by Julia Ann Friedman
The idea of a public school community service requirement began in earnest in the 1990s and has been increasingly adopted by schools across the country. School administrators and students realize the value of community service as integral to the student learning process at the high school level and, even now, at the college level.
Locally, Irvington High School recommends community service, but does not require it, while Ossining High School has a seven-hour community service requirement and a senior service project. At St. Thomas Aquinas College, students are encouraged to participate in various community service projects including an annual SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) Walk and Midnight Run.
At Sleepy Hollow High School, students are required to perform 60 hours of community service, and they have elected to fulfill this requirement in a variety of interesting ways. Most have given back to the immediate community of Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow, but some have been involved in projects that involve traveling across the country or the world. The following are just a few of the projects that are underway and/or have been completed by Sleepy Hollow High School students:
Eliza Grose assisted director Peter Royston in his local musical productions in Sleepy Hollow several times a week, choreographing the student dances. “It was really fun helping out the younger kids because I got to become friends with them, and I also learned more about how to tell a story on stage,” Grose said.
Diego Arias and David Friedman worked at the Challenge Summer Institute (CSI) at Washington Irving Elementary School. CSI is a day camp geared towards academically talented students.
“I had an awesome time attending the camp for two years as an elementary school student, and so I was happy to go back and give back. It was great to see the kids having fun while also learning,” Friedman said. Friedman and Arias volunteered for two weeks as counselors working mostly with third graders. They tutored students one-on-one and in groups, and helped teachers with class projects.
Grace Hille volunteered at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals (SPCA), a shelter that cares for stray, abused, abandoned, and unwanted animals and provides adoption services for these animals. Hille worked at the SPCA’s “Camp Critter” supervising young kids as they explored the shelter and played with the animals. “I wanted to do this because I love animals, because I love how the SPCA takes care of animals, and especially because I love how Camp Critter teaches kids to understand animals and appreciate them more,” Hille said.
Max Cover has been volunteering at the Community Food Pantry of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. He said, “I got a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from doing this. It really isn’t that hard to help the community in small ways like this, and the food pantry provides many families with food and meals they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to have. Little deeds like that are much needed yet underappreciated.” The specific work he does includes helping shelve food and unpack and organize boxes of donated food. Cover described his experience as very rewarding and fun.
Cassidy Higgins volunteered at SHAC (Sleepy Hollow Ambulance Corps). She got to learn about different procedures and go on emergency calls and standbys with the ambulance corps. She was able to see the EMTs in action and get lots of hands-on experience. Higgins was able to help people while also helping herself, as she is likely to pursue a major in biomedical engineering.
“I was able to learn more about the field I was interested in and really get passionate about medicine,” Higgins said. “It was nice to be given insight into medicine, and it allowed me to be more confident about the path I was choosing. It was an amazing feeling to be able to help people and to know I can continue to do so as I get further educated in the field.”
Taylor Burnett volunteers in S.H.A.D.E. (Sleepy Hollow Academy for Disability Education) at Sleepy Hollow High School. Burnett helps the Pioneer Team, a team filled with athletes that have some form of disability. She is a partner and assists the athletes by helping them with their skills in sports. Burnett said, “In this group, disabilities or not, we are all unified together, and the students with disabilities are accepted in every way. Seeing the athletes smile after making a basket or a goal can brighten my whole day.”
Students have also performed community service outside of our immediate community. For example, Jake Leary worked at Mountain Valley Treatment Center in New Hampshire. At this facility, Leary was able to interact with patients his own age and at the same point in life, and to serve as an example. He said, “It was nice to give back. I had my own connections there, so to see some of the people who had helped me out and to be able to help them out was great.”
Hunter Burnett and Brendan Murphy went to the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles in 2015 as part of a unified men’s basketball team composed of students from Sleepy Hollow High School, and also from Brewster High School. Burnett said, “The Special Olympic World Games was an amazing experience for my team and me. We grew closer and were able to achieve the ultimate prize, the gold medal.”