11th graders participate in virtual Service Learning Day

On Thursday, the junior class attended Service Learning Day Zoom workshops hosted by nonprofit agencies located in the Bronx to learn about issues concerning opportunity, wellness, and the environment.

The theme for this year’s event was “Exploring Justice, Hope and Healing through Community Partnerships,” Director of the Center for Community Values and Action (CCVA) Dr. Kimberly Joyce-Bernard wrote in an email to the 11th graders before the event. 

Joyce-Bernard and CCVA Office Manager Conasia Watts organized the event with social justice issues in mind. “This day centers conversation and learning about the ways in which social justice can be applied intentionally to service-learning through collaboration with different stakeholders in the community,” she wrote.

This year, all of the school’s Service Learning programs have been remote. As a result, the CCVA planned for the event to take place on Zoom, so the day was not interrupted due to the prolonged break from in-person school, Joyce-Bernard wrote.

However, hosting the event online came with new obstacles, Joyce-Bernard wrote. Spending the entire day in front of a computer can cause Zoom fatigue, and the physical separation changed the format of the workshops and presentations, she wrote.

Although conducting the event online had its limitations, the CCVA made the best out of its new format, Watts wrote in an email. For example, speakers that would have otherwise been unable to attend could participate, and with Zoom they were allowed additional creativity, she wrote.

Since the workshops were online, they were more accessible to both students and speakers, Brett Karpf (11) said. “In the past, the limitations of travel and physical distance could create problems for who comes to speak,” he said. “Online learning can allow for new speakers and educators to come and speak to HM.”

When organizing Service-Learning Day, Joyce-Bernard worked with Acting Director of the Office for Identity, Culture and Institutional Equity Ronald Taylor to ensure that students had opportunities to reflect on their experiences before, during, and after the event, she wrote. 

At the beginning of the day, juniors attended an introductory Zoom meeting and watched a documentary titled “Segregated by Design” about unconstitutional segregation after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Students then took a fifteen minute break from Zoom to reflect on the documentary and answer a question about their hopes for the future through Google Classroom.

Following the break, each student attended two workshops, both of which focused on a different topic relating to social issues ranging from educational equity, green space access, environmental justice, wellness for older adults, and the opportunity gap.

The CCVA invited April de Simon, co-Founder of the Bronx-based graphic design company Designing the We, to lead one workshop. Through an interactive online exhibition titled Undesign the Redline, Simone taught students about the structures and policies put in place in the Bronx to perpetuate inequality in Black and indigenous communities.

Juniors also learned about the facilities available to the Bronx community, like Van Cortlandt Park. Members of the Van Cortlandt Park Alliance gave a presentation explaining the programs that run inside the park, and introduced internships that students could apply for within the nonprofit corporation.

The Riverdale Senior Services (RSS) conducted two different workshops to give students the opportunity to experience what the nonprofit does for senior citizens in the Bronx. Juniors engaged in a trivia game hosted by the RSS organizers, and another group participated in a yoga lesson.

To end the day, juniors were split into breakout rooms and discussed what they had learned. When students returned to the main Zoom room, they meditated on those same lessons. 

After attending the event, Karpf said the singular theme made the day feel more cohesive. “Last year, most of the workshops were about different studies or projects that speakers had come in to talk about, but this Service Learning Day was more focused on identity, gender, and race,” he said.

This year’s focus on inclusion was beneficial for students, Karpf said. “Especially at HM, more diversity education is needed so that the school can become more open and welcoming, so I’m happy that the focus of Service Learning Day 2021 is on diversity/identity.”

Amada Wein (11) enjoyed the event, but she wished she was able to pick the workshops that interested her as opposed to being assigned workshops based on her SOI groups, she said. 

After spending the day learning about the Bronx community, Uddipto Nandi (11) was inspired to create change, he said. “By learning about the different service-learning opportunities, I feel like there is a lot I can do to help the Bronx community just by reaching out,” he said. “The workshops showed me that there are so many opportunities to help people, even right across the street.”