Every school day, a group of Asheville School students partners with local nonprofit Youthful HAND, which pairs elementary school students with mentors and works to foster supportive relationships.
Asheville School sophomore Kelsey Mann wants her fellow classmates to know that they need no prior experience to make a difference in people's lives though service.
Mann is part of Afternoon Service, an afternoon activity during which Asheville School students partner with Youthful HAND, an Asheville nonprofit run by Elinor Earle open to elementary school students who live in public housing.
Youthful HAND provides tutoring, study skills and afterschool care, and a major aim of the program is to pair the elementary school students with steady volunteers to foster long-term, supportive relationships.
Now in the third year of offering the activity, Mann says that the relationships forged between Asheville School students and the elementary school students are indispensable.
"We've become integral parts of each other's lives," she said. "It was the privilege that I felt of having them trust and rely on me for emotional support, as well as academic support, that has really been a highlight of my time in service this year."
Afternoon Service was created after a group of students wanted to extend their impact past what they were able to accomplish during Asheville School's bi-weekly Service Saturdays.
Director of Service Ben Williamson says that Afternoon Service is exactly what the school's formal service program aims to inspire. "As students get older, we hope to see them display the initiative, confidence and courage to identify opportunities to serve independently and begin the process of creating new service opportunities or expanding current ones," he said.
In fact, opportunities to work with Asheville area elementary students have expanded across campus this year. A group of Asheville School students works to tutor students through Open Doors every Saturday, and another group has begun meeting on Wednesdays. "These projects are exciting examples of that progression taking shape, supported by some amazing members of our faculty," Williamson said.
Mann says Afternoon Service stands out because they meet with students every single school day, which strengthens meaningful relationships that are the hallmark of the activity. "Being able to work alongside a community larger than Asheville School to work to solve problems in the most thoughtful, compassionate and intentional way possible is what makes this so important to me," she said.
Asheville School students interested in Afternoon Service should speak to Dean of Academics Helen Plaehn.