Superintendent's Notes: Milestones reflect service learning tradition

As we mark the beginning of an exciting second century in our school district, it is fitting that two of our schools recently celebrated milestones of their own that reflect our district’s great tradition of service-learning. That tradition spans all of our schools, from Burbank Early Childhood School to Upper Arlington High School, and stretches back to the very beginning of Upper Arlington Schools more than 100 years ago.

This fall, Hastings and Jones middle schools marked the 10th anniversary of their biggest service-learning events of the school year.

These two schools have long been committed to service learning. During their time at the middle schools, Upper Arlington students benefit from many engaging real-world service experiences that are directly tied into the classroom curriculum. 

But back in 2008, teachers from Hastings and Jones who were attending a local service-learning event imagined something bigger for their schools — a half-day or day-long schoolwide service-learning experience.

“A service learning day like this hadn’t been done to our knowledge at that point, at that scale,” Hastings Principal Robb Gonda recalled.

That idea led to the beginning of HOP Day at Hastings and the Service Learning Kickoff event at Jones 10 years ago.

Thanks to the vision and hard work of our staff, students at both schools now spend an entire day diving into service - working directly with community organizations to explore ideas for projects that will be meaningful work in our community and beyond. 

On August 31, students and staff members spread out to serve the greater Columbus community for HOP (Hastings Outreach Program) Day. They pulled weeds and invasive species in area MetroParks, worked at senior centers and LifeCare Alliance, collected non-perishable items from Hastings neighbors for Mid-Ohio Foodbank, and dug a new Hastings community garden, funded by the Upper Arlington Education Foundation.

In 10 years, HOP Day participants, both students and staff, have logged an incredible 40,000-plus hours of community service, and that is just the start of their service-learning work for the year. 

Students from Jones and the high school engaging in conversations in a ball pitOn September 14, Jones students and staff kicked off service-learning for the school year with the traditional “can roll” for Heart to Heart food pantry and a focus of “Celebrating Our Differences With A Culture of Kindness.” The day was filled with speakers and activities relating to veterans, the elderly and hunger — the three main focus areas for each grade level at Jones.

Two teachers who also serve as co-chairs for these service-learning events see the lasting impression these experiences have on the young students. 

HOP Day gives students at Hastings the “confidence and knowledge of ways that they can continue to serve throughout the year,” co-chair Brooke Dionisio shared.

Jones Service-Learning Kickoff Day co-chair Molly Miely added: “Over the years, students have returned to Jones as high school and college students and shared that they are still involved in service and service-learning.”

Ten years on, HOP Day at Hastings and the kickoff day at Jones are continuing to drive service-learning for our middle school students throughout the school year. These events, and the great service-learning work happening in all of our schools, demonstrate our district’s vision and what it means to be uniquely accomplished students prepared to SERVE, LEAD and SUCCEED.

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