Friday, July 8, 2011

3,150 Hours of Service and Counting

Each summer in Palo Alto and throughout the school year, hundreds and hundreds of high school students from every grade descend upon the community to offer their volunteer assistance as part of the Living Skills course. The class is a graduation requirement and somewhere along the way, community service entered the curriculum as a means for our students to make connections and to pursue their interests by giving of their time in areas such as:
  • Humanitarianism
  • Health and Safety
  • Animals and Environment
  • Education
  • Seniors and Disabled
  • Food and Shelter
  • Civic Engagement
  • Sports
  • General Community-Building
During the past three weeks I've worked with my twenty-nine Living Skills students to help facilitate meaningful projects that go beyond simply checking off the boxes and filling the time sheet. It was quite an adventure for some to realize the deadline to complete their service is now the last day of the three-week class. In the Summer School sign-ups, they are told they can start volunteering before the class begins but who reads the fine print these days? Some of my students were a little panicky during the first week of class but thanks to Linda Yeung, a dedicated Paly College and Career Center volunteer, we offer a comprehensive calendar of vetted local events with nonprofit organizations and community agencies at

It was incredibly rewarding to watch my students first focus on their sense of
purpose in life, through some of the studies of Dr. William Damon of Stanford University (The Path to Purpose, 2008). Next, they considered their interests and talents. With that in mind, they pursued the most appealing "matched" opportunities they could find within the time restraint. One student who is interested in the environment emailed me on the eve of the Fourth of July, earnestly hoping to fill his hours on the holiday with the deadline looming. Luckily, a few days before, the organizers of the Palo Alto Chili Cook-Off at Mitchell Park had sent out a volunteer request to help keep the grounds clean and free of debris. It was a stretch, but with one email introduction the student was able to make a difference by keeping the park clean during the event.

My class, I'm proud to say, were all able to fulfill the 15-hour community service requirement in their areas of interest. The reflections they wrote show the positive impact of this unique course requirement in Palo Alto Unified School District, helping our students find meaning and purpose in their lives. Since the "Get Involved" publication recently won a grant from the Palo Alto Community Fund, we will be able to include many of the PAUSD Summer School students' reflections in the Fall publication. Watch for it online at

By contributing a small amount of time to the surrounding community, our first session of summer school students have given over 3,150 hours of service in the past month or two. If they were each to be paid minimum wage for their time, this would be a $25,200 grant to the community on their behalf. That's the power of students who give back. I'm proud to work in a place where youth are seen as a valued community resource, and where they are willing to share their diverse talents and interests to make the world a better place!

Community agencies that benefited from my 29 students serving in the first session of PAUSD Summer School:
  • Acterra
  • Save the Bay
  • Lytton Gardens
  • Kwong Wah Church Kitchen
  • YMCA
  • Shady Shakespeare at Sanborn Park
  • Red White and Blue Parade
  • Lion's Club Car Show
  • Circle of Friends Preschool
  • Lucile Packard Foundation Summer Scamper
  • Resource Area for Teachers/RAFT
  • Second Harvest Food Bank
  • Me to We Humanitarian Mission
  • Mid-Peninsula Open Space
  • Humane Society/SPCA
  • Channing House
  • Stanford Soccer Club
  • AYSO
  • St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room

1 comment:

A. Verzello said...

Congrats to your class! The individual efforts of your students have added up to a substantial amount of volunteer work that's truly impressive.