About Service-Learning at Dawson
Dawson’s commitment to modern learning pushes the thinking about the boundaries of education and strives for outcomes that make our community and the world a better place. The School is deeply invested in a service-learning program that promotes our students’ personal, social, and intellectual development. We are committed to expanding their civic responsibilities by presenting real-world tasks and authentic experiences within the Dawson community and the world. When students are part of the problem-solving process, they acquire important skills and valuable knowledge that lead to impactful outcomes.
There are three types of service-learning Dawson applies that focus on the advancement of meaningful endeavors.
Indirect Service: Students work behind the scenes to identify social and global issues needing attention or assistance. Examples include managing an event or collecting donations in support of an organization or cause.
Direct Service: Students have direct contact with those being served and provide feedback to address an issue or need. An example is volunteering with a specific organization to work with the individuals affected.
Advocacy: Students use their agency, voice, and skills to advocate for what is important and ethical to help eliminate the causes of identified problems. Examples include presenting to the public on a certain topic or issue or garnering public support for a cause to help raise awareness and provide education.
The goal in all types of service-learning is for students to connect personally with causes and issues to grow their passion for projects that lead to positive societal changes.
Foster Kinship Winter Wishes Initiative
The Foster Kinship Winter Wishes giving program was driven and coordinated by our seventh and eighth-grade National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) students in collaboration with Dawson alum Grace Wike ‘20.
Grace’s family has worked with Foster Kinship for years by fulfilling holiday wish lists for the children the organization supports and also participating in donation drives facilitated by Dawson since 2017. She also worked in conjunction with the organization as a Girl Scout when she created a library space for the kids and their kinship caregivers. The admirable work Grace saw demonstrated by Foster Kinship and its need for community assistance furthered her involvement.
For Grace, empathy through learning about the experiences of others is a value Dawson helped to instill. “During my time at Dawson, I learned about many different organizations and why it is important to help others when you are privileged enough to do so,” she said.
“In Middle School, I learned about people around the world and diverse voices through literature. My time on Student Council and National Junior Honor Society opened my eyes to see the different perspectives and needs in our community. In my seventh and eighth-grade humanities and critical literacies courses, I started to see the world was much bigger than me. I learned to ask questions and to know individuals can make a difference. Giving and serving others are things I now enjoy regularly.”
In November, representatives from Foster Kinship conducted campus visits to meet with students. They provided teachers and advisors with content for morning meeting connections in the classroom. Grace took the lead in creating all materials to inform our larger community, which included a digital sponsorship system and a promotional flyer for public distribution.
In December, the Dawson Parent Association assisted with this service-learning endeavor and helped Grace arrange a donation station during the annual Gingerbread Event. Families in attendance had the opportunity to be matched with a Foster Kinship child in need or to give a monetary donation in support of the non-profit.
These collective efforts led to overwhelming participation numbers of Dawson families, faculty, and staff, and resulted in 100% of the 400 children's winter wishes fulfilled! In culmination, Dawson’s NJHS students and staff organized and wrapped the items, and delivered them to the children in Foster Kinship’s care.
Service learning helps build strong communities and intrinsic learning and growth opportunities for students through engagement and authentic work for social change. When students see what’s possible within their smaller community, they envision what can be accomplished on a larger scale. The School’s program evolves each year so it continues to provide a very personal, values-driven educational experience for our students. When they are part of the process, they develop an enduring understanding of their actions.
Only when kids can grow from students to solutionaries – those who are capable of identifying unjust systems, uncovering the very root of the problem, and working to develop solutions that are healthy and equitable – can they truly become creative thinkers, doers, and changemakers. And that’s where a culture of purpose, compassion, and dignity is forged both inside and outside of the classroom.