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Community Service at Harvard-Westlake

By Izzy ‘22

When I first started HW, I knew I would have endless opportunities within the community to explore my own passions and grow as a student. My excitement for trying out for the slam poetry team and writing for the school literary magazine was boundless. However, I overlooked the opportunities that the school would provide me with to grow as a human being and to better the communities that surround itself.

Community service has always been a central part of my life. I run a tutoring organization called Bored of Boredom, serve on the Mayor’s Youth Council, and volunteer at an animal rescue center on the weekends. However, Harvard-Westlake has provided me with the opportunity to engage with community service on a level unparalleled to anything I could have imagined.

Yes, HW does have a 12 hour per year requirement to graduate. But, that’s not what I’m referring to in the slightest! One thing that surprised me as a new 7th grader was that Mr. Jordan, the head of Community Service at the Middle School, runs trips most days after school for kids to complete their hour requirement with organizations the school has a partnership with such as Heal the Bay and the Westside Food Bank. HW provides transportation there and back and even a chaperone. The level of care to ensure that every student has the ability to complete the requirement, even if both parents work and the student cannot drive, was greatly appreciated. It made me feel like the school was using its resources admirably and selflessly and that service beyond ourselves is a tenant of the values HW truly instills in us.

When I got to the Upper School, I learned about Community Council. Rather than having a Mr. Jordan equivalent, the Upper School’s community service outreach is entirely run by students. A group of students is selected by the faculty, and they are tasked with running fundraisers, overseeing the community service clubs, bringing guest speakers, and providing the student body with opportunities on and off campus to complete their service. It’s certainly a daunting task but having served on the Council for two years now, I have come to love the challenge because of the impact it makes.

Last year, my committee focused on mental health. In quarantine, students were really struggling, and we knew that we wanted to dedicate our time to address the problem. So, we led a speaker series with alums about their struggles with mental health to show the student body that they are not alone. Some of the speakers included Lauren Lee ‘20, Natalie Margolin ‘10, and Ben Platt ‘10.

Now, as a prospective student, you may be wondering, why did this blogger decide to write about community service? Why should that be important to my decision about where to attend middle and/or high school? Well, when I was applying, I wish I had known how much community engagement is central to the institution as a whole. Nearly every student I know works closely with a non-profit or community-based organization. Many of them say that they would never have found out about the organization had they not gone to Harvard-Westlake. The school maintains a detailed list of all the groups that allow middle and high school volunteers in the area with a description of who they help and how. Thus, HW students are able to be of service to causes that are actually important to them. And, having a student body that is so involved with the surrounding community makes the school itself a kinder and more empathetic place to learn. Lastly, walking around and knowing that my peers are deeply passionate about a wide array of causes motivates me to pursue my own passions and advocate for the change that I want to see in the world. I’m so grateful that I chose HW for the resources it has given me to discover what I care about, but also the way in which it has pushed me to actually manifest that change both within our school and beyond.

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Tags: , , Last modified: September 27, 2021