Since September, the seniors in the 9th grade class have made it a point to think differently about service learning through their participation in a program sponsored by the Jefferson Awards Foundation (JAF) and Deloitte to develop high school students into community leaders. In its inaugural year at Fenn, the Students in Action (SIA) program challenged the seniors to think big, choose their own public service passion, and engage the entire school community in creating maximum impact.
Supported by Michelle Heaton, Fenn’s service learning coordinator, the 9th grade class first embraced the task of developing a theme to guide them in their mission to bring more awareness to Fenn’s service learning program. After a week of brainstorming and discussion, the boys decided to focus their efforts on “Hunger and Homelessness” and identified four projects that Fenn boys have historically supported but have the capacity to more fully embrace.
The 9th grade class’s first priority was increasing awareness among Fenn students of the Open Table Food Pantry drive in November. After a presentation in All School Meeting that focused on the issues of hunger in our area, the seniors visited individual advisor groups in the Lower and Middle Schools to talk with younger students about the importance of understanding the impact each Fenn boy can have in making the food drive a success. The 9th graders shared stories about their own involvement with the food drive during their Lower and Middle School years, the sense of accomplishment and gratitude they felt after various initiatives to collect food, and the hopes they had for a successful drive in 2016-2017.
During the course of the year, the 9th grade class organized similar presentations for and discussions with the younger students. They specifically focused on raising awareness of the Cradles to Crayons Family Service Day, the Heading Home move-in days, and the Walk for Hunger. With each service learning opportunity, 9th graders collected testimonials from the participants, kept track of the Fenn students involved, and then calculated the number of people who were directly impacted by these volunteer activities.
As the year drew to a close, the class completed a written report describing and analyzing their efforts and developed an oral presentation in preparation for the JAF’s Eastern Massachusetts Region Spring Competition. It was with great pride that the seniors accepted the distinction of being named a Gold Banner school, coming in second in the region for their intensive, year-long work.
Even more important than their award and recognition is the deep satisfaction the 9th graders gained from setting their own course and investigating why service matters. Using skills they learned at two regional leadership training conferences, the seniors considered the needs of our local community and explored the ways in which Fenn boys can make a meaningful difference. Moreover, they instilled in younger students a desire to be a part of the School’s service learning efforts and committed themselves to a continuing role as leaders in whatever communities they join after graduating from Fenn.
For those who are coming to the Fenn campus in the next few weeks, you will notice the Jefferson Award Foundation’s Gold Banner hanging on the side of Thompson Hall—congratulations to the Class of 2017.