Big Red Community Service Updates

As Lawrentians adapt to being back on campus, community service events have also started again, as Fall Weekly Programs have begun for students in the III, IV, and V Forms.

As Lawrentians adapt to being back on campus, community service events have also started again, as Fall Weekly Programs have begun for students in the III, IV, and V Forms. In response to the pandemic, the Community Service Office has updated its graduation requirement for this year.

As part of the graduation requirement, all students must complete a Lawrenceville Community Action Project (LCAP) by their IV Form year, which requires students to either participate in a one-term weekly project, be a counselor at Lawrenceville School Camp or Lawrenceville Performing Arts Camp, or take part in a Harkness Travel Program Service Trip. According to Director of Community Service Program Rachel Cantlay P’07 ’09 ’11, “The entire focus foundation of our program is our [LCAP], [which] is all about connection and having students form relationships with the people they are working with.”

Because last March’s LCAP projects were interrupted due to Covid-19 restrictions, this year’s selection process will prioritize IV and V Form students who have not yet fulfilled their LCAP requirement.

Describing the strangeness of the virtual setting, Cantlay reflected, “We want [students] to get a chance to know the people that they are working with [and] the folks that they are connecting with. Right now, it’s the opposite of what we do, to not be able to be with people in such a regular way.”

This year, term-long weekly programs have shifted their focus to ensure that students can still form the same connections over Zoom as they did in person. As a result, there are also fewer students and programs available this fall, which allows participating students to focus on developing quality connections. However, students will still have the chance to work with local schools and organizations this fall, such as tutoring eighth graders at the Christina Seix Academy over Zoom.

According to Cantlay, many of this year’s service programs are “a combination of programs falling into the categories of academically driven tutoring, activities, games, and programs that are more interactive and fun.”

The Community Service Office also plans to adapt one-time events. For the class of 2021, students will only need to fulfill one one-time event credit, as opposed to three. Ultimately, Cantlay hopes to “try to come up with one time event credits that would be in person, such as a food drive…or working a soup kitchen that needs people to wrap up utensils.”

Reflecting on community service events this past spring, Cantlay described how last spring’s events helped give her a direction: “It was kind of chaotic and crazy when everyone joined the Zoom room during weekly programs, but it all seemed to work out. That was a pleasant surprise to me…I think having that one successful event in the spring helped us know how to approach the fall.”

However, one of the biggest challenges of maintaining community service on campus has been “keeping in touch with partner organizations…When you think something is working, it bounces, then falls off, especially when there are big technology problems,” said Cantlay.

In addition to the Fall Weekly Program, Student Council Community Service Representative Lauren Mckinnon ’21 has been working alongside the Community Service Office to try and create new opportunities for students. Through her work this year, she hopes to involve students who “do not take community service seriously and in a meaningful way” by giving them more opportunities to participate.

One of her key initiatives this year was to encourage students who are new to community service to join philanthropic clubs at Lawrenceville. Through creating a Buzzfeed quiz, which can be found on the StuCo website, she hopes to match students to clubs that fit their schedule and passions. In addition, she wants to continue highlighting student achievements through selecting “Volunteers of the Month.” According to McKinnon, “You can be 15, 16, or 17 and still make a difference [and become] a source of inspiration for the student body.”

In addition, while this year’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day of Service will likely be moved to the spring, McKinnon also hopes to “make MLK day a full year experience in order to prolong connections [with organizations] by making sure that students have prior knowledge and understanding of the communities they are working with.”

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