Reflecting on community engagement: Celebrating a year of service learning

Izzy Abbott and Sam Keimweiss

The Center for Community Values and Action (CCVA) will host the 11th Annual All-School Service Learning Day this Saturday as a celebration for this year’s service learning projects. In preparation for the event, and as part of their service learning requirement, the Class of 2020 gathered on Tuesday to partake in group reflections.

Associate Director of the CCVA Kimberly Joyce-Bernard believes reflection is a vital aspect of service-learning because students can consider new ways in which they can incorporate reflection throughout their entire service activity, she said. “This can foster new questions and a multifaceted perspective in regards to government, service, policy, globalism, and personal agency,” Bernard said.

“The reflections really made me much more passionate about my service, and I am wanting to get even more involved next year,” Laura Bae (11) said.

The reflection was separated into three parts, Amiya Mehrotra (11) said. In groups of around twenty, students introduced themselves to their peers and described what they were doing for service.

Mehrotra was surprised by the diversity of projects. “There were a lot of projects that were really popular, like [Cancer Awareness Club], but a lot of people are doing something different,” she said.

Noah Phillips (11) is tutoring out of school for his project. He enjoyed the reflection because it gave him an opportunity to look at his project through the lens of service learning, he said.

After introductions, students broke up into small groups and discussed a set of questions, Mehrotra said.

“We explored the goal of the school, which is a better understanding of the world outside [the school],” Phillips said.

Following the group conversations, the students wrote a letter of thanks to someone who inspired them during their individual service learning projects. Jayer Yang (11) found this to be the most powerful part of the reflection, as it gave him the opportunity to single out and thank a person who helped in a specific way, he said.

In addition to the reflections, the CCVA has been organizing Service Learning Day, which “should be an entertaining and enriching day for all ages,” Director of the CCVA Dr. Jeremy Leeds said.

For 11 years, Service Learning Day has been an opportunity for students, faculty, and members of the Bronx community to come together and engage in a day of active service as one unit, Leeds said.

The Day aims to celebrate a year’s worth of service in the school with the Riverdale and Bronx community, Leeds said.

The event is a collaborative effort between the CCVA, the Parents’ Association, and students from the Middle and Upper Divisions, Program Associate for the CCVA Natalie Sanchez said.

The event will feature student-run booths with activities such as ceramics, t-shirt design, and musical chairs that will be stationed around the tennis courts and the greater campus. The event will also have Bronx DJs Grandmaster Caz and Grand Wizzard Theodore leading a workshop and providing live music, and it will culminate with a barbeque, Leeds said.

Like years prior, students from tenth to twelfth grades will set up booths or will host activities that give back to the greater Bronx community. The school has also invited a variety of their community partners such as Kingsbridge Heights Community Center, the Ittleson Center, and the Riverdale Senior Center, Sanchez said.

Tyler Jonas (12) is hosting a workshop on puppet-making with members of the Public School 95 site group of the Service Learning Team.  “I have participated in Service Learning Day ever since I was a student in the Lower Division, [and] it’s a day to celebrate our Bronx community,” she said.

Andie Goldmacher (10), who is also working at the puppet-making booth and is representing HM246, looks forward to seeing the students she has worked with through the HM246 program, she said.  “My whole high school experience has been centered around service learning, and I really wanted to be a part of a day that celebrates all of the amazing achievements everyone at HM has made through the robust service learning program,” Goldmacher said.

Kareena Gupta (10), who is on the Service Learning Team, is running an “Appreciation Station,” where attendees will write notes of kindness or appreciation and place them on a bulletin board; for each message written, one can be taken by someone else in return, she said.  Gupta hopes that the activity will spread kindness and friendship to the whole school community and beyond, she said.

Student-run service projects, such as Seize the Seas and the Social Impact Investment Club, will also be represented in booths during the event.

Oliver Keimweiss (11), the Cancer Projects Coordinator for the Cancer Awareness Club, will be co-running a booth representing his club at Saturday’s event. He will be doing an activity called Luminaria, in which participants can decorate paper bags in honor of people who have lost their lives to cancer, Keimweiss said. Those bags will be displayed in the closing ceremony of Relay For Life, which will take place at school on May 23rd, he said. “In doing this we want to bring a greater sense of community to school and [the] Bronx community, as well as to Relay for Life,” he said.

One of the most exciting things about Service Learning Day and the reflections is “seeing individual projects by students as well as the bigger picture of how meaningful service learning as a whole has been to HM and to everyone we’ve worked with this year,” Leeds said.