Winter 2014
The Evolution Of Community Service

The Evolution Of Community Service

From Measuring Hours To Measuring Impact

by Bailey Shiffler

In 2012, Flintridge Prep’s decision to extend the idea of community impact projects as an Idea Lab initiative, while simultaneously doing away with its longstanding community service hour requirement, left some scratching their heads.

Just two years later, the move makes perfect sense.

Says Headmaster Peter Bachmann: “We wanted to create an environment in which students are free to discover and pursue sincere passions in the community.”

The Evolution Of Community Service

The evolution from an hours-based community service program to an impact-based one has allowed exactly that. The student body is learning more about compassion, empathy and giving back than ever before. Led by a studentrun organization, the Student Community Action Council, or SCAC, the new system encourages students to volunteer with purpose, and as faculty advisor Heather Clark says, “to quantify impact instead of time.”

For decades, giving back to the greater community has been a priority at Flintridge Prep. It is ingrained in the fabric of the school: from middle school community service days to incorporating service in curriculum, on student trips and through peer counseling. Many service-oriented clubs have raised thousands of dollars for charities across the city, country and abroad. The 13 service-oriented clubs on campus were doing great work, but scheduling conflicts and the large number of causes and clubs prevented many students, especially middle schoolers, from fully participating.

Enter SCAC. In the 2012-2013 school year, Grady Willard ’14 was appointed to a new Student Senate post: Commissioner of Community and Culture. The new position coincided with the school’s intent to move toward a passion-driven community service program, and it was no coincidence that Willard had won his 8th grade Science Fair for his community impact project, or CIP. In the inaugural year of CIPs, Willard completed two projects: he tutored students at Don Benito Fundamental School for the Pasadena Unified District spelling bee, and he organized a drive for children in the pediatrics ward at Huntington Hospital. Willard has since been an ambassador for community service, volunteering for an array of causes, from singing at hospitals and senior centers to helping send Ugandan women to school.

PHILANTHROPY

In middle school at Sierra Madre we had a service club that worked all over the community. I liked the overall approach to philanthropy. At Prep, I led the Make a Wish Foundation club, because of its inclusive focus. Working for others makes me happy. I like to give back and help people. I like this position because I can show people how to impact others.

Kaitlin Liston ’14

— Kaitlin Liston ’14

EDUCATION

Taking on education is the end result of a lot of my experiences tutoring and working with kids in Nicaragua this summer. Teaching kids re-sparked my interest in my own education—and a career in teaching. Helping others really brought that out in me, and I’d like to re-ignite other Prep students’ passion for learning through helping others.

Sam Reyes ’14

— Sam Reyes ’14

HOMELESSNESS AND HUNGER

Community service is simply about helping others. People say that life is unfair, but why can’t life be about opportunities? By aiding the hungry and homeless, we are providing people the basic needs of life. A single can of food can save someone’s life and create their hope for the future.

Helen Yun ’14

— Helen Yun ’14

Says Willard: “I like the power you feel from working hard and knowing you’ve helped other people.”

Throughout the year, Willard, the Senate, faculty members and the student body talked about the meaning of community service, as well as about the best avenues through which students could volunteer. Willard says students wanted easy access to volunteer opportunities and they wanted to be able to complete consistent, recurring service, instead of one-off projects.

Prep for Life

It was throughout this yearlong process that SCAC took form. The organization is separated into seven sections, each with a student leader: philanthropy (Kaitlin Liston ‘14), education (Sam Reyes ‘14), homelessness and hunger (Helen Yun ‘14), animals and nature (Daniel Enzminger ‘14), elderly and disabled (Lauren Au ‘15), health, wellness and relief (Bailey Thompson ‘15) and children (Ellie Taw ’14). Each sector holds regular meetings, and the leaders also maintain a database that collates an array of area volunteer opportunities. A student with a passion for animals needs only to visit the SCAC website to find a wealth of ways he or she can volunteer locally.

Enzminger says the new system makes it much easier for students to find volunteer opportunities. “We’re making service more inclusive.”

CHILDREN

While community service is extremely important, I chose to lead the children’s sector because I believe service becomes more meaningful and enjoyable when incorporated with personal passion. When service is integrated with an individual’s passion, it begins to feel less like another extracurricular activity and more like an exciting opportunity for exploration.

Ellie Taw ’15

— Ellie Taw ’15

ELDERLY AND DISABLED

I have a soft spot for the disabled, elderly and children. Volunteering and service are, for me, so important. I like the idea of doing something for others rather than just concentrating on myself. Helping other people just puts a smile on your face. And I like to volunteer with friends. It creates a real bond among us when we can talk about our experiences and really do something for the community outside Prep.

Lauren Au ’15

— Lauren Au ’15

ANIMALS AND NATURE

As a kid my favorite station was Animal Planet. Nature, animals and the environment have always been a focus for me; I’m a boy scout and spend a lot of time outdoors. I saw that Prep had a lot of potential to grow and expand our awareness of the environment around us and to be a more environmentally conscious school.

Daniel Enzminger ’14

— Daniel Enzminger ’14

Willard says the sectors have allowed students to really follow their hearts.

“I think the switch has gone as Mr. Bachmann intended,” Willard says. “People are really getting to the heart of community service, and they’re looking at their passions and seeing community service as an instinct instead of as a reaction to a form.”

The Evolution Of Community Service

SCAC also helps facilitate the bigger annual events that used to be overseen by individual clubs, students or faculty members. Events like the Crop Walk, the Club 21 Walkathon, the Turkey Drive and the Special Olympics were once managed by small groups or individuals. Now, with SCAC serving as a voice for all community service, the invitations to participate are consistent and constant—the message is the same, but it’s being heard from a louder megaphone.

Librarian Reggie Ursettie, who served as the advisor of the servicefocused Leo Club for 17 years, says she has been impressed with how the SCAC leaders have publicized events and, overall, with the transition from the club model to the SCAC-led system.

This year, both the Crop Walk and the Special Olympics events on campus involved twice as many student volunteers as in years past. Reyes attributes the shift to communication—SCAC has done a great job communicating events to the whole student body, and the effects are noticeable.

SCAC also exists as a resource for any campus group looking to incorporate community service. It works regularly with groups like the Athletic Council on Leadership, or ACL, Peer Counselors, the Student Senate and faculty, all of which regularly plan service-related events. The group is also a resource for 8th graders working on their CIPs, aiming to help students find projects that they can work on throughout their high school careers.

Bailey Thompson ’15

HEALTH, WELLNESS and RELIEF

As students, we are constantly working, but working in service gives us an opportunity to see the meaningful impact we create. It is a way to help those who are not as fortunate and get involved in the community.

— Bailey Thompson ’15

“We talked a lot about our Community Impact Projects, and how sometimes it’s a ‘You do it, then lose it,’ situation,” Willard says. “One of the goals of SCAC is to help students continue with their projects throughout high school.”

This model, Ursettie says, “creates a more altruistic participant.”

After two years without community service hour requirements, Liston says she feels like volunteering is no longer an item on a checklist. And the true takeaway: she’s doing as much, if not more, service in the community now than she was when she was counting hours.