The basics – “reading, writing and arithmetic” – will always be key components of education, but Montgomery-area schools are teaching students more too, including the importance of contributing to their community.
Learning to look beyond yourself and truly see and care about the needs of others is a skill the world could use much more of. Like any topic, philanthropy takes root best when taught young, a fact schools in Montgomery understand. We talked to a few to find out how and why they’re instructing their students to reach out, give back and make a meaningful difference.
“I believe that learning to serve is one?aspect of a well-rounded student and?that well-rounded students not only?achieve in school but also, in turn, give?back even more to their community,”?said Principal Quesha Starks at Booker?T. Washington Magnet High School.?She learned the value of philanthropy?through her many activities as an MPS student herself, and this attitude has made her dedicated to fostering the same in her students. “Part of BTW’s mission is to promote a service mindset among students and staff,” she said. “Through our annual Showcase at the Davis Theatre, our students perform for elementary and middle school students in Montgomery?and surrounding areas, and tickets are donated to community organizations serving children. At Montgomery Museum of Fine Art’s FLIMP Festival, we support the Humane Society’s efforts to find a home for pets and to heighten awareness in our community about the needs of the shelter.” BTW students also participate in a number of clubs and other groups through the school that pursue their own charitable projects each year.
It’s the same at other area public schools. “Community service and engagement continue to be a cornerstone for our career and technical education,” said Principal Marsha Baugh of the Montgomery Preparatory Academy for Career Technologies (MPACT). All of the student organizations have community service requirements, which enhance learning through innovative programs, business and community partnerships and leadership experiences. “It is important for young people to participate in these opportunities. It promotes compassion and understanding, and also allows them to see what a difference they can make in their community,” Baugh said.
At some area private schools, a set number of completed service hours is required for graduation, and they all offer extra-curricular activities with service components. These schools recognize that the overall character building that comes from a focus on philanthropy yields adults who’ll be better, more productive members of society. But they are taking things a step further now, providing coordinated opportunities for students to share with those in need.
Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School?is building on its heritage. Founded by the Sisters of Loretto, an order of nuns from Kentucky, in 1873, the school’s opening?was actually delayed as the nuns spent all their time when first here caring for those suffering from a yellow fever epidemic. Today, every high school student spends a morning at Vaughn Road elementary school working with special needs students; it all adds up to 660 volunteer hours provided to Vaughn Road students each year. Catholic students also volunteer across the River Region during an annual Lenten Day of Service. In 2017, the student body, faculty, staff and parent volunteers provided over 1,100 hours of service in one day. “In such a secular world, it is imperative for each of us to be the hands of Christ for others. We as administrators and leaders of our school work to encourage this servant spirit in our students,” said Anne Ceasar, Catholic’s President. “Works of mercy and the gift of service should be part of the daily lives of each of our students and lead them to be- come persons of faith, virtue and wisdom.”
At Macon East Academy, the Student Government Association’s Change for Change initiative selects causes throughout the year to support through student giving. The SGA also hosts an annual blood drive in the spring. “Philanthropy is definitely encouraged at Macon East throughout all grades,” said Jill Wyrosdick, Public Relations Director. “When you learn to give generously and volunteer your time and talents at a young age, you will continue to do so as an adult.”
Saint James School has made preparing its students for lives of responsibility and service an integral piece of its mission. Grade level divisions, clubs and specific events like participation in the National Make a Difference Day and Jump Rope?for Heart, which in 2017 alone raised more than $16,000, have focused on fulfilling this mission for decades.
“Since its founding, Saint James has believed that children should develop a value system including honesty, loyalty and service. Therefore, the school should be characterized by a community service ethic, and opportunities for community service should be available at all levels,” said Elizabeth Hawke, the school’s Advancement Director. In its new strategic plan, the school has put greater emphasis on what?it means to be a school that is an advocate for its community.
Service is important at Alabama Christian Academy too. “Our slogan ‘Thrive in wisdom, serve in spirit,’ truly embodies our mission to empower our students with giving back to the community,” said Kathryn Bandy, ACA’s Director of Public Relations and Marketing. In addition to its annual Wilburn and Jean Bullington Eagles for Christ service day, ACA students participate in projects including a garden planted and tended by elementary students who donate the harvest to the food bank and canned food and blood drives. ACA has the distinction of being the school to raise the most money for Jump Rope for Heart in the state.
LOCAL CLASS ACTS
Volunteering time or donating money or goods to a charity is definitely a matter of the heart, but it is also a learned behavior. Several recent studies show that students who are exposed to specific philanthropic education exhibit a deeper level of interest and involvement in service activities going forward. Both Trinity and The Montgomery Academy offer entire courses focused solely on philanthropy.
TRINITY’S SERVICE 101 CLASS lets students explore and participate in service opportunities throughout the community. They’re learning to be more empathetic but also honing leadership skills and teamwork as they develop and implement service ideas.
THE MONTGOMERY ACADEMY’S PHILANTHROPY 101 CLASS, which is only one of several philanthropy-centered offerings at the school, is a three-week course where rising seniors delve into an in- depth study of local charitable and non-profit organizations. They learn from presentations that outline the inner workings of these groups and also spend time each day aiding the organizations directly. After completing the course, they leave with a heightened understanding of the part they can play in change and the diverse ways to give back.
GIVEBACK + BRIEFS
MAX4KIDS Awards Scholarships to Area Seniors
In early May, the accomplishments of 10 high school seniors were recognized by the MAX4Kids Foundation at a scholarship reception. The MAX4Kids Foundation® is a non-profit organization that was created in 2001 by MAX associates as a way to give back to the communities MAX serves. “MAX4Kids is honored to celebrate the accomplishments of these 10 outstanding high school seniors,” said Jessica Pigg, MAX4Kids Board Member at Large. “College is increasingly expensive, and we hope that these scholarships help to alleviate the financial burden, allowing students to focus more on their studies and ultimately help strengthen the future of Central and East Alabama.” The 10 seniors from Montgomery, Autauga, Elmore and Lee counties listed below were selected from nearly 80 applicants, representing 30 different schools as the recipients of the MAX4Kids Scholarships, totaling $25,000: Ashlyn Dallas, Auburn High School; William Dowe, Macon East Academy; Farhan Hossain, Loveless Academic Magnet Program High School; Kiara Peters, Brewbaker Technology Magnet High School; Shalynda Pett- way, Carver Senior High School; Malisa Ray, Brewbaker Technology Magnet High School; Haley Skipworth, East Memorial Christian Academy; Keondrea Surles, Alabama Christian Academy; Carson Turner, Wetumpka High School; Hunter Winged, Wetumpka High School.
Students Receive Free Sports Physicals
Jackson Hospital’s sports medicine program provided free physicals to student athletes in mid-May. The annual event gives student athletes the opportunity to receive a free physical so they are eligible to participate in school athletics during the upcoming academic year. As part of the Jackson Sports Medicine program, more than 2,000 student athletes went through the comprehensive physical examination as part of their eligibility to participate in school athletic activities in the coming academic year.