Building on the grade-level service projects in our Middle School, the Upper School service experience is focused on giving students an opportunity to commit to a nonprofit organization for an extended period of time through the grade service project, with an emphasis on using service work as a tool for social justice. It is during these four years of development that we hope students gain a deeper understanding of some of our most complex and enduring understandings about service: that social inequities were started and are perpetuated by individuals and institutions with power, that race impacts experience, and that service work can be social justice work.
Throughout Grade 9, our students work in their advisories to explore issues in NYC that they believe are unjust. After researching some of these issues and the nonprofits that exist to combat the issues, the grade chooses one nonprofit organization with which to partner over the remainder of their high school career. In Grades 10-12, our students hear from guest speakers, read articles, and engage in other activities that allow them to better understand the issue at hand, its history in NYC, and whom it directly affects. As a grade, they volunteer with the nonprofit organization and are challenged to find how they can not only be of day-to-day service to those directly affected by the issue but also be an activist to end the issue in NYC.
Students who have an individual passion to fight a social injustice can build a Step Up Step Out program that not only educates the Upper School students about the issue but also provides ways for peers to volunteer and become activists.
Through our four-year grade projects and Step Up Step Out programs, we are educating students who choose to be a force of change in their communities and to be activists for social justice through how they serve.