PICTURED ABOVE: Sam Taussig ‘16 reads to a group of DISD students during the Day of Service in 2015. Photo by Claire Fletcher.
It is a unique experience that serves a dual purpose: educating students on what life is like at lower-income schools and allowing girls to dedicate time to help others.
For the past four years, Hockaday’s Annual Day of Service has promoted a sense of school-wide unity as the entire school joins together to serve the Dallas community either offsite or on campus. It was first established in 2013 with Hockaday’s Centennial celebration; however, due to an unusually-busy school year calendar and Hockaday’s long-term commitment to host the 2018 Independent Schools Association of the Southwest Fine Arts Festival, the Day of Service had to be postponed this year.
“I’m really excited that our school is hosting ISAS,” Director of Community Service Laura Day said. “I was cool with [postponing the Day of Service] because I am very supportive of ISAS and know how much work it is going to be for the community to try to add another event that would be a huge demand.”
As the 2017-2018 chair of the Community Service Board, senior Shreya Gunukula noticed the absence of the Day of Service on the calendar.
“Being a lifer and having this be my 14th year at Hockaday, [the Day of Service] is a really powerful day to look at the ‘community’ part of community service, and really focus on inclusivity and service learning,” Gunukula said.
Although Hockaday’s conventional Day of Service is not taking place this year, the school still found a way to contribute to the community and a new community service opportunity is currently in the works. Scheduled to take place in 2018, this new event will occur on a Saturday and will be an optional event for students to participate in.
Plans are currently being organized and run by the nonprofit organization United To Learn, whose sole focus is to arrange service opportunities that benefit the Dallas Independent School District elementary schools.
Courtney Flanagan ‘91 serves as the liaison between Hockaday and United to Learn. She has been with the organization since last spring, when its founder Abigail Williams approached her.
“United to Learn is an action-oriented nonprofit,” Flanagan said. “It is a public-private partnership between the DISD elementary schools and the SPC schools in the Northwest quadrant of DISD.”
Ultimately, United To Learn is working to plan a larger scale event that is to take place on Saturday, March 3. The event, unofficially named “United in the Community Day,” will include students from both public and private institutions in Dallas.
Although final plans have not yet been confirmed, Flanagan believes that the project will include as many as 24 different DISD elementary schools across the quadrant.
Essentially, students from various SPC schools will travel to the DISD elementary schools to provide volunteer work around the campuses. Each school will ideally have a team of 12 to 16 members, depending on the turnout.
As far as what kind of service will be done at these 24 different locations, tasks at each school will vary. In order for the projects to be more effective, the head of each elementary school is going to determine projects that they feel would most benefit the school, whether that is painting hallway walls or reading to the children.
Senior Quinn Brodsky, who is one of the two heads in charge of the William L. Cabell Elementary School tutoring program through Hockaday, said that often times, the DISD schools struggle with large class sizes and a limited amount of teachers to control these classes. This results in students more frequently struggling in class because they are not able to receive the attention that is required for them to progress. Ultimately, they begin to fall behind other students their age who attend private institutions and have more personalized education experiences.
“One of the bigger issues in DISD is that there are way too many students and not enough teachers,” Brodsky said. “From my experience with Degolyer and Cabell, you will go into a classroom where there will be one teacher and 30 students. One teacher can’t control all of those kids.”
Because some children begin to lag behind at such a young age, these DISD students have an academic disadvantage for the majority of their time in school.
The hope is that this new community service event in March will benefit the schools. Above all else, they are simply in need of volunteers to provide an extra hand, wherever that may be needed.
And although it is not on the schedule this year, there are plans to bring back Hockaday’s traditional Day of Service in the future.
“I think a lot of people benefited from it [Day of Service], not only the people that we were serving but the girls that were volunteering,” Gunukula said. “It was really a nice day for everyone to step back and learn about organizations that we don’t normally go to and volunteer with their friends all day.”
Head of Upper School Terry Murray believes that whether there is a Day of Service or not, community service will continue to be an integral part of the Hockaday community.
Murray said that he is often asked, ‘What is Hockaday?’ from people who don’t know the school.
“I always come to a couple of things,” Murray said. “One is that we are all girls, but service is always in the top three. Even when I just come out [in the hallway] at lunch and see all of the girls signing out, I realize we are putting in significant hours in our service learning program.”
Story by Charlotte Dross – Asst. A+L