Amanda Luckey: Director of Service and Community Based Learning
Education: Stanford, B.A., Transformative Education and Ethnic Studies
How does Service Learning create opportunities for students to test their skills and beliefs in a real world setting?
There are many opportunities for students to grapple with some of the fundamental issues of humanity in the classroom such as: “What is equality?” “What is the role of government in providing for the needs of the people?” “Who is responsible for ethical, environmental, and health implications of scientific discovery?” Here at College Prep, Service Learning guides students to consider ideas like these in the real world. The combination of intellectual rigor in the classroom and doing work in the community is a great way to stretch.
What are some of the projects and programs?
This year, for example, each class elected two representatives to serve on the newly formed Community Action Team. The team meets regularly to create as many service learning opportunities as possible in response to interests of the greater student community. There are one-time projects, such as packing medical supplies to send to countries in need; weekly commitments, like tutoring at local schools; and bi-monthly opportunities, for instance working at a homeless shelter. Our seasonal service learning projects are connected to larger issues affecting our community, as well as national and international needs. In honor of Veterans Day, students are looking at post-traumatic stress disorder, acknowledging the struggles of veterans. During the winter holidays there are many ways for the students to think about and discuss the roots of poverty, as well as engage with under-resourced communities.
We help students discover the joy of sharing their passions. Once there was a student was noncommittal about the program. I asked what he was interested in, and hands down, he was passionate about sports. I helped him find a school that had no after school sports program. He had the time of his life coaching middle school kids in basketball and developed a deep relationship with the students. He plans to continue this year.
Historically, service learning lived outside of the classroom. This thinking has changed considerably over the last few years and we are excited to engage in best practices—integrating service learning into the curriculum. We are launching several projects with teachers. The 9th grade history unit on religion will visit six local religious institutions: a Catholic church, a Jewish synagogue, a Zen Buddhist temple, a Muslim learning center, a Greek Orthodox church, and a Hindu temple. In the spring, we are partnering with the Port of Oakland’s sustainability director to create a unit on globalization. We are collaborating with the teachers of our required junior level unit on ecology by making connections with urban ecology organizations. This is also our second year partnering sophomore health with Playworks, a national organization dedicated to increasing the quality of playground activities and recess development in urban schools across the country. Our students loved volunteering with Playworks and are excited to continue that partnership.
How do students engage with the greater College Prep community?
Recently we launched two programs for current students: Senior Job Shadow Day and an internship during Intraterm. A dozen or so parents and alumni were able to host students in their workplace. It was particularly exciting to have students experience their possible ‘future selves’ with our alumni hosts: Sam Arons ’00, Energy Program Manager, Google; Heather Chang ’95, attorney; Leanna Freel ’08, Product Development Engineer, Elo Touch Solutions; Matt Payne ’02, musician, Drew Perttula ’96, Production Engineer, Dreamworks Animation; Brian Weinberger ’90, Consultant, California State Senate; Betsy Weiss ’83, Title I Reading Teacher; and Eric Wight ’00, Business Manager/Owner, BMW Motorcycles of San Francisco. The students loved their experiences and we really appreciate our hosts. We look forward to more opportunities this year for alumni and parents. Please contact Amanda if you’d like to host a student: Amanda@college-prep.org
Students at this age can be described as self-absorbed. What do you see with Prep students?
It’s normal and natural at this age to be a bit self-absorbed. More than any other community I’ve worked in, however, I see an enormous capacity for generosity, commitment to help, kindness, and respectful communication among Prep students. I’ve been blown away in my short time here by what I’ve seen. They’re normal teenagers, too, which is why I’ve created a program with activities that they enjoy doing so that they are genuinely engaged. Tackling some of these difficult issues is not always fun. Partnering with organizations that don’t have many resources often means our students have to do some hard work to support those needs. Our program is voluntary; College Prep doesn’t have required hours like some other schools. I believe that a student’s motivation needs to come from the heart.
How does Service Learning build a capacity for empathy?
It’s important to think about and critique issues in the classroom, but being involved with them in the real world hits home. The students who volunteer at the men’s shelter, for example, take the time to have conversations with the men and learn about their history and life stories. This humanizes issues like poverty for the students and offers the men a chance to be heard. Our students come to understand that these are people just like them, but with different circumstances. Service learning challenges and supports Prep students as they become open to differences and build connections. Our program is not about charity. Rather, we examine the root causes of problems and how we can work together to help solve them. This understanding is the roadmap to empathy.
What are some of the long-term benefits of Service Learning?
When teenagers work side by side with people of various ages, races, and gender identification, as well as a wide-range of socio-economic and educational backgrounds, they realize how much wisdom and insight each person has to offer. The service learning experience helps our students to be kinder, and have more gratitude for their opportunities. They also learn not to assume that what they have is what everybody wants. There are many ways to live a happy, fruitful, meaningful life. Students also learn practical strategies such as how to create and complete a project, how to communicate, and how to collaborate—great skills for their time at College Prep and into their adult lives.