One of the traditions I most love at GFA is the winter Harmony for the Homeless Concert. Upper School students have married their passion for choral work with their deep commitment to community service. Proceeds from the event help to support the various service projects and organizations our students will work with this summer on World Perspectives Program trips to Peru, China and South Africa. Service learning and giving back is deeply embedded within the culture of GFA, and is central to the mission of our school. Our students take on many projects throughout the year from working with a homeless shelter, to tutoring, to “Special Day for Special People.” By Upper School, over 40 students make up the Community Service Board, and they plan and implement over 20 projects and events during the year.
A standard feature of spring break for many GFA students is the annual Builders Beyond Boarders (B3) program. In the past 11 years, close to 200 GFA’ers have taken the March trip to a South American country, where they undertake demanding construction work, which, while physically challenging, is invariably a fulfilling and rewarding experience. The GFA seniors who are the senior advisors do a fine job, leading by example and learning the valuable lesson that leadership carries a lot of responsibility and being “in charge” is not necessarily fun.
I believe that meaningful leadership is one of the most valuable opportunities we can offer to students, not only in high school, but also at every stage of their development and education. Our own Community Service program offers students opportunities for leadership through service learning and helps students understand their role and responsibility in moral leadership. In a materialistic, me-centered culture, students are challenged to look beyond themselves and realize that the needs of others can come before the needs of the individual. My hope is that through meaningful community service, our students will gain valuable life lessons that encompass both the intellect and the heart.
I believe that schools like GFA have a responsibility to do something to improve the world in which we live. We are a “private school with a public purpose” and through our community service program, our World Perspectives Trips, as well as B3, we can offer students opportunities to grow and learn the value of social responsibility and moral leadership.