"We prepare students to engage in the world that is and to help bring about a world that ought to be."
Day of Service
School Partners with 40 Nonprofits
On Tuesday, April 23, the Friends community volunteered with nonprofits across the city for the annual Day of Service. The School partnered with over 40 nonprofits that focus on everything from alleviating hunger and homelessness to composting and reducing waste to the inequalities in the U.S. system of mass incarceration. Service and civic engagement in an integral part of Friends’ culture to help bring about a world that ought to be. Below is an overview of the day’s activities.
For the second year in a row, Kindergarten and First Grade students participated in a waste audit at the School. This audit is an important gauge of the School’s daily waste and provides motivation to take steps that help Friends achieve its goal of reducing waste by 65 percent by 2026.
In coordination with the art and science classes, the Second Grade prepared seed balls with seeds native to the North East coast. Student volunteer assembled the balls over the course of service week. In May, they will travel to East River Park to disperse the balls with the Lower East Side Ecology Center.
Grade 3 students joined the Friends cafeteria staff to cook meals for the guests at The Friends Shelter. The Friends Shelter is a particularly unique organization because it is the only co-ed shelter that is completely volunteer-run and open seven days a week, every day of the year. Students may sign their family up to make a meal for the shelter over the summer by clicking this link. Volunteers during this time are especially needed.
Grade 4 worked with Rational Animal, an advocacy organization that supports shelter animals in the New York City region and beyond. Students created fleece dog toys to be distributed to local animal shelters.
Grade 5 students received an introduction to city-wide composting efforts from Common Ground Compost before traveling to Governor’s Island to work with Earth Matter. The volunteer opportunity began with a tour of the Compost Learning Center and then students spent the day working to support the farm and other environmental projects. Earth Matter seeks to reduce the organic waste misdirected into the garbage stream by encouraging neighbor participation and leadership in composting. This volunteer effort directly links to the student’s year-long study of humans’ impact on the environment in their goLEAD class.
Grade 6 students participated in a H2O for Life Walk in Central Park.They carried one-gallon containers of water, simulating the long trek children their age make every day for water in other regions of the world. Each student crafted a persuasive letter to a potential sponsor within their community as they advocate for those in need. Their efforts help educate others and raise funds to install well and hand-washing stations at a school in Nicaragua. To learn more about this project and donate, click here. This volunteer effort is an extension of students’ studies of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #6 in their goLEAD class.
Grade 7 service activities are divided into two parts across different days. On the Day of Service, students participated in a two-hour volunteer tutor training session facilitated by staff from Reading Partners. Students learned about the organization’s efforts to increase literacy rates and support young readers in New York City who may be struggling with certain skills. Additionally, students were trained in how to serve as tutors at the Reading Partners centers. On Monday, April 29, students will tutor at various Reading Partner Centers across the city. This service opportunity connects to students’ goLEAD class focus on educational equity.
Grade 8 worked with Billion Oyster Project on Governors Island where the Billion Oyster Project MAST School is located. The nonprofit organization is an ecosystem restoration and education initiative aimed at restoring one billion live oysters around 100 acres of reefs, making New York Harbor once again the most productive waterbody in the North Atlantic and reclaiming its title as the oyster capital of the world. Oysters provide valuable ecosystem services to the region by filtering pollutants out of water, providing habitat for other marine species, and reducing the force of wave energy. Students assisted with oyster cage building and oyster shell recycling. Several years ago, Friends science students participated in a field study that helped determine the effectiveness of this oyster reintroduction project. The School is pleased to continue to support this sustainability effort through student volunteerism.
Grade 9 worked with Youth Philanthropy Initiative (YPI), an international multi-award-winning youth service program that has directed over $12 million in grants to nonprofits across the United States, Canada, England, and Scotland. Through the partnership over the last six years, Friends Seminary history students have represented over 80 NYC nonprofits and have been able to award over $30K in grants to winning organizations. The School has been provided this opportunity to engage our students in the philanthropic sector through a program created by the Toskan Casale Foundation.
On the Day of Service, student teams conducted site visits and interviews with the staff from their selected nonprofits. On Monday, May 13, the finalist teams will present before a judges panel in hopes their nonprofit is awarded a $5,000 grant. Parents, faculty, and staff are invited to this assembly in the Meetinghouse on this day from 9:30-10:20 AM. The audience will provide feedback that will help determine the recipients of the two secondary grants awarded.
The entire Tenth Grade focused their volunteer efforts on food insecurity in New York City with a variety of nonprofits. One group worked with Food Bank, which distributes food to charities throughout the five boroughs, supplying 64 million meals to New Yorkers in need each day. Volunteers at the warehouse helped staff by sorting and re-packing bulk shipped food and goods for redistribution around the city. Others helped bag groceries, and restock shelves at this choice-style food pantry that provides more than 40,000 meals a month to those struggling with food insecurity.
Another group of Upper Schoolers worked at Daisy’s Pantry, which is part of the Hope for our Neighbors in Need food ministry at the Church of the Village. This once-a-week pantry serves to support those whose food supply is running low. Students augmented the organization’s efforts by packing bags of groceries for families in need and distributing those bags to clients who visit the pantry.
A third group of students worked with St. John’s Bread and Life that aims to alleviate hunger and poverty in Brooklyn and Queens. Students volunteered in the soup kitchen which serves nutritious, culturally-diverse breakfasts and lunches every weekday to nearly 3,000 people.
Other students worked at a 30-year-old nonprofit, Project Hospitality that helps the poor, hungry and homeless residents of Staten Island, New York. Students spent the day preparing meals and clean up in their soup kitchen.
A fifth group of students volunteered at a soup kitchen for Trinity's Services and Food for the Homeless, which started out as a response to the homeless living in and around Tompkins Sq. Park about 30 years ago. And while the neighborhood of the East Village has changed dramatically these past decades, the need in this community has not. Their soup kitchen and food pantry serve over 200,000 meals annually.
Over the last several months, the Upper School community at Friends has had a variety of opportunities to deepen their knowledge about the U.S. system of mass incarceration and to draw closer to those who have been caught up in its structure. On Day of Service, Grades 11 and 12 continued with this focus by participating in an interactive simulation, Reinventing ReEntry Simulation. This was strong, eye-opening experience to the challenges the formerly incarcerated face upon release from prison. This simulation is being brought to the secondary school level for the first time through a partnership with the Osborne Association. During the post-simulation reflection time, students created reentry bags for the formerly incarcerated with notes of well wishes. The day ended with a panel discussion led by Osborne Association staff in which first-person narratives of the formerly incarcerated and highlights of Osborne’s programs and volunteer opportunities were provided.