The senior class attended a virtual Service Learning Day on Thursday, which began with a keynote presentation from April De Simone, included alumni-hosted discussions about issues regarding accessibility, wellness, and the environment, and ended with a reflection led by author Jason Reynolds.
The theme for Service Learning Day was “Exploring Justice, Hope and Healing through Community Partnerships,” an idea that has been emphasized this past school year.
“The Class of 2021 is at a pivotal moment in their high school careers where many are balancing nostalgia, the present, and hopes for the future,” Director of Center for Community Values and Action Dr. Kimberly Joyce-Bernard wrote. “There will be an opportunity for the 12th graders to further explore service-learning through a critical social justice lens as they consider the historical and current inequities that appear in systems and policies in our own Bronx community.”
De Simone is the co-founder of Designing the We, an organization that works to co-create an ecosystem of social change through the design of effective collaborative processes. During her presentation, De Simone displayed an interactive exhibit titled “Undesign the Redline,” which was produced to help students explore the ways in which policies in the Bronx contributed to inequity and concentrated poverty that disproportionately impacts communities of Black people, Indigenous people, LatinX people, and People of Color, the Center for Community Values & Action (CCVA) wrote in an email to the senior class before the event.
Students then explored topics such as education equity, electoral and legislative advocacy, environmental justice, immigration policies, and the opportunity gap between individuals through workshops. Each student had the option of attending one of six workshops. April De Simone continued her dialogue about undesigning the redline in one workshop. OKO Farms, Roads to Success, and Summer on the Hill — all of which are nonprofit organizations — partnered with CCVA to run three more of the workshops, and the final two workshops were hosted by alumnae Zarina Iman ‘18 and Lutie Brown ‘18.
Through these workshops, the senior class engaged in discussions and activities with the school’s long-standing community partner agencies and alumni, Joyce-Bernard wrote. They explored relevant topics that influence our everyday landscape, such as educational equity, electoral and legislative advocacy, environmental justice, immigration policies, and the opportunity gap, she wrote.
“At the Roads to Success workshop, we discussed how to solve and raise awareness for educational inequities, which is something we don’t normally don’t spend time thinking about and reflecting upon at Horace Mann,” Lita Crichton (12) said.
OKO Farms practices and promotes aquaponic awareness as a sustainable farming method to help mitigate the impact of climate change while increasing food security in New York City, according to its website.
Summer on the Hill aims to further the education of promising, low-income public school students from The Bronx, Washington Heights, and Harlem, according to their website.
Lutie Brown ’18 led the Taking Action for Social Justice workshop, which aimed to engage individual students about the issues that matter to them. During her time at the school, Brown served on the inaugural Service-Learning Committee, which helped the school transition from community service to service-learning through the design and implementation of a project-based service-learning requirement.
“I hope that everyone comes out of [Service-Learning Day] with action steps and [that] everyone is able to have these important open dialogues with one another and brainstorm ways to actually get involved themselves and feel empowered to do so as individual 12th graders going out into the world,” Brown said.
Eli Scher (12) signed up for Brown’s workshop on community activism and social justice. “Brown reiterated that individual actions, even if you don’t feel like you have a lot of power within a system, can inspire change and others,” Scher said. “Activism is often talked about in very general terms, as we aren’t given specific ways to reach out, but [Brown] provided us with very specific ways to accomplish our goals.”
Zarina Iman ’18 ran a workshop on refugees and immigration. Iman began her work with refugees through an informal out-of-school program during her junior year. At the University of Pennsylvania, she continued her work in this field by joining a club dedicated to helping refugees, and after her first year, she joined the board where she currently serves as the finance chair, Iman said.
At the end of the event, New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds led a reflection with the students.
The reflection allowed the senior class to think deeply about their experiences with service-learning at their time at the school while furthering their curiosity to learn about ways in which public purpose, community engagement, and their own motivation can amplify the initiatives within their communities, Joyce-Bernard wrote.