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Real Grit: Service Board

If longevity indicates success, our Service Board is an extraordinarily powerful organization. Service Board has been around longer than most of Academy’s present teachers. It’s already past its 30th birthday and just as active in the school and community as ever before.

“The Service Board has its roots in Student Council, says Service Board Director, Mrs. Bening (P’10, P’13), who began teaching Latin at Academy in 1987 and has been Service Board’s full-time faculty advisor since 1997. “In the late 70’s to early 80’s, students decided this program needed to have a separate service arm because the service they wanted to do was becoming greater than what Student Council could manage within its ranks. So it created the Service Club, and it was  modelled on Student Council with the same election system, hierarchy, and structure. Everyone in the school paid $5 dues to belong to the club, yet it is hardly a club when dues are mandatory and everyone belongs. So  we changed its misnomer.”Service Board strives actively to  help others in the community, who aren’t as fortunate. One of Academy’s biggest and longest running Service undertaking is the Holiday Project, which sponsors individual families and provides them with food and clothes. “This year, we sponsored 29 families in total,” says Bening, “But we’re also focusing more on fulfilling more of the needs of each individual family. Our aim is to get more students involved. And we are asking for less money.

From Service Day to Faith Mission to MDA Camp, Service provides students many avenues to take an active role in helping out their community, many of them as almost annual rites or traditions. The Service Board also institutes new agendas and policies, constantly thinking of ways to improve. Of note is the recycling program, something that didn’ exist in 1998. It was Service Board’s initiative to get the entire school to recycle.

As successful as the Holiday Project has been in recent years, the Service Board decided it could be improved, especially if the project could have all three school divisions playing a role in it. Most noticeably, the holiday venture’s name is now KIDS4KIDS, which,  Bening explains, is “meant to convey to people we no longer do this necessarily as a holiday thing. We want to work this plan into the curriculum so it becomes part of what we do, regardless that it is the holiday.”

KIDS4KIDS involves more lower and middle school students. The fourth grade focuses on proper nutrition, and what it takes to feed a family. Fifth graders follow up with portioning meals.They will actually create menus and meal plans for families based on the food items they requested and decide how to divide the food to feed each family for a week. And the seventh grade was in charge of the food aspect of KIDS4KIDS this year. “As the middle school takes a more active role in the project, this allows the upper school to explore new things,” says Bening. For example, this year a Service Department, comprised of faculty members from the three divisions, the arts, and athletics worked to develop a curriculum that effectively teaches kids about service and helping the community. And that doesn’t mean this group wants to impose another class on the students. This past summer, a small group from Academy participated in a service trip to aid the relief efforts in Joplin, Missouri, which was ravaged by a tornado in May, 2011. The Service Board is also looking at trying to start up an annual service trip, given the success of this first experience and the participants’ positive reactions to it.

Service Board has a long, triumphant history at Academy. And it doesn’t seem to be slowing down one bit. It continues to improve how students engage themselves in service and help the local community. The first 30 years have been a resounding success story. And the horizon for the next 30 looks just as bright.

Written by Andy Li’13. Photo by Jeremy Schroeder’14.




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