Student service-learning requirement reformed for 2019-2020 school year

Marina Kazarian, Staff Writer

Starting this year, a new service learning requirement will replace projects and reflections with service learning days.

Previously, students were required to pick an approved community project and complete two in-school reflection sessions. However, students will now need to attend only their grade’s service learning day to fulfill the new service learning requirement. The administration will continue to offer reflections, and students may still participate in projects; however, these will not count towards the requirement.

“Our objective is to provide a high quality educational and service experience for all,” Director of the Center for Community Values & Action (CCVA) Dr. Jeremy Leeds said.

“While many students did fantastic activities and learned a lot through their projects, we want to ensure consistent quality and learning in the program.”

The CCVA office, along with the Upper Division administration, decided that the best way to incorporate these values would be to move toward grade-wide service learning days,

Leeds said.

“The primary reason for the change in the requirement, from what I understand, was the unmanageability of the current system,” Head of Upper Division (UD) Dr. Jessica Levenstein said. “It wasn’t possible to be sure that each project was meaningful and the task of keeping track of so many different projects was overwhelming.”

The UD administration worked with the CCVA to work out dates when they could cancel classes for the service learning days, Levenstein said.

Projects and reflections are still at the core of the school’s service learning curriculum, Levenstein said. “It’s just that now students will be working on predetermined projects in larger groups.”

service learning days have already constituted the ninth-grade service learning requirement. During these days, the ninth grade students are divided into groups and assigned an activity to do within the community, ranging from potting plants to reading to children, Lita Crichton (11), a site coordinator at the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center, said.

The new program will provide students the opportunity to interact with our local community as informed, engaged, and active citizens, Program Associate of the CCVA Natalie Sánchez said. More details about what service learning days for all UD students will entail will be released in the fall.

Several students felt that having these service learning days might be less impactful than doing projects for a longer duration of time. “Having a service learning day takes out the stress of filling out a requirement, but I think that people would be more involved in the community around us if we had to do a longer-term project,” Catherine Mignone (10) said.

Mekhala Mantravadi (10) decided that she should increase her participation in service learning projects because “one day is not enough,” she said. “The fact that we even have a service learning day is great, but there should be a continued connection to the community.”

Crichton also prefers the previous requirement and the opportunities it presented. “I’m not totally in favor of the new requirement because I think that being assigned an activity instead of choosing one may be less meaningful.” she said. service learning days are only a few hours, and on top of that, students may have to participate in activities they have no interest in, Crichton said.

Ideally, Mantravadi would keep the previous requirement. “Giving a choice to students on what projects they want to go to sounds like a lot of fun,” she said.

Despite several students’ skepticism regarding how beneficial the change in the requirement will be, students have enjoyed service learning days in the past.

Devin Hirsch (11) thinks setting an allotted time for service learning when schoolwork is not in the way allows students to be more committed to serving the community, he said.

Although Mignone has never done a service learning project, she loved service learning day and is “super excited to do it again,” she said.

“Many students point to the Ninth Grade service learning Day as something they remember, and that shaped their activity in the years that followed. The activities and structure won’t be the same for grades 10 to 12, but we’re aiming to have similar impact.” Leeds said.

“I really look forward to seeing how the new system works for our student body. I’m confident it will be a positive change while still preserving the core of the importance of service learning at the school,” Levenstein said.