Service learning finds a digital home

Anna McGrath, Contributing Writer

In its second year, the Community Engagement Leadership Board (CELB) has launched an online hub to feature student community service endeavors and help other students find service opportunities.

Science Teacher and CELB Faculty Advisor Michael Chapman said that in addition to being a place where students can understand how to fulfill the graduation requirement and manage the setbacks presented by COVID-19, the hub was made to help shift the community’s idea of service.

“Service isn’t just about helping those in need. In fact, that mindset can be more harmful than helpful. Instead, service learning is about diving deeper— understanding not just the work that needs to be done, but the systemic and structural issues that are the reason the work needs to be done in the first place.”

Mr. Chapman added that the hub reflects students’ newfound leadership in the school’s service.

“This year, much of the onus of the important work of partnering with students, organizations, and helping shift the narrative of community service to service learning has shifted to the students, rather than the faculty.”

Student leader and CELB Co-President Kaia Patterson ’23 said she hopes the hub will help create an environment where students are excited to engage in community service.

“Ultimately, service learning is a great way to teach one their civic responsibility, beyond just fulfilling requirements or checking hours off in a box,” she said. “[The hub is] not only a great platform for students working on service-learning projects to gain notice by others, but also for students who are interested in getting involved with ongoing projects.”

Kaia said she has several roles in helping advance community service at the school.

“As a co-member of CELB, one of my

most important focuses is to promote the importance of service learning to the BB&N community in any way possible, whether it be through social media, What’s Happening emails, or just through mere texts,” she said. “As an ambassador, another role that I play is through connecting with organizations beyond the BB&N community.”

With COVID-19 affecting how students can do community service, providing safe options for students is more important than ever, Kaia said.

“CELB has been largely focusing on its online presence.” she said. “The main difference between this year and last really has to do with finding new service learning opportunities for the community that are generally not in person.”

To that end, CELB has been studying the needs of different organizations to see how students can help out remotely, and the Service Learning Team has recently partnered with separate organizations to provide safe service opportunities for the community, including Boston COVID- Tutoring, a student-led tutoring service.

“Boston COVID-Tutoring [is] opportunity for students to virtually engage with others in need of support with a specific topic. When volunteering with this program, it should also be noted that service hours are credited,” Kaia said. She added that students have also worked with Arts for Little Hearts, an organization founded by Colin Michna ’22 to distribute arts and crafts to hospitalized children around the world, and Rest Assured, built by Cecelia Wilson and Maddie Maguire (both ’22) to donate blankets to Cambridge residents in need.

While already partnered with these organizations as well as others within and outside the community, the Service Learning Team is always looking for more safe service opportunities, Math Teacher and CELB Faculty Advisor Meena Kaur said.

“We have so many talented and creative students,” Ms. Kaur said. “We want their skills to be put to use in the best way possible.”