by Mike Burden, Social Studies Teacher and Service Learning Coordinator
Service and connection to our community have long been part of the fabric of Columbia Independent School. Whether raising funds for organizations such as Heifer International through Read to Feed, sending valentines to vets, or maintaining a garden for the Food Bank, students of all ages have opportunities to connect with their friends and neighbors locally and globally.
We've strengthened those connections with a service program for upper school students as part of their graduation requirement for CIS. Each upper school student at CIS will complete 40 hours of service prior to graduation. Students can choose from myriad community organizations, or share their time through programs at the school, such as the Lionheart Mentorship Program, created by 2019 graduate Kaylee Sayers.
“Service is critical to the development of local and global citizens and foundational to the CIS experience, says Jason Bricker, middle and upper school director. “It is critical that education go beyond classroom walls and service facilitates character development that can’t be found in books.”
CIS students have traveled abroad with local educational empowerment non-profit, Be the Change Volunteers, since 2010. This summer 10 CIS upper school students, two parents, and teacher Morched Ben-Ayed will venture to the village of Chino, Peru, nestled in the Amazon Rainforest, where they will build a science classroom with the community and the Be the Change Volunteer team.
Be the Change Volunteer veteran and 2019 graduate Jasmine Walker earned the Distinguished Service Award, a new award for 2019 that recognizes “one upper school student for their commitment to school and community, and for empowering other students in service. This student leads by example by inspiring others to improve the world around them and better understand and appreciate diverse communities.” Walker earned more than 30 hours of service in her senior year alone, and more than 100 during her upper school career.
Her leadership and dedication has helped grow the Interact Club, through which students have planted and harvested vegetables at the Kilgore’s Community Garden, sorted and packed food at the Food Bank, helped build mobility machines at Mobility Worldwide, and sorted food waste for a research project in conjunction with the University of Missouri. It’s just one of many clubs in which Walker has served as a leader.
“Each time I volunteer, I leave feeling like I have begun to make a difference in someone’s life, even if it is just my own,” Walker said. “Sometimes, we can feel that the small actions we take are meaningless, but when hundreds of people work together, significant change can occur.”
Students of all ages at CIS recognize that sharing the gifts of their time and talent in the community is an integral part of their educational journey, whether they’re collecting recyclables, as the National Junior Honor Society and National Honor Society members do, singing at an area senior center, or coordinating holiday giving campaigns. Our commitment to our communities both near and far will continue to grow thanks to the dedication of our students, faculty, staff, families, and community partners.