Students Make Community Service a Priority
Phoenix Country Day School students may be found almost anywhere lending a hand when needed, from tutoring peers and stocking shelves at a food bank to protecting our planet. Community service/service learning is an important part of a PCDS education. Through such activities, our students learn how to use their talents and skills for a greater good. In the service learning component, students share, in a formal way, with peers, family, or the local community, what they have learned about themselves from their community service involvement and how it may connect with what they have learned in school.
While monthly themes such as Back-to-School supply drives and holiday food drives guide all-school community service, each division conducts its own activities. Upper School students are required to complete ten hours of community service in each of their four years. As of October 2011, Upper School students had documented a total of 612 community service hours in summer and so far this school year.
Maria Nolasco, Assistant Director of Community Engagement, the office that coordinates community service and service learning at PCDS, compiled a list of the various forms of service in which our students have been involved. The list includes volunteer hours at summer camps (tutoring, supervising, teaching, coaching), serving food at homeless shelters, renovating villages and schools internationally, building and cleaning up trails for the National Park Service, assisting at hospitals, organizing back-to-school drives and delivering clothes, shoes, and backpacks, leading religious education at students’ places of worship, organizing food pantries, book nooks, and furniture for refugee organizations, and assisting in planning fundraising events.
Those are only the community service hours that students have completed on their own. Every year, PCDS provides such opportunities for students in all three divisions. The largest of these efforts is Make a Difference Day. This all-school event, inspired by national Make a Difference Day, took place at PCDS on October 25. Several Upper School students organized the daylong effort while faculty and staff from all three divisions provided support, advice, and the necessary manpower for the day. Activities brought students together across the divisions to work on projects to benefit others.
The entire Upper School spent some time off campus, volunteering with organizations such as Phoenix Head Start, St. Vincent De Paul, Ronald McDonald House, Lucky Paws Animal Shelter, Interfaith Cooperative Ministries (ICM), and several Balsz District elementary schools. When US students were back on campus, they worked with both Lower and Middle School students on several projects that yielded great results:
Students made 80 fleece blankets and decorated 240 pillowcases, donated to Crockett School in the Balsz District for their clothing/supply closet used by their families, many of whom are homeless. The pillowcases will come in handy with a pillow donation that the school recently received.
Students assembled 200 candy bags, donated to Phoenix Children’s hospital for Halloween.
Students created dozens of ABC 123 books for young children, to be delivered to the Mwereni Integrated School in Moshi, Tanzania; Nuestra Senora del Carmen, a school for disabled children in Cusco, Peru; and children in the village of Chiliphua, Peru.
Students assembled 171 I Spy Bottles, donated to Phoenix Head Start.
Students made more than 2,000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, delivered to Waste Not clients.
Students made more than 550 cards for soldiers that will be shipped to Staff Sergeant Ian Sharp, former PCDS Security Coordinator, now serving in Afghanistan. He will share them with his entire platoon.
According to Ms. Nolasco, students learned a lot that day but not in the traditional classroom sense. “The learning happened by students being actively involved in activities that benefited those in need. It happened when they viewed a documentary about students from around the country reaching outside themselves. Learning happened when our students discovered their individual leadership skills while working with younger students, and as they listened to a speaker who told a personal story to show how one person can make a difference. And the learning continued when students spoke about the day with their teachers, and at home, or while using social media like Facebook with their peers.”
She praised the students who put the day’s activities together. “They understood that the day needed to go beyond just making things or going somewhere and volunteering. It showed that PCDS is a school in action, fulfilling the idea of “a private school with a public purpose.”
For more information about Community Service at PCDS, visit the Service Learning & Community Service page of our website.