As the holidays approach and consumerism takes center stage, it is critical that Fenn students engage in and grapple with issues and causes that are bigger than themselves. Eleven ninth grade students from Fenn’s Students in Action Committee were able to do just that on Tuesday, November 7.
The boys headed to the Hillel Center at Boston University to participate in this year’s Jefferson Awards Foundation Students in Action Program, an interscholastic competition that challenges schools to develop service learning programs that serve each school’s respective communities. Also attending were more than 100 students from nine regional schools, including Sharon High School, Saugus High School, Jeremiah Burke High School in Boston, Norwood High School, North Quincy High School, The Cathedral School of Boston, Our Sister’s School of New Bedford, and Fontbonne Academy of Milton.
The Students in Action Program required the diverse group of participating students to engage in group challenges, interact with peers with similar passions from other schools, and develop skills to make them all effective leaders and stewards of service learning in their school communities. During the morning session, students talked about leadership and the qualities that make a strong leader, and one Fenn student noted the value in hearing from other students about the leadership qualities that they most appreciate. Students also delved into the myriad pragmatic action steps that are necessary for service learning to succeed in organizations.
This morning work prepared the students well to participate in small group discussions during the afternoon with community leaders from area NGOs and activist organizations. The link between serving learning and social justice was a prevalent theme across all workshop sessions.
“The Fenn boys were engaged and involved and truly stood out in the way that they participated,” shared David Duane, Ninth Grade Service Learning Coordinator and Science Department Chair. “They quickly seized the microphone to share ideas and stories with little prompting from adult advisors. They were grateful for and enthusiastic about the experience, and they are excited to share details of the program with their grade and to inspire and lead the entire school in service learning efforts that include the always popular and important Open Table Food Drive before Thanksgiving.”
On this same day, the remaining ninth grade boys participated in a local Day of Service. They began the day by helping teachers implement lesson plans with fourth and fifth grade students who were more than thrilled to interact with these Upper School guests. They next traveled to five different homes in Concord that the Concord Council on Aging had arranged for the boys to clean up. They raked leaves, picked up sticks and stacked wood for elderly residents in need of assistance with fall clean-up. One 95-year-old resident recounted stories about his time serving in WWII and his experience in Normandy, an exchange that left a profound impact on the Fenn boys who were lucky enough to interact with him. Ultimately, the boys were service leaders by example and were treated to stories, camaraderie, and snacks from local residents.