This week's #FeatureFriday highlights Far Hills Service Learning Club President Blair Miller. Below you'll gain insight into some behind-the-scenes planning that goes into Service Learning Club's success and how our entire school participates in service learning activities. You will also get to know Blair more, as she shares with us what Service Learning Club means to her and the value in serving our local community as an entire school.
Q+A with Blair Miller
How long have you been at FH (grade/age)?
- I have been at FH since Pre-K Youngers, Age 3.
Why are you passionate about Service Learning Club (SLC)?
- I think community service helps to build a community that is affirming and inclusive. When you help others, it is easy to forget your differences or shortcomings and celebrate your strengths. When working with the younger students on packing bags, it's such a great feeling to see them all unite and smile together. Through service learning, I have connected with students I may never have had the opportunity to meet. More importantly, I love to pass on the benefits of community service to the younger students. Everyone has something to offer when giving back.
How does the SLC determine projects and partnerships, particularly this "Month of Service."
- There is nothing better than to see our FH community come together on our traditional "community service day." This day consists of eating a pancake breakfast served by FH dads and honor veterans while students from every grade participate in activities to benefit different charity organizations. Unfortunately, this year we were unable to come together due to COVID-19. Instead, we brainstormed as a group and discussed our ideas with Mrs. Zaiser and decided to highlight service for the entire month of February with several projects, such as supplying breakfast bags to the guests at Nourish.NJ, sending Valentine's day cards to senior homes and organizing a food drive to benefit the God's Co-op Pantry serving our local community. We wanted to plan projects that would be inclusive of the entire school so that everyone could participate. Outside of this month, Service Learning meets as a club and plans projects throughout the school year and during summer break. This past summer, we partnered with Nourish.NJ and purchased items to make "summer camp in a bag" kits for children in need so they could still have a camp experience at home despite COVID-19. In August, we gathered again for a trip to Walmart to shop for back-to-school supplies and filled backpacks to donate. In the backpacks, depending on grades, students received everything from notebooks and pencils to calculators along with an inspirational note.
How important is it to include Lower School students in the activities and for it to be a school-wide initiative? What do you remember most about SLC as a LS student?
- Not only can service learning inspire friendships, but it promotes strong bonds between the Upper and Lower school. As a Lower School student, I have such good memories of my older block buddies, reading buddies, and writing partners. I'll never forget Upper Schoolers collecting for their food drives and coming to the Piazza standing by their huge decorated cardboard boxes, cheering us on as we walked into school and dropped a can of food into the box. Even though we cannot physically connect in person with the younger students this year, we have found projects that include them and set a strong example of service and giving back. Kindergarten through fourth grade all wrote Valentines to senior homes delivered by our advisor Mrs. Iuliano. Eighth graders shopped for breakfast items and recipe wish lists, and Kindergarten and First graders assembled the items into bags for delivery. Fifth graders created meal kits and packed them up for delivery. And of course, everyone loves to donate to a deserving charity and celebrate with a school-wide dress-down day for a good cause.
What has your favorite Service Learning Club project been and why?
- My favorite service learning project was an experience arranged by our advisors, Mrs. Iuliano and Mrs. Houghland. As a club, we had the opportunity to set up, serve and clean up for the Free Farmers Market at St. Peter's in Morristown. The market is sponsored by Nourish.NJ, and collects donated food from grocery stores all around NJ. We helped assemble a mini grocery store filled with donated food in the church's parish hall, and guests came to "shop" for free food. It was amazing to see how much food was donated, hundreds of pounds of produce, meat, bread, cookies, cakes, and humbling to see the smiles on the guest's faces when they could fill their bags with food that they otherwise are not able to afford. It took so little for us to make a big difference in someone's day. Since joining in fifth grade, I discovered that Service Learning is not just community service but also a learning experience for everyone. As we help those that need it most, we are also teaching ourselves skills for the future. For example, when we go to the grocery store to purchase items for bags, we have to buy the exact amount needed and stay within our budget. Service learning has taught me so much while still being able to do what I love, giving back. I know that I will continue this in secondary school and throughout life, but I also know I will be back with Mrs. Iuliano and Mrs. Houghland to encourage the upcoming grades as they embark on their Service Learning experience and learn the true meaning behind giving back to others.