News From Prep
Posted October 19, 2012
Inside the Idea Lab: Innovation in Community Service
In 2008, Hilary Thomas wanted her 8th grade science students to do community service projects rather than typical science experiments for Prep’s Science Fair. Laura Kaufman's work at Prep focuses on teaching 7th graders how to design and implement science projects and analyze data. The two teachers collaborated, and Laura helped Hilary create the best of both worlds -- a Community Impact Project that requires students to scientifically measure the impact of a service they perform in the community. Students have a chance to create their own service programs and many develop a deep connection to an organization or program.
This got several other faculty members, including Michael Roffina, Director of Human Development, thinking. How can we go beyond mandatory service hours to create meaningful long-term service projects? A Student Senate position was created (Commissioner of Community and Culture), which was filled by Grady Willard ’14. Grady, influenced by his own experience in Ms. Thomas’ class (where he did not one, but two, Community Impact Projects) set to work to fulfill his assertion that “community service should not come from the administration. It should come from yourself.”
Grady is also a member of the Pasadena Independent Schools Foundation, which teaches students philanthropy from the ground up by giving them the tools to decide which charitable organizations should receive PISF grants. He loves the Passport to Charities, an event sponsored by PISF, which allows interested students to find out more about a panoply of community service options. Passport to Charities was the inspiration for the community service fair that was his first major project as Commissioner of Community and Culture.
The community service fair was combined with the school’s existing club rush fair. While Assistant Commissioner General Casey Cousineau ’13 organized that part, Grady worked with the rest of the Student Senate, Mr. Jamison, and Mr. Roffina to coordinate with some two dozen organizations to be at the fair. Student Life Commissioner Nick Ottaviano ’13 made sure there was free food, good music, and a hotdog eating contest while Callan Gies ’13, Commissioner of Projects and Publicity, helped with other logistics and Commissioner General Kaitlyn Kelleher ’13 ran all over campus making sure that everything went off without a hitch.
Casey Cousineau says the event was a smashing success. “If I were to come back here next year for the fair, I’d hope to see even more organizations represented. As Mr. Roffina says, ‘if we can get 10 people to reconsider their community service choices, we’ve had an impact.’”
Following the lessons learned in Ms. Thomas’ class, Grady set a measurable standard for success, sending out a survey to students and asking for feedback from organizations that participated. He hoped that 40-60% of students would find meaningful long-term, hands-on service opportunities as a result of the fair. Fair participants rated very highly the attitude of the students, especially younger students who are just being exposed to service.
Grady considerers his Student Senate responsibilities volunteering, but he has a different definition for community service. “Volunteering is very important in a society, but it doesn’t help those who need it the very most. Community service is helping, even if indirectly, a group in need.” For Grady, it’s about the level and depth of the interaction. The more you interact with people who need your help, the more impact you can have on their lives. This could be one reason why he encouraged participants in the fair, especially those students who hadn’t yet found a passion for a particular opportunity, to “listen to the passion of the organizations.” If you’re moved, you will have no other choice but to act.
Mr. Jamison says that community service is one of the Student Senate’s main initiatives of the year. “We want to shift away from party planning and move toward the center of campus life. Phase 1 was a success, and I anticipate a huge amount of growth in community service as the year goes on. Putting community engagement, community involvement, and meaningful dialogue about service at the heart of student life are what Phase 2 will be about.”
Stay tuned for more updates as this initiative unfolds.