SGA President and senior Lydia Vergara led a committee, which planned the week, with activities to represent a wide range of student interests and tap into diverse talents and involve the entire K-12 student body to foster Raider spirit. Most notably, the day of the Homecoming pep rally began with a morning of service, suggested by SGA Vice-President and senior Shibani Chakrabarty,
Arts Director Adam Bernick encouraged students to take more ownership of this year’s events. “People had all kinds of great ideas for homecoming,” said Shibani. “There really was something for everyone. We had Hat Day for the Lower School and the Middle School door decorations, the talent show, and seniors Leah Honkanen and Catherine Pirani came up with the idea for the wagon floats, which was something anyone could take part in.”
Shibani proposed the idea of using one morning for a day of service and helped to call around to local organizations to see if they needed volunteers. With support from the Upper School deans, volunteer spots and site chaperones were found for all of the students and the positive experiences people had were well worth the effort.
On the morning of the Homecoming pep rally, a day that traditionally offers more school spirit than educational opportunity, the 10th, 11th and 12th grades fanned out throughout Huntsville to celebrate the National Day of Service.
In all, 251 students, 27 faculty members and two parents (Paula McBride and Liz Laney) supported 13 organizations at 15 locations to devote more than 600 hours of service to the city. The 9th grade stayed on campus to host the 8th grade, who toured the Garth Campus and learned about the Upper School.
That the day could be reengineered in this manner is a benefit of the new daily schedule. Not every day needs to be, or should be, a cycle day, and on those “off” days, we can do more, not less.
The student initiative and leadership that made the week, and this day in particular, a success, impressed Upper School administrators.
Joe Freeman, 11th and 12th grade dean, noted, “Homecoming allows us to celebrate our school community, but part of that celebration should involve an appreciation of how our school community fits into a larger whole. Our Day of Service gave students the opportunity to take the excitement and enthusiasm that surrounds Homecoming and send it outward. Community learning lies at the center of our mission, and the opportunity to learn about Huntsville by doing—going out into the city, meeting new people, and getting a sense of how others might live—seems a natural way to live out our mission.”
Upper School Brent Bell agreed. “Our students benefit from meeting people who are passionate about what they do. Exposure fosters learning and engagement. I often define student initiative as looking around and seeing what you can do to make it better, whether it’s banter with classmates or generating plans. This day was a huge logistical undertaking, but it was worthwhile and Randolph made a huge impact. The students had a great attitude and represented the School well. It brought out our best. At the Huntsville Botanical Garden, despite how cold it was, our students put forth great effort and did two weeks’ worth of volunteer work in a morning.”
Mason West, Director of Community Learning, took a group of students to Lincoln Academy. He appreciated the way the students engaged him in a discussion of their experience afterwards. Several of the students said they felt that they didn’t know how to apply their learning to programs or issues in the community, but in discussion, Mr. West said, “They discovered they know more than they thought. I really want to prove to students and teachers that with very little effort there is much they can contribute.”
“I think the students were pleasantly surprised by how much fun they had and by how much impact they had on the places they served,” said Mr. Freeman. “An event like this can help students form a habit of service and show them that this is what a leader does in society. It was good for Randolph to engage meaningfully in the wider community and it also allows for the community to see Randolph as a place that is accessible.”
Shibani, too, was really pleased with how the day worked out. “There was such energy and enthusiasm during the day and I heard great stories about what people did, that they had amazing experiences, which made me happy. It was a great way to get our name out into the community and it was a great message for people to hear that we did this as part of Homecoming.”
At the end of the day the seniors went and spent time with their Kindergarten buddies. “It was a really good day,” said Shibani. “I hope there is the same level of enthusiasm next year!”
Photos by Lori Kantmann/HBG, David Brown, Rusty Allen, Boys & Girls Clubs and Mason West.