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2015 Community Service Award Winner
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2015 Community Service Award

The 2015 Theme: 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.

Any student can be an ESSO club head. 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


Second Place: Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart
Bethesda, Maryland
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.

We were especially impressed by Stone Ridge’s Social Action Student Advisory Board (SASAB), which utilizes the efforts of thirty-five students who provide leadership and support oversight for service at the school. 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 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, 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.

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. 

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.


[Type: Article]

[User Group: Administration, Teachers]

[Grade: Lower, Middle, Upper]

[Community Service / Service Learning]


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