The following article (and the photo above) reflects how we incorporate community service into the curriculum and student life in a normal, non-COVID school year. We expect to resume our normal community service program in 2021-22!
Because serving the community is a core tenet of Progressive education, the High School has a long tradition of community service, with our program dating back to the 1990s. We believe service is so important that it is built into the school day, rather than requiring students to earn service hours outside of school on their own. The entire high school student body and all the faculty/staff participate in six half-days spread out during the school year, contributing about 2,500 hours of service to the community annually. The goals of the St. Francis community service program are for students to understand and care for the world around them and to cultivate a lifelong desire to serve others.
Students and faculty/staff are assigned to different sites or groups that they stay with for the year (and sometimes for multiple years), each of which falls within one of three major strands: human services, civic literacy, and environmental stewardship. We prefer to work with sites in our immediate vicinity downtown if possible in order to have a positive impact on our neighborhood, but some sites are a bit farther afield, as well. In 2019-20, St. Francis students worked at the following sites:
- Main Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library,
- Project Warm,
- Gilda’s Club,
- Kentucky Refugee Ministries,
- Louisville Grows,
- Kentucky Science Center,
- Louisville Nature Center,
- Chestnut Street YMCA,
- Boys and Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana,
- New Directions Housing,
- Olmsted Conservancy,
- Dare to Care,
- Heuser Hearing Institute,
- Center for Women and Families,
- We Act,
- and our own SFS Goshen Campus.
The projects range from rocking babies to pulling weeds to packing boxes of food for senior citizens, and more. Our We Act group chooses at least one local and one global project to focus on each year. In previous years, the group has visited YouthBuild and Wayside Christian Mission locally and held several fundraisers to raise money for the Offin Children’s Center in Ghana.
Students are encouraged to evaluate the needs of their community service organizations and develop plans to help in ways that make sense to the students and the organization; this also helps them learn as they serve. For instance, students who work at the Louisville Nature Center become acquainted with native plant species, learn how to identify (and remove) non-native plant species, and see ecological processes at work. Students in the Kentucky Refugee Ministries group learn about the difficulties that recent refugees face, including finding jobs, housing, and home furnishings.
In addition to the six half-days the whole high school performs service, other community service opportunities arise during the school year and students are encouraged to assist other organizations. As a school, we raise money and contribute each year to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Pennies for Patients drive, through a competition among our Advisee Groups. Many students also take on service projects in addition to our community service program; for example, acting as peer educators at Planned Parenthood, serving as tutors and mentors to middle school students through the Educational Justice organization, and attending various social justice and community activist events.
In all, our high school students and faculty/staff contribute about 2,500 hours of service to the community each year through the SFS community service program, and hundreds more via the additional projects they take on independently. We hope that our students grow and learn from these opportunities while making a difference in the Louisville community.