As one of the eight pillars in Collegiate’s Responsible Citizenship initiative, service learning appears in every division and at every grade level and serves as a tool that integrates meaningful service with the curriculum.
Now in its second year, Connect Richmond aims to foster interaction and connection between students and the individuals they meet in the community. Sites students visited included the Faison School, Children’s Museum of Richmond, Doorways, Amelia Street School, Circle Center, St. James Children’s Center, YMCA, Lakewood Manor and Founders Center for Autism.
Over the six weeks, students truly engage with individuals at these organizations and explore their needs, says Suzanne Fleming, Collegiate’s Director of Service Learning.
“We are trying to take a deeper dive into empathy and what it means to serve others,” she said. “The students do a lot of reflection. That is where the meaning really clicks for them.”
Alexander Trimmingham and Hugh Williams were paired with toddlersat the St. James Children’s Center. They both enjoyed running around with the toddlers, but were challenged with communicating with the youngsters and trying to remember all of their names. Yet, both felt they came away with important lessons from their experience.
“The 2 year olds really look up to older people,” Alexander said. “So I tried to be a role model for them.”
“I learned that not all kids in low-income families are sad all of the time,” Hugh said.
Mrs. Fleming sees a lot of self-discovery over the course of the program, as students who have never spent time with adults with Alzheimer’s or children with autism show patience, compassion and empathy.
“They learn a whole lot about themselves and they’re stretched beyond their comfort zone,” Mrs. Fleming said. “Learning the empathy piece is a huge thing that will serve them well later on.”