Community Service: A Practice in Kindness, Activism, and Self-Awareness

By Izzy Millet ’19 and Jennifer Salako ’19
This is the first in a series of blog posts that highlight Athenian’s Pillars, the foundational values that we share with all Round Square schools. This first installment is a speech about community service delivered by Izzy and Jennifer at Morning Meeting to the Upper School.

Izzy: One of the first things I want to emphasize about community service is that it is a service, and while it will certainly benefit you as you go through the different stages of community service at Athenian, your first priority should always be those you work in service of. It’s intended to be a sacrifice of your free time, a donation of your skills and effort, and a commitment to helping others. It is not always convenient, or easy, or even fun. But if you dedicate yourself to the work, even if it is just for one hour a week, it will be an enriching and life-changing experience and one that is full of lessons to learn if you keep an open mind.

Jennifer: When most people think about community service, they usually think “oh, this is just another thing I have to do to graduate. A few days at St. Anthony’s or Glide, and I’m done.” But I want to remind you that it can be more than that. There is a reason why Community Service is a part of the Athenian experience, let alone, a Round Square pillar. When you pick your project, pick something that you feel passionate about, something that you believe aligns with your interests. If you enjoy playing an instrument, you could give free lessons to younger kids in your area. If you do martial arts, then you could organize a self-defense workshop. There are tons and tons of projects and ideas you can take on, and they do not have to be boring.

 

Izzy: One of the things that I’ve always loved to do is to work with kids, and when I was designing my community service project for my junior year, I decided to work with Jewish Family and Community Services. I was able to start tutoring with an Afghan refugee family who had arrived in the United States only a few weeks earlier. During the rest of the summer and through my junior year at Athenian, I biked to Concord every weekend to work with the three boys on their English conversation skills, school work, and to spend time with the family. I’ve had the pleasure of handling this project off to Micah ’20 and Avrah ’19, and I am hopeful that it has the potential to stay in the Athenian community for years to come.

 

Jennifer: In the future, I hope to pursue a career in medicine and possibly establish a teaching hospital outside the US, so I decided to volunteer at the Sand Creek Kaiser Permanente. I have been a volunteer since January 2017 year and the experiences I’ve had as well as the people I’ve met are a part of the job that I appreciate the most. Never before did I imagine that I would be able to have such a deep conversation with a deaf woman I helped out at the pharmacy. I never thought that the impact I could make on someone’s life could be so huge and I take that experience to work with me every day. I think I’ve learned more about the place I’ve grown up in for the past 17 years in the last 6 months because of this job, and I am so happy I chose to do it.

 

Izzy: One of the reasons I think community service is a pillar of Athenian, and one that we pursue so actively, is because of where we stand as a school. This is a college prep private school. We just completed a multi-million dollar campus reconstruction, and virtually 100% of students graduate with the option of attending college. Because of the countless privileges we are provided by virtue of attending Athenian, it is so important that we continue to be aware that there are many people, in the Bay Area, in California, and across the world, who are not granted these same privileges. Community service allows us to practice kindness, activism, and self-awareness.

 

Jennifer: Another reason why I believe Athenian includes this pillar as part of its foundation, is because community service is not something you can learn in school. It’s something you have to experience firsthand in the real world, and it’s a space for you to reflect on what you know, or what you thought you knew. Giving back to the community and appreciating that which it has provided you is something many often take for granted. Understanding how you want to give back is another step in understanding yourself and what you stand for. It’s the part of you that Athenian wants you to recognize can make an impact not just as an average student, but as a global citizen.