooted in Quaker traditions are incorporated into the curriculum for all students.
Especially strong is the Middle School service program. At the start of sixth grade, students are paired in a local day care program called St. John's Place Family Center, affectionately known as "the Center." Along with staff at the Center, faculty work to develop valuable curricula to enhance the service experience of each student and plan the successful completion of project work which fulfills the needs of the Center.
Additionally, other resources are tapped to enhance the learning experience for students. For example, members of the Partnership for the Homeless were guest speakers in classrooms as students studied social issues. The director of the Center also makes class visits and is directly involved in educating the middle-school students about the mission of their work as well as the clientele they serve. Through English class assignments, written assessments, journal writing and evaluations, discussions in advisory groups, and site tours and orientations, students participate in the true meaning of experiential learning.
All students complete a questionnaire and offer supplemental projects to showcase their experiences. Reflection and follow-up is also facilitated by an in-class visit from the director of the Center. This approach ensures completeness and invites continuation of the initial work and connection between agency and school.
Harpeth Hall, Nashville,TN - Upper School
Jacquie Watlington, Director of Community Service
Harpeth Hall continues to be a leader in service-learning programs. The program at this girls day school is comprehensive and unique. At Harpeth Hall, community service takes several forms. Most visible and successful is the Winterim Service Learning Course which runs for 12 days as a non-traditional course. Faculty and students join together to engage in a variety of service learning opportunities which are determined following their assessment of the community's needs.
Harpeth Hall students combine active service with personal reflection through journaling, reporting, and creating school presentations describing the projects. Additionally, students articulate their goals and mpa out a plan to accomplish them. With assistance from faculty members, students also evaluate their experiences and offer suggestions for improvement; their voice is crucial to formulating subsequent projects during Winterim. Inculcating service into the school's daily life has become the norm at Harpeth Hall.
Beyond Winterim, students have a variety of community service choices. For three straight years, the school has produced excellent results by obtaining 100% student participation in community service. The school also recognizes outstanding leadership roles in service-based student organizations, schedules regular service events, and maintains an easily accessible Web site linking service news to the entire Harpeth Hall community.
St. Paul's Episcopal School, Oakland, CA - Lower School
Love Weinstock, Director of Service Learning
St. Paul's has established an outstanding service learning program spanning all grade levels. The program integrates community service with academic instruction, reflection, and critical thinking. Students are engaged in challenging projects that address local needs and support the common good. Through service learning, St. Paul's students realize that they are valued by the community, they recognize their interdependence with others, and they develop an awareness of their ability for positive impact. Through the school's rigorous program- which features excellence in learning, collaborative academics, spiritual development, and service- St. Paul's students learn that they have both power and responsibility.
St. Paul's has forged long-term relationships with service agencies in and around the greater Oakland area. Students in all grades work with many community agencies. Service opportunities are arranged by agency directors, faculty members, volunteer parents and students. For example, kindergarten students participate in cleaning the "Green Monster," a local park. They work alongside Oakland Parks Department staff members and learn both the value of helping others and the ill effects of litter and pollution. Each grade has a reading list that focuses on topics such as compassion, fairness, and cooperation- all key ingredients to effective service learning. First and fifth graders are paired with Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS), a transitional shelter for the homeless. Students tour the facility, prepare meals, serve clients, collect donated items, and simultaneously study about hunger, poverty, and charitable giving.
Volunteering with Lake Merrit's Rotary Nature Center, third-grade students assist with a census of the migratory fowl that use the lake as a flyway. Local naturalists and Nature Center staff participate in the process alongside faculty and students. The students also travel to San Francisco's Asian Art Museum prior to making brush paintings of the birds and writing haikus or cinquain poems. Middle schoolers take a ten-week service learning class, two periods per week. Students in this program volunteer in small groups with a variety of agencies, working with the elderly, tutoring, assisting with the blind, helping at animal shelters, and working at public elementary schools. This creates long-term relationships with the agencies and provides for a deeper, more meaningful experience for students. Through written assignments and discussions, students learn about individual and civic responsibility.
In the fall of 2004, the City of Oakland called upon St. Paul's student body to participate in the Keep Oakland Beautiful project. St. Paul's students assisted community leaders in planting 20,000 daffodil bulbs in public spaces all over Oakland. The entire Oakland community was grateful for their participation. St. Paul's also plants and coordinates a plethora of service events, both by grades and for the whole school. Whether the initiative derives from a need, an interest, a tragedy, a natural disaster, or a mere suggestion, St. Paul's answers the call.
Student reflection: "I feel I have more empathy for other people because of the experiences I had doing community service particularly from the time I spent at Lakeside Park, I learned a lot about Alzheimer's patients and how they really enjoyed our group's visits and the attention they got from us. My sense of self, my values, and my self-esteem have not changed at all from this experience, but my sense of community and willingness to serve others has. I have seen the difference I can make in people's live so it motivates me to help more people."
2005 Theme: "Outstanding Relationships with Agencies"
Milton Academy, Milton, MA - All Ages
Milton's relationship with Epiphany Middle School reflects many elements that promote excellent service. Epiphany is a tuition-free school for low-income families. The school day is twelve hours long and includes three meals for all 80 students. Twice a week for the entire academic year Milton works closely with staff and kids. Every Tuesday, a handful of students serve and clean up dinner that is served to Epiphany faculty and students before the evening study hall. Every Thursday, Milton students return to tutor during evening study hall. This commitment alone is tremendous in its consistency and in its variety of service. In addition, once a year 4th and 5th graders from Epiphany spend a day at Milton and attend a science, music, and writing lab designed and taught by the Milton junior class. Because of this ongoing relationship, several seniors choose Epiphany for their month-long service project. They work full time during May as class aides, tutors, and workshop presenters on journalism and public speaking. Last year, the founder of the school came to Milton's service learning class, Service for a Just Society, as a guest speaker. We commend Milton on exploring the many ways an agency and a school can be resources for one another.
Christ Church Episcopal School, Greenville, SC - All Ages
This school's term "GRITS" (Growing Relationships Involve Time and Service) suits its service program well. Through its relationship with the John Wesley Breakfast Kitchen and the Sterling Recreation Center, Christ Church exemplifies the power of innovative thinking and motivation on the part of students, faculty, and agency staff. Students took a 9th and 11th grade-level service project at John Wesley in 2003 and turned the "project" into a weekly 6:15 a.m. student-cooked breakfast. Moreover, the lower school makes the placemats, parents help, a fundraiser for renovations was established, and the upper school organizes a supply drive. What is most impressive is that Christ Church is not stopping there. The long-term goal is to expand breakfast to Fridays as well, expand the program to include help with employment and housing, and raise the $38,000 needed to renovate the facility. This combination of direct, ongoing service, long-term goals, and fiscal support are outstanding in the service world. The relationship with Sterling Recreation Center demonstrates innovation in that- besides the weekly tutoring for the past four years that 10th graders have offered at the site, and student-generated projects including a computer center and library- Christ Church's service director sits on a committee made up of the local YMCA, the Literary Association, and the Presbyterian Church. This combination of Christ Church's energy, willingness to visit on an ongoing basis, and the director's joining other agencies on committees shows the community at large that the school understands that it is part of a world outside its classroom walls, not just in treating its problems but in working on solutions through regular communication and commitment.
Punahou School, Honolulu, HI - All Ages
Punahou is unprecedented in its approach to agency relations. It decided to build its own public service center on campus! The Luke Center was started in 2002 as a service-resource center. With three school staff and the student body, it then launched a school-wide service initiative program. Every two-months a period during the school year is devoted to a different major issue. The center then highlights service opportunities related to the current issue for classes, teams, clubs, and individuals. The center also raises awareness about the issue both on campus and among the public. This idea of a school creating its own agency and then defining a relationship based on service is truly exemplary.
Castilleja School, Palo Alto, CA - Middle and Upper School
For the past 10 years, Castilleja has been working closely with Casa de los Amigos, a residence facility for people living with AIDS. Every weekend throughout the school year 6th-12th graders make meals for the organization and bring them to school on Monday to be picked up by two residents from the facility. Frequently those residents sit down with students to share lunch in the school cafeteria. In addition, residents come to address the student body about what the food program, and what relationship, mean to them. The longevity of the relationship is to be admired, as is the consistency of interaction. It is outstandingly helpful to an agency to know that it is not primarily responsible for a regular activity all year. Castilleja's commitment to every Monday's meal is exemplary. The shared lunch during the pick-up demonstrates the reciprocity of the relationship and points to the need in quality service, to allow time and space for shared experiences between students and those affiliated with the agency.
Urban School, San Francisco, CA - Upper School
Urban carries service learning through all four years of its curriculum. Part of its developmental component emphasizes agency needs and partnerships. Freshman do all service in the local Haight Ashbury neighborhood at five core agencies. This helps foster a relationship with local agencies and cultivates a sense of responsibility to the neighborhood. The 10th grade spends its service-learning class researching the roles agencies play in social issues throughout the city. 11th and 12th graders stay at one agency for at least a full trimester. We applaud Urban's ability to sustain this four-year program and nurture quality relationships with agencies at the same time. Urban's relationship with the Haight Ashbury Food Program (HAFP) is one of those relationships and is unique. The school helped to start the soup kitchen in 1983 and, since that time, its students have volunteered on site consistently during the school day. HAFP is run almost entirely by volunteers and donations. Clientele and staff from HAFP visit the 9th grade service-learning class to tell their stories and then students serve at the kitchen weekly. More staff and students from HAFP's job training program come back to the 10t grade "Issues and Action" service-learning class to discuss the relationship between personal experience of poverty and political issues. Many 11th and 12th graders return for their twelve-week service project. This relationship has grown into a friendship based on reciprocity. HAFP relies on Urban students, faculty, and parents for time, energy, activism, and fiscal support, and Urban relies on HAFP as an educational resource and a living classroom. In addition, the last three service directors have served on the board of directors. This gesture of time on behalf of the school adds a unique and inspiring element to the relationship's effectiveness regarding service. It is a partnership in spirit and in practice.
Head-Royce School, Oakland, CA - Upper School
Head-Royce is another example of how it is possible to manage comprehensive service learning and foster close connections with agencies. They sustain outstanding service learning courses (five year-long seminar choices in the 9th grade!). Students develop a two-year action plan of direct service and are encouraged to stay at one agency throughout high school. This type of consistency is present in multiple areas of the school's program. Head-Royce has a nine-year relationship with Habitat for Humanity and is currently a campus chapter. In addition, faculty and students shop, cook, and serve every other week at both the Berkeley Men's Shelter and the Berkeley Women's Shelter all year. Representatives from these and other core agencies visit the school regularly to educate the community about their organizations and the issues they address. The program reflects a truly committed effort to move away from "charity" to change. One of their comments was that they are gravitating from "service earning" to "service learning." To honor that thought, Head-Royce has created the Make a Difference Service Grant to support the service that students perform. Three grants of up to $1,000 apiece are available for projects each academic year. The projects must address a specific need or issue and involve a contract or partnership. Part of this project involves a contract of partnership between the students and the agency they wish to help. All of these elements (involving commitment of time, direct action, reciprocity, and money) help to set Head-Royce's service program apart in its excellence in agency relationships.
2004 Theme: "Addressing Poverty and Hunger"
La Jolla Country Day School, The Bishop School, and Francis Parker School, La Jolla, CA - All Ages
Excellence in creating a collaborative tri-school service project in response to local poverty and hunger
Often, the only interaction private schools get with one another is focused on rivalry. When teachers struggle to find time to accomplish goals within their schools, it is a true miracle that they are able to reach outside their schools to collaborate on something that involves one team. Bishop, La Jolla, and Francis Parker serve as examples of excellence in launching a three-year project with a final goal of the creation of one classroom at the new Monarch School for homeless children in their area. This project serves to demonstrate the physical manifestation of the responsibility to act locally and to closely examine our definition of "community." Through education, outreach, and fundraising, students and faculty at these schools will raise $18,000 each year for three years. A matching donor has agreed to fund the remaining money to reach the cost of $150,000 for the new classroom. The Monarch School provides basic human needs (showers, food, washing machines) as well as education for children eight to eighteen.
Aside from the inter-school partnership, what makes this project stand out are several key elements. Students from each school sit on the planning board held at the Monarch School. Not only are students involved and empowered in the planning process but that planning occurs often at the site and among the population that is being served. Furthermore, students from the three schools as well as from Monarch have developed authentic and real relationships. The students themselves have initiated combined functions including dances and a coffeehouse involving all four schools. Finally, the $54,000 raised will not be tallied by individual schools but only as one sum. This seemingly small fact is one of the most important and symbolic aspects of the project. We admire these schools for their commitment to work together as one community to fight poverty and hunger.
Katherine Delmar Burke School, San Francisco, CA - Middle School
Excellence in creating and sustaining a 7th grade service learning course emphasizing poverty and hunger
Burke serves as an inspiration to those middle schools that hesitate in the ways they choose to expose their students to hunger and poverty. The trimester-long required Service Learning/ Hunger course includes all aspects of service to create a full, rich, challenging education about the root causes and faces of hunger. The class meets once a week for eighty minutes at a time. All aspects of the project occur in the curriculum and during the school day. The project includes workshops on hunger, relevant reading from current events, hands-on classroom research, and exemplary written and discussion-based reflection component, and direct and ongoing service at their local soup kitchen. This course serves as an example to others that younger students can certainly be exposed to direct experiences with poverty when the appropriate system and "safety net" are in place. Through preparation, on-going discussion, and thoughtful reflection, these girls are inspired to act and are impassioned about the issues of poverty rather than dismayed, afraid, or overwhelmed.
National Cathedral School, Washington, DC - Upper School
Overall excellence in creating and sustaining an 8th-12th curriculum and school wide culture that emphasizes hunger and poverty
National Cathedral School does an outstanding job in addressing the issues of hunger and poverty through curriculum and service. What is most remarkable about this program is it has mastered the balance of teaching social responsibility without overwhelming its students. The lower school makes visits to low-income schools and food programs, laying the foundation for service. The fifth graders share their written service reflections with the school community in assembly. Aside from the requirement of direct service, the Upper School also carries a Global Ethics class. However, what stands out are the eighth-grade Ethics class and ninth-grade Community Service courses. These courses humanize the issue of poverty but do not put all the responsibility on the student. They encourage constructive thought, not apathy or guilt. Many schools attempt this balance and fail. Through research on the working poor, common obstacles of poverty, and the welfare system, the classes work together to discuss both the problems and possible solutions surrounding this issue of hunger and poverty.
Other exemplary elements include both individual and group work, researching the roles of several groups who might be part of a solution (i.e., not just the students but government, community, individuals.) Also, each student must focus on one personal story of someone who is struggling and, through weeks of research, narrow down what that person needs the most. This component is then followed by hands-on, individual service of the student's choosing. This emphasis on both the complex economic and social framework of poverty and the needs of those struggling within that framework serve to inspire empathy rather than charity. This fact is key to truly effective service learning and a life-long passion for justice.
Beaver Country Day School, Chestnut Hill, MA - Upper School
Overall excellence in creating and sustaining a developmental service learning curriculum that emphasizes hunger and poverty
Beaver Country Day's ninth- and tenth-grade curricula are exemplary program models for service learning. While ninth graders participate in weekly direct service involving low-income elementary children or shelter residents, they are required to take a one-term Social Issues class. This class serves as a foundation and forum for the students' service. The themes of the class are community, social responsibility and action, and poverty. Students conduct research on a chosen topic dealing with poverty, present a budget on behalf of a non-profit, and request funds from a fictitious board. Relevant topics also include tax-supported services, wealth distribution in the U.S. and selections from Nickeled and Dimed in America. This class is then followed by a tenth-grade Social Justice course that emphasizes the "isms" that surround the complex issue of poverty. The school also offers a Senior Elective called "Globalization, Food, and Power."
What makes Beaver Country Day's program stand out is its developmental component and its emphasis on questions rather than answers. Also, its program design inspires activism rather than just a call to service. The more conceptual tenth-grade class carries far more significance for students following their Social Issues course. On the other hand, the content of the ninth grade class can emphasize an experiential component (proven very effective for ninth graders) because the tenth-grade course will fill in any remaining theoretical gaps. The senior elective allows a place for the student who is inspired to immerse herself or himself in the subject before leaving for the "real world." The focus on questions rather than answers is done with enough balance so that students are left with a passion to act rather than a feeling that there are no solutions. For example, one question posed in the ninth grade class is "Why is there poverty in one of the wealthiest countries in the world?" This is a simply stated question. However, its pointed and definite meaning could become an entire freshman course. We admire Beaver Country Day's commitment to spending so much academic time on this issue.