Meaningful Shifts in Community Service Program
This year, significant changes have been put into place in an attempt to reshape the way students approach community service.
Tene Howard, Director of Global Outreach, Service and Sustainability, is at the foreground of these changes, along with a group of students known as the Service Leadership Council. Last year, that group, along with Ms. Howard and Alison Bishop, scrutinized how the student body approached community service.
“Overwhelmingly, a lot of students who were a part of [the Service Leadership Council] felt that, while there was a requirement, there wasn’t really any support for the requirement,” said Ms. Howard. “Students didn’t always know what to do or how to do it, or for some of the students it felt like the service requirement was really kind of like a joke.”
With the changes that have been applied to the service program, Ms. Howard hopes that community service in Packer will become more aligned with the mission statement, as well as more meaningful for the student body.
“My dream is that students really find something that they are passionate about, that helps them to understand the world and their own worlds a little bit better,” said Ms. Howard.
Instead of community service hours, students now receive ACES credits for the service they complete. ACES stands for Activism, Community Engagement, and Service, and students receive one ACES credit for each hour of service. Volunteering, attending or sponsoring a fundraising event, or attending a conference are just a few of the ways to earn credits. Also, project proposals now have to be cleared by the Service Leadership Council.
One of the most important facets of the shift in community service is that there will now be more service opportunities for students on the Packer campus. Upcoming events include volunteering at the Arab American Family Support Center during Community on November 11, as well as Stop Hunger Now, which takes place on November 20.
After ninth grade, students are not allowed to complete all of their community service credits within Packer. Now, for instance, being a tour guide after freshman year only provides half of the required credits, whereas in previous years a student could get all of their hours by tour guiding.
This particular aspect of the change has been met with some disappointment, but along with acknowledgement of the benefits of the shift.
“I used to get all of my hours [from tour guiding], but I totally understand why they did it. It’s good in the end, because I will be doing things that are actually worthwhile for the community,” said Nina Houston (’19).
Adam Choice, Associate Director of Admissions and head of the tour guide program, had a similar response to the changes.
“Tour guiding is a great opportunity to help give service back to the school, but I also think there are other beneficial ways to do [service] outside the school too,” said Mr. Choice. Although Mr. Choice wishes he was made aware of the change earlier, he believes “it definitely fits the message that we’re trying to send for our community.”