Development Specialist Michelle Wilson concludes her profile of National Mentoring month and how mentoring lives within our walls. -Ed.
Over the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to interview several members of the UCDS community on the topic of mentoring. It has been truly inspiring to hear from our Resident Teacher Program Coordinators, two resident teachers, and our admissions team about their experiences. For this last piece, I want to explore how UCDS faculty and staff mentor the most important people at our school… the students!
Every 5th grader at UCDS is required to participate in a year-long, community-focused Service Learning Project before they move on to middle school. During their last year at UCDS, each student is assigned to a teacher/faculty-led committee that serves a different role within our school. With the support of their mentors, 5th graders are required to set project goals, draft timelines, and maintain a weekly calendar (UCDS 2015-2016 Self Study).
I sat down with David Garrick, who teaches 5th grade, serves as the Elementary Division Head and chairs the Community Development Committee (CDC), to discuss the importance of mentoring future leaders through service learning.
David explains, “Service learning at UCDS is different from community service in that it is a mentored experience where our students gain an understanding of how to make an impact in their community… It has evolved over the years. It’s gone from being a one-to-one mentorship where our students were assigned a mentor for the year and then together they would develop a program to [now where they are] thinking more carefully [within the context of our school’s committees about] how they can first identify what the community’s needs are, and then after observing, find a way to lend their strengths to that community. It’s become a real learning experience.”
As a current member of the CDC, I have seen first-hand how effective these service learning projects can be. Our group of 5th graders have two major projects that they work on under the guidance of the committee. The first of these projects is facilitating the collection and delivery of food items and toiletries to a neighboring food bank. Every two weeks, a different set of classrooms participates in the food drive. Our 5th graders work directly with those teachers and students to make sure they understand what kind of items to donate and accompany them to the food bank on their designated day. The second project is managing the school’s lost and found. This is a fairly large undertaking given the age of the students in our school and their propensity to leave items behind on the playground! Through public service announcements, strategic events, and a labeling campaign, most of our lost and found items make their way back to their owners. For those items that go unclaimed, the 5th graders work collectively to select a charitable organization that accepts used children’s clothing. This reinforces the group’s commitment to serving the immediate UCDS community and encourage a spirit of giving outside of the school’s walls.