The Service Fair

Franni O’Toole Staff Writer The best service organizations are those that continuously adjust to the needs and circumstances of the community they serve. Like these organizations, Latin’s service program is adjusting itself for the benefit of its students, and as Ms. Bunger said, “changing the way we look at service in a very comprehensive way.” Many of these changes were visible at this weeks service fair, such as the push to include juniors and seniors, and the new uptown initiative. The changes in the program are blanketed under the new slogan for service, “awareness, action, and empathy.”  “Awareness” and “action” are pretty self-evident, as volunteering itself is an active response to an issue, prompted by awareness. “Empathy,” however, takes it one step further. It adds a moral incentive -if not a moral obligation- and implies that service should not end with the completion of an event, or the fulfillment of a graduation requirement. Packing your bag after tutoring, or putting away a rake after cleaning a park does not mean the end of a job; empathy teaches us there is always more to do. It also implies that it is in our nature to want to preform service, and that with a little dedication, service can easily become second nature – Mr. Cronister, said that “we want service to be part of the DNA, part of the structure” of Latin. Ingraining service in our community is a main focus, and is being pursued by faculty members and students alike. “The ultimate goal,” Ms. Bunger said, “is that service becomes such a part of the community that the required hours will eventually go.” To those who find this far-fetched, the service records and enthusiasm of juniors and seniors -whose motives must lie in empathy, since there are no requirements- show the attainability of such a goal.  As such, Latin has restructured its service program to include upperclassmen in the service fair, and hopes to incorporate more service discussions in junior and senior advisories. The goal is to inspire upperclassmen to pursue their service long-term and introduce them to fifteen new service organizations, many of which are part of the new uptown initiative. For awhile the school has been considering creating a theme to accompany service, in an attempt to, as Mr. Cronister said, “re-energize the program.” The school chose the uptown neighborhood for its close proximity, diversity, and many service opportunities. The partnership was kicked off with service opportunities offered last summer, played a role in the sophomore retreat, and was a strong presence at this year’s service fair and convocation. Before coming to the fair, these and other new organizations went through an extensive selection process determining their use, viability, and excitement for the community. To be brought into the fair, Ms. Bunger says, the service organizations must fit three criteria: they must work with the students, give them a good learning experience and “contextualize” if for them, and they must be overall good models that are more grassroots, with little money spent on publicity. To make it easier for both the selected organizations and students with busy schedules to attend, the service fair was moved to during the school day. In talking to students after the service fair, many sophomores, juniors, and seniors- who remember it being after school- felt that having it during the day was convenient, comfortable, and emphasized the school’s dedication to service. Those that were new to the fair admitted that in seeing the overwhelming need for volunteer work, and the sheer amount of service opportunities, the daunting ten or twenty hours didn’t seem nearly as difficult. Overall, service fair definitely left us with the “awareness” we needed, and let’s hope “action and empathy” are soon to follow.  ]]>