At FH, we promote a culture of social responsibility and community service where students become stewards and leaders emerge. When students connect directly with organizations that serve people in need, information and empathy produce ideas that compel students to jump into action and make a difference. Cross-divisional projects enable Upper School students to become teachers and mentors for Lower School students throughout the year. As a result, our Far Hills graduates are responsible citizens with a sense of duty to family, school, and the community. They are fulfilled by serving others and seek out opportunities to do so.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, this year is no exception. The Upper School Service Learning Club (SLC) has reimagined our annual Service Learning Day into a "Month of Service." They've expanded our reach to new organizations and have been thoughtful to include various grade levels for each project. I am proud of their dedication and creativity during these unprecedented times.
Whenever I speak with FH families, I often draw on my experience as an educator and a mother of two alumni. When I write my blog, I often look to my family for inspiration. As luck would have it during our "Month of Service," I found my oldest son's 2012 Community Service Journal tucked deep in a bookcase that he wrote when he was an eighth-grade student at FH. Since 2012, Andrew graduated from St. Andrew's School and Kenyon College. Today he is gainfully employed (working remotely) for a San Francisco-based law firm.
Andrew, Far Hills Class of 2012
Andrew, Football team at Kenyon College
This treasure—bound and in pristine condition—was dated April 8, 2012, exactly two years to the day that my father passed away. This coincidence moved me because I knew my father would be most proud of his grandson's achievements. More importantly, my father would be glad he is "doing good" for others. Tears filled my eyes as I read the journal, and the magnitude of what we do here at FH struck me. We lay the foundation to take care of others and seek opportunities to help those in need while showing kindness, empathy, and love to all people. My son, Andrew, continued this service work in high school, college, and beyond. Andrew learned the importance of helping others and recognized the rewards of positively impacting those in need through his experiences as a student at FH. Here is an excerpt from his 2012 journal below reflecting on his work at a local nursing home in our area.
Last summer at my school, we were told of our twelve hours of required community service. At that time, I grumbled about the requirements. That did not last. As soon as I entered Little Brook Nursing Home, I knew I would not be doing just a minimum of twelve hours. At this time, I have done about thirty, and I plan to continue throughout the year. During the first few visits, I went with my good friend Alex Blanco, who also needed to fulfill the requirements. He was just as interested. We both began to establish relationships with the residents, giving them food and coffee, playing guitar for them, helping them play bingo, or just talking with them about anything from farms to snakes.
Over the summer, Alex and I developed close relationships with Angie and Linda. We talked with them specifically more and more often and gave Angie the rewards for winning bingo, though she used three different boards to have a better chance of winning! I began to stop noticing their handicaps and to start thinking of them as friends. Over our time there, Angie's rapid deterioration, so much like my Grandfather's, struck close to my heart.
My Grandpa has a disease that affects fluid in his brain, which is impairing his memory and physical capabilities. He often is in the hospital, and when he is not, he is in a reclining chair, refusing to do physical therapy. The burden on my Grandma is immense. Though it is not the only reason I chose to work at Little Brook, it was a major one. I wanted to make sure that I could help people to be comfortable, which is precisely what my Grandma is doing for my Grandpa. Like my Grandma (Yia Yia) with my Grandpa (Papou), I help people who cannot make themselves comfortable be a bit more comfortable, either emotionally or physically. This is essential work, and I now realize this. My requirement was no longer that--it had meaning.
Andrew and the clean up crew at the nursing home
It is important to note that Andrew built upon his love of serving others at boarding school as well. His passion for this is reflected, again, in his own words below.
At St. Andrew's, we had half-day Tuesdays and Thursdays, and it was a part of the school culture to complete community service. More than two-thirds of the students volunteered each Tuesday, and we would pile into buses to go off to tutor or mentor. I tutored at St. Anne's School, where I helped numerous students, but then worked with one student in particular. I became more of a mentor than a tutor, as a St. Andrew's teacher who knew the child said, he needed a male role model. I did my best to step in and do what I could to fill that role. We worked together for about two years, and I recently learned he is in college now. In addition, Special Olympics Delaware came to St. Andrew's, and I ran one of the stations for the competitors. It was super fun and very fulfilling to watch the participants enjoy themself and push themselves to beyond their limits.
Kenyon College's Be the Match day on campus was a huge success
As he moved onto college, Andrew continued his work with enthusiasm, as you can read in his own words.
At Kenyon College, I was the community service chair for my fraternity, Beta Theta Pi. We worked as a team to clean up the outdoor area of a nursing home each spring. We also supported Be The Match, a drive to recruit donors to sign up for a cheek swab to create a larger donor base for bone marrow transplant recipients. We assisted with the Harcourt Parish rummage sale each year during preseason, unloading a huge storage trailer and helping set up the rummage sale. I've found that it always is fulfilling to do something for others, especially recognizing all of the privileges and opportunities I've been given throughout my life. This fulfillment ties back to my formative years at FH and SAS. I am most grateful that I learned these lessons along the way. I have continued my work volunteering and had the incredible opportunity to support our right to vote as a poll worker for the 2020 Presidential Election. It was a long, long day, working from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., but it was absolutely worth it. Giving back to the community feels good.
Andrew and Abby as poll workers
Through my son's words, I hope you see the results of the meaningful work we do here to build character, nurture empathy, and impel action to make the world a better place. Elementary and middle school years shape our children, and some of the most powerful life lessons learned here will carry through well into adulthood. Leading with kindness and empathy enables our students to become good citizens of the world—sharing their talents, hope, and love with those who surround them and those who are in need. I am proud to say that my son is an alum of FH and that our Falcons are a force for good in the world.
All the best,
Georgia S. Zaiser