As students prepare to finish the 2016 school year, their seats will be empty for one day in late May. The monotonous day will be no more as the students are thrust into the community to help out with a service project.
This busy day of service will start with half the student body leaving the school to work on a volunteer project with their first hours while the other half will be engaged in a service activity at school. This activity is yet to be decided. In the afternoon, these groups will switch. The biggest question encountered has been what service projects the classes will participate in.
“Some teachers are going to try to do something curriculum related,” principal Steve Passinault said. “For instance, going to see the kids at Buchanan Elementary school for Spanish classes. I hope that a lot of different ideas are going to surface from this idea and I hope it gets kids thinking about how they can help different communities. A lot of kids do this type of thing already and have volunteer opportunities they are passionate about and maybe first hours can do something with those activities. It’s essentially up to students’ first hours to decide what they want to be participate in.”
The original idea of the service day stemmed from Forest Hills Northern, where senior Meredith Howe, the student council president, contacted Passinault and Forest Hills Central’s student council president, senior Sara Johnson. The initial arrangement had both schools participating on the same day but because the schools both hold over 1000 teens, it was decided that they would simply do this during the same week.
This new project will surely bring in a multitude of expenses, including busing, but the impact it can leave on the students is long-lasting. According to Passinault, the goal is to instill a sense of happiness and pride into the student body by helping the community. Administrators want to show kids that volunteering and helping around the community is something that they can do all the time. However, Johnson believes that some students don’t have the time needed to do this on a consistent basis.
“A lot of students really want to give back to their community but are so busy or don’t know how so this is a great opportunity for them to do so,” Johnson said. “Also, this could possibly encourage students to maybe continue volunteering in the future, which is very important as well.”
English teacher John Fisher was surprised but pleased to hear that the school was broadening their learning style and getting outside the classroom. He brought up the aspect of the “bubble” and believes that the service day will allow the student body to see other points of views in the community and learn beyond books in the classroom. All the same, he understands the amount of work that has to be done.
“I know that this is going to entail a lot of work on the part of my colleagues and I, but I see the value even so,” Fisher said. “It won’t be easy to put this together, especially on such short notice, but in the end, I think it will be well worth the effort. Education has been stagnate for far too long, and I am hoping that activities like this are a sign of changes to come.”
Unfortunately, nothing is perfect and everything has flaws. One particular disappointment in this project is the inability to allow seniors to participate before they graduate.
The original date for this project was April 20th, but administrators opted to change it to May 26th (after the seniors graduate). Passinault is disappointed in the shortcoming but there were concerns that they would not be able to plan the day in time and that it would conflict with the timing of the AP exams.
“I am disappointed that the seniors won’t have the opportunity to participate in this event, because they are actually going into the world very soon and the experience would be more relevant to them,” Fisher commented. “That said, I understand why it has to be this way. We just can’t get all of the pieces in place soon enough to have the seniors participate. Maybe we will learn from this year and the whole process will be smoother (and potentially earlier) in the future.”
Despite the disappointment of seniors being unable to participate this project, this service day will nonetheless provide learning outside the walls of FHC and will help students develop an understanding for the community.
“I’m happy to put this in front of our students,” Passinault said. “The less people who think that material things, fame, and popularity help you achieve happiness, the better off I think our students will be. It’s just trying to get people to think outside of that.”