At Hewitt, students of every age are given opportunities to exercise empathy and develop their sense of purpose through a variety of service learning projects. Starting in lower school, Hewitt students learn to see themselves as powerful thinkers and doers who have the ability to contribute to their local community, and as they grow older, they begin to understand the needs of those around them and how they can help address those needs. By the time they reach upper school, Hewitt students have several opportunities to participate in and lead service projects with their peers. Many of those projects begin with our Student Service Board, a student-led group whose members research and develop service learning initiatives that feel meaningful and consequential to them and their community.
As they make decisions about Hewitt’s service program and partner organizations, the Student Service Board focuses on leading our entire school community in service work. To inspire all students to act in ways that are personally significant and beneficial to those around them, members of the Board spent the fall visiting classrooms to educate and engage Hewitt’s younger students in school-wide service work. Below, members of the Board reflect on two recent service projects and the importance of deepening awareness and inspiring action in lower and middle school students.
Organizing an Americares Fundraiser for Hurricane Dorian
Maddie G., Class of 2020
Our first service initiative of the school year was a fundraiser to support victims of Hurricane Dorian. Members of the Student Service Board asked the Hewitt community to donate to Americares’ hurricane relief efforts in the lobbies before school. I felt it was important for us to help lower school students understand why members of the Board were collecting money and how that money would be used, so I designed a hands-on and interactive activity to teach them about how Americares helps disaster victims.
Board members started the activity by asking lower schoolers, “Who has seen us in the lobby collecting money?” We explained that we were raising money to help Americares transport medical supplies to people in the Bahamas who were impacted by Hurricane Dorian. We also talked about how relief work is teamwork that involves several different organizations working together to make sure people have medicine, food, water, and shelter. The lower schoolers got to practice making their own medical supply packages by choosing from pictures of things that Americares might send to hurricane victims, like bandaids, disinfectant, gloves, and different medicines, as well as pictures of items that other organizations would be responsible for providing, such as tents, bottled water, and packaged food. I could tell this activity was successful because when the Board visited the lower school again in October, the girls remembered what they had learned about Americares and asked us if were were making medical supply packages again.
I love service work because it helps me see that I can have an impact on someone else’s life. Through service, I can take my privileges and resources and use them to give back to others, and by teaching lower school students about the Student Service Board’s work, I am using my own education to help educate others. I think conversations with lower school students about what the Board does are a good way to encourage younger students to think about what kind of service work they want to be involved in. If students start service work at a young age, it will feel natural to them to want to help their community and give back as they get older.
Founding the Confident, Healthy Women Project
Grace D. and Olivia S., Class of 2022
We created the Confident, Healthy Women project after the Riley’s Way Call for Kindness — a contest that encourages young leaders to use kindness and empathy to create meaningful change — inspired us to do something to help our local community. The goal of our project is not only to give hygiene supplies to women in need in New York City, but also to make sure those women feel supported by the people in their extended community. For our first drive, we spoke to a female visitor at the New York Common Pantry (NYCP) who told us that feminine hygiene products, toothpaste, toothbrushes, wet wipes, and Q-tips were needed most, and we asked the Hewitt community to donate these items. It was important to all of us on the Student Service Board to get students in lower, middle, and upper school involved in the project because participating in service work helps us become more aware of what we take for granted and how we can help other people.
We introduced the Confident, Healthy Women project to our fellow students through discussions about kindness, respect, and confidence. In lower school, we asked students to strike power poses and talked about how those poses made them feel good about themselves. We invited the girls to decorate the care packages for the NYCP so that they felt more personalized, and students drew their power poses on the bags or wrote positive messages to inspire confidence. In middle school classrooms, we led more explicit discussions about the obstacles women face when they don’t have the products they need to take care of their health and feel confident. We talked about what we could do to make sure the women at the NYCP knew we were thinking of them, and we were impressed with the sincere and supportive cards students wrote to go along with the packages. We also hosted an opportunity for upper school students to decorate packages and write cards while learning more about Confident, Healthy Women and our plans to expand the initiative to include more students and local organizations in the future.
As co-founders of Confident, Healthy Women, we wanted to reach out to younger Hewitt students so that their involvement in this service project went beyond donating supplies their parents had purchased. We wanted to make sure they knew exactly what we were doing and why it is important so that when they are older they will feel empowered to create their own service projects. We remember feeling inspired by older students who started service initiatives at Hewitt, and now we want to do the same thing for younger students.