Nicki A. ’15 has seen, and become part of, a recent and profound change in the Upper School. “The whole concept of service has definitely evolved. It didn’t really enter my head when I was a freshman, but it became real for me as I became closer with Mr. Simpson. He’s Mr. Service,” Nicki said. She and 18 other students will spend two weeks this summer helping two schools in Nepal on a mission led by Mr. Service. (Upper School English teacher Mike Simpson also enjoys a slightly less pithy title, director of service learning.)
In a December 2012 assembly, Simpson issued a call and a challenge to the Upper School: Make a “sustained, meaningful and personal connection to a cause” as part of a broader effort to weave acts of service into both the curriculum as well as students’ lives.
A year and a half later, Simpson said that while, “We can always do better, students have become very good at looking for ways to extend their passions and extend their education, as opposed to feeling like they need to drive in X-number of nails over the course of a Saturday in order to ‘have done community service.’”
He continued, “The best part about Country Day is that the Upper School deeply believes in its own culture. Whatever they perceive as part of their culture, they will grip very tightly and throw themselves after it.
“Because the seniors last year did so much service, because they chose to make that such a huge part of their identity, the classes beneath them feel like that’s a value and something they want to honor.
“I think they just see it as part of their life at Country Day, and an extension of their intellectual lives,” he said.
Juniors Caroline G., Carter M. and Athalie R. are also heading to Nepal in June, and they’ve extended their intellectual lives by participating in the Save to Share program, which provides school necessities such as notebooks and pencils for local refugees. Many come from Nepal and attend Reynolds Middle School, which made the trip a natural way to implement the LCDS Upper School philosophy of acting both locally and globally, always looking closely for opportunities to help our own community.
“The result we get it what we put into it,” said Caroline. “That’s what makes it rewarding.” The girls are about $2,000 away from their Save to Share fundraising goal, having already raised more than $5,000 through Girls On The Run, a bake sale and individual donations. (Anyone interested in donating should email Caroline or Carter.)
Whether it involves travelling to Nepal, or the LCDS Mini-THON in March, in which more than 60 students kept moving for 12 hours (no sitting allowed) to raise more than $11,000 for the Four Diamonds Fund for pediatric cancer research, or any of the other myriad service opportunities at LCDS, Simpson sees a fundamental change in “the perception of what it means to be a student at Country Day.”
“There is an expectation and a desire for engagement in a number of different avenues in their intellectual lives and part of it is connecting and working closely with an organization outside of school for the sake of making the world a better place and making yourself a better student.”
Some of this year’s service work included:
— Bangla-Dash: A fundraiser and race benefitting The Carter Academy in Bangladesh, and conceived and implemented entirely by the freshman class.
— Canstruction: The annual can-sculpture building contest supports Project Share and the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. Country Day has participated since 2005.
— Cougar Car Wash: In May, the boys lacrosse car wash raised $1,020 for Schreiber Pediatric of Lancaster.
— Cougars For A Cure: This annual fundraiser benefits OneRunTogether and its effort to cure cancer. Sponsored by the athletics boosters’ Cougar Club, this year’s proceeds from the varsity boys soccer game between LCDS and Conestoga Christian raised more than $1,000.
— Empty Bowls: Before the day of the dinner, volunteers could make bowls at four workshops sponsored by Project Arts. Then, on the day of the event, area restaurants donated soups and participants donate money to sample them and use one of the homemade bowls. All proceeds went to the Lancaster Power Packs Project.
— Fam Fun Fest at Ware Center: During the Fam Fun Fest series on Saturdays at the Ware Center, students volunteered their time at craft tables for the children attending the events. Project Arts sponsored the activity.
— Habitat For Humanity: Country Day’s work with Lancaster Area Habitat for Humanity began in 2001 and continues to grow as a point of pride and mutual respect, with the school winning Habitat’s 2013 Humanitarian of The Year Award, presented in a celebration dinner on World Habitat Day.
In addition to student volunteering, the school has also consistently raised both funds and awareness for the organization. Said Habitat for Humanity, “Through service learning projects, the annual Race for Home, the Ice Festival and starting its own Upper School Habitat For Humanity Club, the school’s commitment to service and community is exemplary.”
— Mennonite Home: Eight students completed their training to volunteer at the retirement community.
— Middle School Class Service Projects: Sixth grade works with Mrs. Bromley, tending the learning gardens around the school, weeding, planting, and harvesting when that season comes. Seventh grade works with the JK students as their Big Buddies once a week during advisory time; a few of the seventh-grade advisory groups help the JK’ers with both academics and creative play time. Eighth-grade students chose to clean the Dining Commons each day after break time, so that the space is neat and ready for the next group.
— Senior Service Day: Upper Schoolers spent a day volunteering at Schreiber Pediatric Center, Berks Women In Crisis or here at school, cleaning up the grounds.