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How Community Service Benefits Your Child

More than 50 years ago, the Founders of Episcopal School of Jacksonville had a vision. Their vision was NOT of a school that produced doctors and nurses, engineers and business executives, entrepreneurs and inventors, lawyers and politicians, athletes and artists. Their vision was not about what the students would become; their vision was about who they would become. In one of the founding documents, affectionately known as the Purple Book, the vision is clearly for the school to “develop doers of good and leaders of men [and women].” It goes on to describe how being doers of good and being leaders means that our students will go on to make their world a better place through their care and concern for others.

Today, we still hold true to this vision, and here is why.

Getting outside ourselves. One of the greatest benefits of engaging in community service is getting outside of ourselves. Daily living is very busy - for us and for our children. School, homework, sports, the arts, and all the extracurricular activities and responsibilities take up so much of students’ time and energy. They must learn to manage their time and make choices about what they must do and what tasks can wait until later. Then comes the obstacles which all of us face at certain times. Our lives are filled with challenges and struggles, which bring our focus even more on our inward journey. How will I navigate through these obstacles? Why is this happening? What must I do? Human beings are tempted to see only their own circumstances and that of their immediate circle of family and friends.

Service opens our eyes and hearts to the needs of others. For example, when a teenager volunteers at a nursing home, they encounter a world that is foreign to them in many ways. Young people often have never thought about the physical decline of their body or grieve the loss of their mental agility. Young people do not suffer from loneliness and isolation to the degree that so many of the elderly do. Usually, young people do not look back on their lives with longing for happier times before their loved ones had died. When youth volunteer with people whose story is different than their own, they see things differently. Their focus is shifted from themselves to the care and concern for others. At any age, a richer life is experienced when we seek to understand others’ stories.

Become consciously engaged in the world. Over the past three or four years, we have had many drives to collect supplies for hurricane victims. As strong storms have slammed parts of our state and country, we have responded as a community collecting everything from toiletries and baby diapers, to canned food, to pet supplies. We have done this very successfully. But after we drop off a trunk full of diapers and baby wipes, do we ever think about those families again? Do we contemplate what it feels like to lose everything in a hurricane and to try to survive in a shelter?

At the beginning of this year, we once again had a major hurricane collection drive for those impacted by Hurricane Michael in the Panhandle. We were asked to collect baby items, and we did so in abundance. However, it was time to take the next step to be consciously engaged in the plights of the people in the Panhandle. In just two days, we organized a group of 32 students, parents, faculty and staff to head over to Panama City and the surrounding area. While there, we drove through neighborhoods where houses were flattened and the family was living under a tarp. We handed out food, supplies, and ice to people who did not have electricity and would not for months. We heard the stories of people who were volunteering at the same distribution sites as us who had lost everything they owned. For many of us on this trip, we were forced to be consciously engaged in the lives of others as we saw their situations first-hand. We listened to the stories and were moved by compassion. Our own lives were forever altered.

Using personal gifts and talents. Young people can become passionate about service when they are able to use their personal gifts and talents to connect with how they serve others and their community. An artist may beautify a dark and dingy institution where troubled youth are finding refuge. An athlete may become the arms and legs for a paraplegic wishing to play a sport. A faith-filled teenager may lead his peers at a spiritual retreat. A bright and gifted chemistry student may give her time to tutor those who are struggling in a class. Ask your student, what are you passionate about and how can you use your gifts to serve others?

When students have the opportunity to look beyond the self-centered world of adolescence, they encounter stories and circumstances they never imagined before. Their hearts are transformed as they seek more opportunities to help others and heal the world. Community service benefits all who choose to give of themselves in this way. It builds relationships with those who are served and those who serve alongside. It builds relationships between communities of people who get to know each other's histories. It heightens our vision to see the needs of others while transforming our hearts to act when we see a need. As Robert Coles says in “The Call of Service,” our young people who serve find “the enthusiasm and pleasure, the exhilaration that accompany action taken, and the consequences of such action” in making our community - our world - a better place.

The Transformative Power of Theatre on Students’ Sense of Self

Kelby Siddons ‘06, Faculty, Episcopal School of Jacksonville, with Naiya Cheanvechai ’20 When you think about a theatre class, what do you envision? Most outside observers accustomed to the seated organization of a traditional classroom are initially rattled by the chatter of multiple small groups working in different areas of the space, the barbaric yawps… Continue Reading

Video: Influence & Effects of Social Media and Screen Time

Episcopal and Baptist Health presented Influence & Effects of Social Media and Screen Time, on March 7, at 5:30 p.m. in the Munnerlyn Center. Baptist’s Raj Loungani, MD, MPH, and De’Von Patterson, PhD, addressed screen time recommendations, the impact of social media and screen time on sleep, stress, behavior, and physical health, as well as… Continue Reading

5 Things You Can Do When Your Dream College Says “No”

By Julie Carter, Episcopal Associate Director of College Counseling As college admissions decisions are released in the coming weeks, thousands of high schools seniors will have to face the reality that sometimes, no matter how hard you try and how badly you want something, the answer is still “no.” It’s how you work through and handle… Continue Reading

Why and How to Make the Most of Your College Visit

By Andrea Rizzi, Episcopal Associate Director of College Counseling My kitchen table is strewn with beautiful and picturesque brochures that are laden with iconic steeples amid the quintessential New England fall backdrop of brilliant foliage. Eager and engaged students are sitting in a circle in the middle of the school’s quad on a particularly sunny… Continue Reading

Behind the Social Media Scene: Four Tips for Parents

Christy Hodges, Dean of Student Life, Episcopal School of Jacksonville by Christy Hodges, Dean of Student Life These days, most of the information teenagers discover about the world they live in comes from Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. They get constant updates about the lives of celebrities, friends, friends of friends, and strangers who “follow” the… Continue Reading

5 Things You Should Know About Your Middle School Student

By Paige McGee, Head of Middle School, Episcopal School of Jacksonville The middle school years provide an opportunity for self-discovery as children learn to navigate their world with more independence and less reliance on you. These years, when your student is in fifth/sixth through eighth grades, can be difficult, yet the lessons learned can positively… Continue Reading

Teaching Teens To Love Themselves for Healthier Relationships

By Amy Burrows Perkins ‘92, Director of Student Services A teen recently shared with me that he is “socially awkward, but totally fine when texting.” As parents, we need to coach kids into understanding that what feels awkward, difficult, and uncomfortable may actually be healthy — and in fact, part of normal development. As adults… Continue Reading

How Node Desks Improve Language Students’ Skills

  In addition to textbooks, software, and teaching styles, another tool which has the potential to affect learning outcomes is classroom furniture. Harkness tables, whose shape and seating require eye contact and eliminate status positions in a classroom, are one example of how furniture can influence what happens in the classroom. Another example is the… Continue Reading

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