Students help other communities, service opportunities
Thanksgiving break 2021. Senior Will Searcy wakes up early during in Costa Rica and heads to the construction site. An annual tradition for the Searcy family, he and the many other Dallas families work for two full days with the organization Homes of Hope hammering nails into the wood, framing the structure and painting it to create the perfect house: another home for another family.
During the month of November, Thanksgiving is a known holiday for giving thanks and spending time with family. But for less fortunate families, the holidays can be stressful and they may need extra help. One of the ways community members can help is through community service.
“I know for many people, the holidays is an important time for them because it’s a time to be thankful, it’s time to be with family,” Director of Community Service Courtney Phelps said. “And sometimes those family traditions or activities will include giving back to other people. And so just engaging in that way around a time where the entire country is really focused on community and family and thankfulness. It’s important to give back as well.”
ESD’s Community Service Council prepares pop-ups and food drives that the community can participate in during the weeks leading up to the Thanksgiving break.
“The lower school has their annual canned food drive for North Dallas Shared Ministries in the first week of November, and the Upper School has the Prism Health Food Drive, which is the week before Thanksgiving, where they’re bringing in Thanksgiving meals,” Phelps said.
With the many projects to be worked on, some students and families, such as the Searcys, also participate in their annual community service trips or organizations they work with. He and his family help recruit members by hosting information sessions at their house.
“My family and I are so excited to go back this year because, during Covid-19, we weren’t able to go, so I’m ready to get back to it,” Searcy said. “I’m not sure how many people are signed up right now, but it’ll probably end up being over 100, and I think we’re going to build six houses.”
Searcy’s first trip with Homes of Hope was when he was 10 years old, and since then his perspective on community service has changed.
“My first trip completely changed my outlook on life, and it was that trip that really got me into community service,” Searcy said. “I had never seen real poverty before, so I was really blown away by the impact I made on people’s lives. So now, it has become a passion of mine.”
Other students have been helping outside communities as well. Junior Charles Liu has been tutoring a Ukrainian boy named Misha once or twice a week through the program Engin.
“I usually Facetime him for an hour… and we also talk through text messages a lot,” Liu said. “He really likes Taylor Swift and American music too! It’s interesting how much we have in common and his [English] skills are really good… we don’t have any problems communicating with each other.”
Liu originally wanted to participate in this program because he wanted a better perspective of the Russian Ukrainian conflict. He has learned a lot about the experiences Misha has been enduring in Ukraine and wants to help him escape the chaos for an hour.
“I remember last week, he was talking about how they didn’t have lights or water because the Russians bombed their water tower that day,” Liu said. “I’m trying to cheer him up and… just hang out with him.”
But one does not need to cross borders to help people, there are local service organizations that offer community service hours such as the Dallas Arboretum.
“I was the vice president [of the teen board] last year and I planned group days where I would get like 10 people to come and then work for four or five hours,” senior Cren Boyd said. “I really enjoyed doing it because I like the environment and being outside. I also like little kids and [I] would walk around in the children’s garden [with them] or talk with parents and get to know them.”
For anyone looking for community service opportunities, Phelps reposts on Schoology community service help requests from organizations nearby.
“I know every year Meals on Wheels hosts a major Thanksgiving delivery, and so if anyone might be interested in serving with their family, that’s a good option,” Phelps said. “It’s what I do with my family before we eat Thanksgiving dinner, and most of the time, all of the ongoing opportunities pretty much stay consistent in the same, so it’ll all be on Mobile Serve, and I’ll be sharing them in email.”
Co-President of Community Service Council senior Bridget Wang said that the less fortunate are often overlooked, especially during the holidays because everyone is focusing on enjoying their own time with family and friends. But we should be more mindful of others.
“It’s also very important to realize that we’re very fortunate and very privileged to live the life we live, Wang said. “And I think just doing community service for others who may not have the same privilege is really important.”
For more information on finding community service opportunities during the holidays, contact Community Service Director Courtney Phelps.