One way that we pursue fulfilling our mission and values at our school is to make sure that, regardless of a student’s age, they are involved in making a difference through service. These service projects happen on our campus, but also out in the local community. Below is an ongoing snapshot of the effect that our students are having on our school, the community and even the world!
Answering the Call for Aid at All Times
Though the end of the school year can be hectic, the 2011-2012 Student Leadership Team worked with First Presbyterian Church to organize a collection for victims of the tornado that swept the Southeast (photo example of devastation at right) in early May 2011.
Westminster collected supplies to send to St. Clair County, southeast of Birmingham, Alabama. At the time this was posted, there were at least 11 confirmed deaths in St. Clair County and thousands of people continuing to live without water and electricity. This county was not included in those receiving government agency support since FEMA, HHS and the Red Cross focused on more concentrated disaster areas.
Bottled water, canned foods, diapers, hygiene and feminine items, sunscreen, socks and batteries were collected for disaster relief. Donated items were placed in a trailer on campus, which was driven to Alabama on May 5.
We worked with the Southern Baptist Disaster relief teams in Moody, Alabama. Two local churches set up food distribution centers as well as shelters for housing and showering.
Westminster Serves Abroad
Many of you know that prior to coming to Westminster, the O’Neil family lived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (East Africa), where Steve O’Neil was the headmaster of an international school.
“After three years away, I have the privilege of returning to Tanzania, but not alone. In April 2011, I will be leading a Westminster mission trip that will include four students and two other adults,” said Headmaster O’Neil. While there, the team joined Mr. O’Neil’s former school as it held a Service Emphasis Week in which small groups of students and faculty do service projects in Dar es Salaam and throughout the country. Projects ranged from building airstrips in remote villages to caring for children at a hospital while their mothers undergo various surgeries.
Our team joined one of the teams working at an orphanage in a semi-rural setting. Additionally, the team served and learned more about different mission work (health and children) in Dar es Salaam.
The Tanzania team kept a detailed blog about the trip. Visit it to experience the preparation, time there and return. Through the experiences shared on this blog, readers hear the heartbeat of the team members as they shared their joys, challenges/fears and growth. The Tanzania team is grateful for the many prayers that sent them on their way.
A Student’s Tanzania Impressions Reported in the Paper
Xtreme Teen Board member and Tanzania team member Sabrina Rush wrote an article on the trip to Tanzania that was on the homepage of augustachronicle.com on Tuesday, April 19.
Lower School’s Service Commitment
Service at the school is an opportunity for our students to serve the school and each other. Each class has chosen or has been assigned an area of service. Some projects may overlap with the service learning that is going on at their grade level.
Service-Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility and strengthen communities.
Throughout the year, each Lower School class will write letters of thanks to the members of the Westminster community who serve our students.
2009-2011 Service Highlights
- The pre-K class made and delivered Build-a-Bears to patients at MCG Health Children’s Medical Center.
- Pre-K and TK classes participated in a Global Service Project that benefited the Dalits of South Asia.
- Our first-grade students participated in service to the school by keeping the lost and found in order during the 2010-11 school year. They also created a power point of the lost and found items and sent it to the classrooms and home to the parents to view.
- The first grade service learning project in Fall 2010 was “Hugs for Heroes”. Students sent cards and Hershey Hugs candy to military members serving in Afganistan and Iraq.
- Second-grade students adopted adult pen pals and hosted them for lunch in the school cafeteria. They also shopped for, put together and delivered 100 gift bags to an area nursing home. These bags were distributed on Christmas day to residents.
- The third grade began their service learning project for spring 2011 in April, during their study of ecosystems and the environment in science. Building on the recycling efforts already begun by our Parents’ Club, the children created posters to advertise recycling old cell phones and used ink cartridges and explored ways to better include recycling in the lunchroom.
- In 2010-11, fourth-grade students sent letters and cards to their congressmen for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day. A lot of excitement was experienced each time they received a response. This project was in preparation for their spring field trip to the State Capitol, where the children actually got to talk to the governor and one of their local representatives.
- For 2011, the fourth grade again went to two different nursing homes to show the residents God’s love for Valentine’s Day. This is a popular and touching trip that these students make each year.
- 2009-2010 fourth-grade students presented a Valentine’s Day program to area nursing home residents. They also supported Commander Peterson of the USS Eisenhower (parent of 2009-10 fourth-grader Kat Peterson) with six boxes of letters and goodies to boost morale while he was deployed at sea.
- Fifth-grade students supplied and packed 1,030 art pens to be taken on a missions trip to Nepal to assist in Gospel presentations.
- The fall 2010 Lower School food drive for Golden Harvest Food Bank was lead by the fifth-grade class. Students were inspired by visiting speaker from the Golden Harvest Food Bank, Director Mike Firmin. This helped encourage them to put out the barrels, hang up flyers, count the items in the barrels and help load the donations onto the truck.
- Lower School students collected over 3,100 canned good items for Golden Harvest Food Bank.
- Jump Rope for Heart raised $9,455.25 for the American Heart Association in 2011.
- Lower School students collected 1,003 pairs of socks that were delivered to a Chinese orphanage by the Drake family when they went to adopt their daughter.
2011-12 Service Highlights
- Prior to leaving for Outdoor Classroom in September, the sixth-graders spent a day serving in our local community. Girls worked at Golden Harvest Food Bank, while the boys spent the day on campus. They helped with tasks such as cleaning up the cross-country trail, Rachel’s Garden and the Lower School basement.
2009-2011 Service Highlights
- The sixth-grade class raised $500 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through the Pennies for Patients Program.
- Twelve students participated in Light the Night Walk for Leukemia.
- Fifteen students participated in the Heart Walk for the American Heart Association.
- The Middle School collected 1,017 pounds of food for Golden Harvest Food Bank.
- Student Council Minty Messages raised $200 for toys for the Salvation Army.
There are several ways that our Upper School students are inspired to serve our community and are presented with ways to accomplish their service. To kick off the school year, an assembly is organized to talk to students about service. Most of the assembly is used for Homecoming court candidates to propose a service activity for the senior class. When students elect their Homecoming King and Queen, they vote for the service opportunity the senior class will implement. Also at that assembly, a representative from an organization the students will serve that school year shares about their ministry and how the students will be involved. The students partnered with Golden Harvest Food Bank for the 2010-2011 school year.
Another service assembly is held at the close of the school year as a reminder to volunteer before their summer. During a fall chapel, students will share stories and praises about summer mission trips.
2012-2013 Service Highlights Video
2009-2011 Service Highlights
- The Class of 2011, led by Sadie Rhodes, reached out to our neighborhood children. They were invited to attend a double-header soccer game and were treated to dinner and inflatable games on campus.
- Fifteen students donated blood, helping about 45 people.
- Penny Sabotage, a House competition, raised $685.35 to provide 1,370 meals for Golden Harvest Food Bank.
- 2010 seniors sorted and packed 18,588 pounds of food at Golden Harvest Food Bank.
- Led by the Student Leadership Team, the entire school worked together to raise $5,300 to help build a much needed well for Maralal Christian Academy in Kenya.
- The girls soccer team collected Christmas gifts for local girls at Ronald McDonald House.
House Service Projects
In the summer of 2010, Mr. Steve O’Neil, Mrs. Heather Wiseman and Service Prefect Natalie Walters met with the director of the Golden Harvest Food Bank (GHFB) and were given a tour of their facilities. During the tour, they discovered that the Master’s Table (downtown) serves lunches every day to people who are in need, but they did not always have enough volunteers on Thursdays.
Mrs. Wiseman and Natalie Walters quickly worked with the GHFB Volunteer Coordinator and submitted a proposal to Mr. Craig Johnson that allowed each House to go to the Master’s Table and help serve the guests who eat there one Thursday during the school year. Bonhoeffer House was the first to commit to a service Thursday and went in October 2010. (See sidebar for the 2010-11 service dates for all Houses). Approximately half the students in that house went to the Master’s Table and the other half the students went to the Faith Food Factory. The House Masters and Journeymen (helpers) attend the service day with the students of their house. “We have found that it is a great way to get to know some of the kids in your house that you didn’t know very well [since the houses are comprised of grades 9-12],” Wiseman illuminates.
“Splitting the Upper School into Houses, and then again into two groups, allows us to be more helpful to the people that we are serving.” said Walters. “By helping four different times in the year, we are developing a healthy relationship with Golden Harvest. The last time a House went to the Faith Food Factory, one of the workers asked Mr. Rich what school they were from. When Mr. Rich said ‘Westminster’ the worker replied, ‘Oh good – your students work hard.’”
Mrs. Wiseman has been pleasantly surprised by the passion our students have for their house service projects. “Personally, my goal was to inspire one student to do some service work when maybe they hadn’t ever considered it before. I’ve had numerous students tell me that they have gone back to the Master’s Table on Saturdays or over Christmas Break in order to help out.”
Moving forward, the lead person in deciding what the students do for service will be the Service Prefect. Mrs. Wiseman praises Natalie Walters on her commitment to making this new approach a success. “She is a hard worker, but she doesn’t want to enter into something lightly. She could have ‘gone crazy’ with numerous different service projects, but she has prayed hard about what Westminster is called to be doing, and I believe she has made wise choices about where we go and what we do.”
House Service Projects
- Upper School students participated in World Vision’s 30-Hour Fast
- Week-long House competition in 2011 raised over $350 for the American Heart Association
Beta Club & National Honor Society Service
Westminster’s students in Beta Club and the National Honor Society agree to complete a certain number of hours of service in order to be members of those honor societies. The service work of the Houses does not count as hours toward these societies.
In 2010, 68 members in the Senior National Beta Club (grades 10 and 12) and 27 National Honors Society students (grades 11 and 12) volunteered a minimum of 15 hours each to various organizations.