This week is a key component the grade-level Service Learning curriculum and takes place every February for members of the freshman class.
“Community Engagement Week is so important for students to develop a sense of understanding and responsibility for broader community issues and to help them gain the skills necessary to make a positive impact on those issues,” said Suzanne Fleming, Collegiate's Director of Civic Engagement and Service Learning.
The theme this year is A Strong Community Invests in its People and focuses on three groups: youth, people with disabilities and the aging. This morning, students received an introduction to the challenges and opportunities these three population groups face from John Dau, Collegiate’s Global Scholar-in-Residence.
“When we pay attention to these three groups, that makes our community strong,” he said.
Over the next four days, the 9th Graders will visit 14 partner organizations that work with members of these populations, including Circle Center, Saint Francis Home, Amelia Street School, Northstar Academy, Children’s Museum of Richmond, Maymont Preschool and St. James’s Children’s Center. While onsite, the students will interact with individuals at the nonprofits and respond to their particular needs, gaining insight and understanding about the organizations and people they are serving.
Students will take part in serious reflection throughout the week. Upper School English teacher Dr. Leah Angell Sievers received a grant last summer called an Alumni Grant for Faculty Excellence to enhance the connection between Community Engagement Week and the 9th Grade English curriculum.
Her work led to this year’s 9th Grade English faculty members teaching narrative writing through the students' experiences during Community Engagement Week. Narrative writing refers to the practice of first-person storytelling that relies on the author's personal experience to offer the reader moral insight and increased understanding. In addition, teachers assign to students and teach from scholarly articles on the populations of focus during the week, implementing thinking routines and methods of reflection that represent best practices in service learning.
“We anticipate students' acquiring narrative writing skills and strategies,” Dr. Angell Sievers said. “Moreover, we intend to foster students' knowledge about the needs of often-underserved populations.”