On Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2018, University High School students and faculty took a break from classes and spent the full day engaged in service projects. Projects were organized by Year of Service groups, so students were able to engage in a task related to their topic or organization of choice.

Wondering what the groups did? Below are write-ups from each group on how they spent the service day.

YoS Group: Animal Welfare

What did your group do for Community Day?
We went to the Good Samaritan Network and helped pass out pet food and home supplies to people. The organization was able to give pet food to people that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it themselves, so we were able to help people feed their pets.

During our first service day in October, we made dog tugs out of fleece material and tennis balls. These were donated to local animal shelters.

By Grant Schepers (’18)

YoS Group: Bee Pollinators and Food Insecurity

What did your group do for Community Day?
On Wednesday, our group traveled to New Augusta Public Academy South. We worked with Mrs. Hooker’s 4th grade classroom, teaching them about the importance of bees in our locally sourced and fresh food. We set up stations for the students to travel between; this included poetry, a “game-show” style game, yoga, and winterizing their school garden. Following this, we had lunch on campus and then reflected. Everyone sat in a circle and said one thing they liked about the day so far, and our open discussion allowed for people to voice their dislikes as well. We also did a ten-minute meditation which was a nice experience for the group. We spent about 30 minutes researching facts about bees for a sign that we will be making in the spring. After this activity, John Kirchner came in for approximately one hour. During this time, we further discussed the design and format of the sign. During our last ten minutes together, we delegated roles for each member of the group, so that we can all contribute to the construction and designing of the sign itself (for the spring service day).

What did your students learn about their chosen topic that day? What impact did their work have on the issue?
Our group was able to have an impact on the Indianapolis community by spreading awareness to new areas. By bringing our ideas together, Mrs. Hooker’s classroom was able to incorporate sustainable food systems and bees into their lesson plans. The people in this service group also really enjoyed the two hours that we spent at New Augusta Public Academy South. In forming connections with the students there, we now have a broader network of relationships. The impact that we made is tangible in the sense that we were able to see everyone’s passion about the topic, and how vibrant the kids really are. The 19 people in our group were able to impact the community through creating awareness and beginning friendships with Mrs. Hooker and her 24 students.

During the first service day, the Bees group learned from our neighboring beekeeper, David Hocutt. We also traveled to Public Greens to see their working urban garden and hives.

By Ella Eskenazi (’20)

YoS Group: Environment & Conservation

What did your group do for Community Day?
The Environmental and Conservation group was the first school group in the state of Indiana to take part in the Pollinators Partnership, a multi-stage effort led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to rebuild habitats for monarch butterflies. The students collected seeds like those from bee balm and mountain mint at Hamilton County’s Strawtown Koteewi Park. The students also got to check out the nature center there, learning about wildlife of Hamilton County as well as about the native Americans who lived on the property centuries ago.  After collecting the seeds, they got the chance to hit the trails at the park. A good, if chilly, day!

During the first service day in October, this group traveled to Cool Creek Park and pulled invasive honeysuckle.

YoS Group: Food Insecurity

What did your group do for Community Day?
The Food Insecurity group visited Wheeler Mission‘s donation center on the south side of Indianapolis and helped sort clothing and other miscellaneous items for four hours. The 23 students and one faculty member collectively provided approximately 100 service hours to Wheeler, leaving its inventory significantly more organized and much closer to helping the community members who need that assistance.

YoS Group: Habitat for Humanity

The Habitat for Humanity group split into two smaller groups of 10. One group spent the day at the Shepherd Community Center preparing holiday donation boxes used to collect Christmas gift donations at various companies around town. The other group stayed on campus and built two large compost bins to be used in the school garden, and also demolished the former skate park by the tennis courts.

For the group that stayed on campus, while they were not specifically addressing housing, they did learn the work it takes to start and complete a hands-on project, and they genuinely enjoyed being able to physically finish a project together. Many learned new skills and techniques (using a circular saw, chop saw, power drill, staining). They were proud of the work they put in and the positive impact they had on our campus.

During the first service day, this group worked at the Habitat for Humanity restore, organizing products and helping clean the warehouse.

YoS Group: Homelessness

What did your group do for Community Day?
Our YoS group (approximately 14 students) spent the day investigating the issue of homelessness in the Indianapolis area. We first watched the film Under the Bridge which resulted in some discussion about homelessness and its impact on the community of Indianapolis. We looked at how the community is working to address this issue with shelters and programs designed to assist the homeless population. We specifically looked at the issue of faith-based shelters and other organizations that work to help the homeless.

We then spent approximately 2.5 hours working at the Holy Family Shelter. Students and teachers took a tour of the facility along with the volunteer coordinator. We then took part in intentional service by cleaning and organizing the children’s playroom, sorting and unpacking clothing donated to the shelter, and sorting school supplies.

What did your students learn about their chosen topic that day? What impact did their work have on the issue?
Students left the day with a greater understanding of homelessness in their own community as well as the satisfaction of working in a tangible way to help this significant population by working at Holy Family Shelter.

In the first service day, this group followed a virtual tour of downtown Indianapolis, navigating the bus system and seeing how individuals without a home view and use our city.

YoS Group: Hunger in Indianapolis

What did your group do for Community Day?
We went to St. Vincent de Paul for our Year of Service Day and worked in their distribution center. We helped them organize different sections of their store as well as clean and help set up their thrift shop. Some of us set up Christmas trees that they were putting out into the thrift shop to sell, and others tagged and organized clothes. We were there from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and had lunch in the middle.

What did your students learn about their chosen topic that day? What impact did their work have on the organization?
There were 19 of us at the facility, and it was obvious to us that without the help of volunteers, St. Vincent de Paul would struggle to function. Many of those employed were above 60 and were limited in the work that they could do. Our group had a substantial impact on their organization and got work done that could have potentially taken them weeks to do without our help. Doing some of their less exciting work like cleaning the thrift shop and organizing clothes allows them to work on stuff more directly related to the issue. It allows them to focus on the task at hand and do stuff that we probably couldn’t help out with, so I felt like us volunteering gave them a huge leg up on the work that they have been doing.

By Zack Hodgin (’18)

YoS Group: Immigration & Exodus Refugee

What did your group do for Community Day?
Our group planned a spring event, organized a morning meeting presentation and coat drive, made signs promoting the coat drive, and emailed our representatives in support of refugee resettlement in the U.S. All of the proceeds and donations will support Exodus Refugee.

During the first service day, our group traveled to Exodus Refugee to tour the facility and help organize their fall and winter clothes for distribution.

YoS Group: Malala Fund

What did your group do for Community Day?
The Malala Fund Year of Service group went to St. Richard’s Episcopal School and presented to their Community Service Club.

What did your students learn about their chosen topic that day? What impact did their work have on the issue?
The Malala Fund works on helping girls get a 12-year education in underprivileged countries, and because we cannot go to these countries we have to educate others on why this is an issue. Hopefully after they see our presentation they become interested in the issue. Between the first service day and the second service day the students in the Malala Fund group have become more interested and have begun to understand why this is such a big issue. The Malala Fund group did our first presentation at The Orchard School in October, talking with the 4th grade and middle school groups.

By Gillian Monroe (’20)

YoS Group: Premature Births

What did your group do for Community Day?
The Premature Births group went to the Good Samaritan Network and helped sort clothing and household goods. The Good Samaritan Network is a larger organization that helps many nonprofit organizations and consignment shops around Hamilton County. We were interested in helping the Babe Store, which supports low-income families as they bring a new child into the world. The Good Samaritan gives mothers “coupons” for when they follow certain steps with their newborn (ex: attending doctor’s appointments on time, signing up for WIC, attending new parent classes, etc.) These coupons can be used in the shop for winter coats, bottles, and other donations. The students sorted through hundreds of items and sent the boxes on their way to various non-profits, like the Babe Store, around town.

What did your students learn about their chosen topic that day? What impact did their work have on the issue?
Students learned that sometimes caring for others is done “behind the scenes.” Sorting through a massive amount of donations isn’t glamorous, but it was a need in the community and some of the wonderful people we met do this work every day. We also heard a lot of “why would someone need this” and “Wow, this makes you think about all of the stuff we own. Where does all of this go when we are done with it?” I think our students now know how to run a successful and worthwhile donation drive!

For the first service day, these students learned more about premature births and made cookies to take to local NICU nurses in appreciation for their daily efforts.

YoS Group: Riley Hospital for Children 

What did your group do for Community Day?
We made 20 fleece blankets for the welcome packages that are given to Ronald McDonald House families. We also created emails for fundraising and practiced our volleyball skills for our first Dance Marathon fundraiser, Globall.

What did your students learn about their chosen topic that day? What impact did their work have on the organization?
The  students learned how something as simple as making blankets can really impact the families at the Ronald McDonald House (an organization which serves families of sick children). It was a rewarding experience for the students as they got to see something they made and take pride in helping others. Although we were not able to visit the Ronald McDonald House, students took pride in making their blankets and creating their emails for fundraising.

Our group of 24 students learned about the different ways to help this organization and about ways to donate that were not monetary funds, but that could still make a difference. The group also learned how to give their time to an organization that could simply use the help.

Previously in October, this group toured Riley Hospital for Children and met with doctors that have worked with University students and families.

By Molly Risk (’18) & Carly Duncan (’18)

YoS Group: Stress & Wellness

What did your group do for Community Day?
Our group helped The Turf Boss finish planting four trees (donated to campus). We finished building and staining the the chairs we constructed on the first service day. The Turf Boss also helped us mark out where the holes should be dug for the posts that will support our hammock garden. Our group also helped move the sod that the landscapers cut and place flagstone for the pathway.

What did your students learn about their chosen topic that day? What impact did their work have on the issue?
Our group members learned more about what it takes to make places for people to relax and how much effort goes into it. They felt that they had a huge impact, and you could tell that when they were working. Once they finished a task, they were very proud and happy with the work that they had accomplished.

This project is funded by the Audrey Fund for Good.

By Thomas Burgess (’18)

YoS Group: Women’s Equity & Empowerment 

What did your group do for Community Day?
Our group started the day by planning a sports equipment drive for women’s shelters in Indy. We also watched a movie about a girls basketball team on which some of the players were affected by sexual assault and teen pregnancy, and the movie also depicted how race influenced the dynamics of the team and community. The movie also showed the responses that the community had about the sexual assault and pregnancy, how that held these girls back, and how they responded. After lunch, we continued to work on our own presentation and began interviewing people for the video we are creating to go along with the presentation.

What did your students learn about their chosen topic that day? What impact did their work have on the issue?
I think the movie allowed our group to gain perspective on how some of the issues we are talking about affect people in real life. During the first Year of Service day, we went to the Julian Center, a shelter for women who have suffered domestic abuse, and the portion of the movie that talked about the girl who was a victim of sexual abuse gave us insight on what some of these women may have been feeling or going through. It also showed how this girl used sports to spread awareness and help empower other women, which is very similar to what we are trying to do.

By Lindsey Syrek (’20)