Service has long been an important part of an Asheville School education. Students learn about their communities at school, in Asheville, and at home; they cultivate compassion and foster a spirit of volunteerism through their work with faculty members, classmates, community leaders and other volunteers.
This year, the service program is undergoing major changes as the school adjusts to a classic Monday to Friday class schedule. The most notable change is a transition to Service Saturdays.
Every other Saturday, the entire school community joins together to learn about aspects of service before using the day to work on projects both on campus and throughout the Asheville area.
Director of the Service Program Anna Lawrence says that these changes have posed an opportunity to expand the service program. Lawrence has led the charge to expand service opportunities and partnerships with Asheville area organizations, and she has spearheaded a new service learning curriculum. "I am most excited about helping our community be intentional about how we think about service and weaving it into daily life," she said.
Third formers (freshmen) continue to work in groups on Asheville School's campus as they learn about the community. Fourth formers partner with local organizations or take on leadership roles with the third form groups. Fifth formers have the chance to work in the community during the first half of the year, and all rising sixth formers must complete 40 hours of service with an organization and complete a graded reflection during the summer.
Lawrence has defined a new set of goals for Asheville School's service program: students will understand that serving others is a habit that must be cultivated, empathy and understanding are developed through relationships, students must be aware of the history of the community in which they serve, they must be aware of how their identities impact the community in which they serve, and service is collaborative and driven by the community's needs.
Throughout the year, students consider the question: 'How do we serve our community?'
Students learn different models of service, reflect on the work they are doing, and share their successes and what they have learned. A major purpose of the program is to work towards relationship-driven sustainable change through students' community projects.
"We want to keep the agency with the students," Lawrence said. "We want them to learn what service means to them, and we want to empower them to actively work in their communities. I am excited to see what students take away from their experiences this year."
Lawrence plans to continue to work with other Asheville School faculty members to grow and refine the service program. Any parents who are interested in volunteering on Service Saturdays should contact Director of Parent Engagement Lynn Gilliland.