On Monday, March 25, the Upper School engaged in a Day of Service that featured a keynote from two PDS alumni, a panel discussion, presentations from local organizations, workshops with direct hands-on service activities, off-campus field trips, an exciting performance by the Trenton Circus Squad, and reflection.
The Day of Service was spearheaded by Director of Service Learning Margie Gibson and Upper School Dean Elizabeth Monroe, with contributions from many other faculty and student volunteers, particularly student Service Learning co-heads Zaiya Gandhi '20 and Krithika Vasireddy '20. The goal was to deepen each student's understanding and commitment to service, and to connect PDS students to one another and to our community.
In a pair of keynote speeches, PDS alumni shared their own experience with service, along with guidance on how to find service opportunities that resonate with students' own skills, interests and values--as well as how to engage in service that is meaningful, ethical and effective. Joanna Bowen '03 detailed how her volunteer work in college evolved into a year-long fellowship with Augustinian Volunteers, the organization for which she now serves as Director. Chris Bonnaig '11 recalled a presentation during his own time at PDS that inspired him to pursue the study of law, and shared his outlook on on what it means to serve, urging students to be kind, to be mindful, to pursue mastery of whatever they choose to do in life, and to embrace change.
Student panelists Emily Cavuto '20, Giulia Gerschel '19, Eric Leung '20, and George Ma '20 shared their own experiences with service, and joined Bowen and Bonnaig in a panel discussion to field student questions.
In workshops and breakout sessions throughout the day, students engaged in service learning projects ranging from a trip to learn about the work of HomeFront, to hands-on activities such as bagging lunches for Trenton Area Soup Kitchen and making cards for patients at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital. A special partnership between the 5th and 10th grade classes focused on the environment, with trips to Whole Foods, Terracycle, and D&R Greenway to learn more about waste reduction and invasive species.
In the afternoon, students were treated to a spectacular performance by the Trenton Circus Squad, a nonprofit group co-founded by PDS alumnus Tom von Oehson '80, which instills teamwork, confidence, and commitment to service in its teenaged participants. Current PDS senior Amon DeVane was among the group of incredible performers in the Upper School gym.
Following the performance and an interactive workshop in circus arts guided by the Squad, students joined their Advisory groups to reflect on the day's events and discuss their plans to deepen their commitment to service in the future.