Friends' Central Gives Back – During the Holidays and Year-round
Friends' Central Gives Back – During the Holidays and Year-round

At Friends’ Central School, opportunities abound for students and families to give back – to seek out someone who needs a hand and to do what they can, even with the smallest gesture of kindness, to lift that person up. From the youngest Nursery student to graduating seniors, every individual in the Friends’ Central community understands the importance of being stewards of their school, local, and global communities. Students are taught early on that everyone has the potential to advocate for change, to be a force for good in the world, and FCS students are realizing that potential in myriad ways.

This fall, a priority for Friends’ Central was providing relief for the many families affected by the hurricanes this year. The Upper School student-led service committee organized a collection of items for flood clean-up kits and hygiene kits. Families in all three divisions donated items like laundry detergent, household cleaners, dish soap, work gloves, and dust masks, collecting enough items for dozens of kits, which were delivered to UMCOR and transported directly to communities impacted by hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria. In the Lower School, students were encouraged to donate coins or dollar bills earned from chores at home or other sources to show their support for folks in hurricane zones. Donations were collected during the month of September and went to support organizations in the Houston area. The Lower School got moving again in November, with Nursery to grade 5 students “Running for Relief,” running/walking 3800 laps around the gym during their P.E. classes, raising $517 to be donated to UNICEF for ongoing hurricane relief. Check out this video with highlights from the event!  

Also in the Lower School, each classroom prepared a basket with a Thanksgiving meal for a family supported by ElderNet, an organization that serves adults of all ages, especially frail older or younger disabled persons with low or moderate incomes who live in Lower Merion or Narberth. Currently, the Lower School is collecting art supplies under their “giving tree” for The Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership, which supports learning through the arts. About the Lower School Service program, Sue Borrero, LS Service Co-Coordinator, says, “As the Service Coordinators for the Lower School, Janet Bowker and I strive to organize projects that are meaningful to the LS students we teach. Students are active participants in service by Running for Relief or doing chores at home to raise money for other children near and far. Our Giving Tree has long been a simple of service around the holidays.  While there are many gift-giving holidays, we make sure that we don't forget those who may be in need. Why do we do this? As one first graders said, ‘because this is Friends' Central, and that's what we do!’” 

In October, after an initial connection from FCS parent Anita Friday, the Technology Department donated 10 iMacs and 15 projectors to Philadelphia Children's Foundation, a non-profit that aims to get resources to under-served schools in Philadelphia. Dan Crowley, Director of Technology at Friends’ Central, explains, “We knew how much of an impact a projector could make for students in a public school classroom that did not have access to the same resources. I was very impressed with the work that Jan and the team was doing and thrilled that FCS could help make a difference.”

In November, Upper School students Benna Berger, Katie Leone, and Emma Malone led Friends’ Central’s Blood Drive for the American Red Cross. Over 50 people, including 30 students, donated pints of blood and red blood cells. Also, just in time for Thanksgiving, Upper School students Annie Roberts ’18, Ben Miller ’20, and Tristan Szapary ’20 led the FCS community in record-breaking MANNA pie sales. Over 170 pies were sold, going well over their goal and surpassing the previous record of 166 pies set in 2008, raising over $3800 for MANNA, benefitting hundreds of people in the greater Philadelphia region who are coping with illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, renal disease, and diabetes. 

Wrapping up the 2017 service projects in the Upper School, Friends’ Central once again partnered with the Angel Tree project, a prison fellowship program that works with the children of inmates and helps get those children presents for the holiday season. Upper School students in each homeroom sponsored an Angel Tree child, providing children with a gift and an even more meaningful connection to their parent this holiday season. Student leader Mira Kauffman-Rosengarten ’18 shares, “By itself, Angel Tree is a pretty amazing program, but I think how the whole Upper School at FCS gets involved is what makes it so special to me. It brings people together with the common goal of making a child’s holiday better and their relationship with their parents/parents better. We never have to work very hard to get people to sponsor a child; in fact, they’re usually all being sponsored by a homeroom a day or two after we announce the project. I’m pretty lucky that I go to a school that really wants to help with service projects in a genuine way.”

In the Middle School, community service is an integral part of the curriculum, with two hours devoted to service every Wednesday morning. Each Middle Schooler participates in over 3,000 minutes of service each year. Fom on-campus opportunities like Lower School buddies and recycling to outdoor, eco-friendly clubs like StreamWatch and partnering with elderly friends at Saunders House, Friends’ Central Middle School students gain an in-depth understanding of what it means to give back due to an integrated curricular service program. In addition, FCS Middle School students participate in an array of holiday-themed service projects, including traveling to Easter Seals of Southeastern Pennsylvania to work with their friends who have a variety of disabilities in assembling gingerbread houses. Before the holiday break, each student in grades 6, 7, and 8 also creates holiday cards to brighten up the days of residents at Lankenau, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Saunders House. Middle School Principal Alexa Quinn shares, “What an amazing gift we have in our students and in a service program that allows them to shine in and beyond the FCS community.”

Sponsored by the Middle & Upper School Service Committee and led by parent Wendy Frame, on December 5, Friends’ Central hosted the 3rd annual Holiday Cheer event benefitting Families Forward Philadelphia. FCS families donated over fifty $25 gift cards and countless travel-sized toiletry items, cookies, paper goods, and more for the event, brightening the holidays for over 30 teens, parents, and staff members from Families Forward, a shelter organization that helps keep families together as they transition out of homelessness. At the event, guests participated in an LED makerspace project or practiced skills and drills with the Varsity Boys' Basketball team. Holiday Cheer culminated in food, drink and stocking stuffing, with each teen taking home a stocking stuffed with donated toiletries and a $25 gift card for the holidays.

About Holiday Cheer, Frame explains, “Three years ago, Families Forward identified a need: their teenagers were sometimes overlooked during the holidays. The younger kids at FF received an outpouring of toys for the holidays, but teens - often difficult to buy for - received fewer gifts. FCS sought to fill the void. The Service Committee created Holiday Cheer, an after-school event on campus that brings parents/guardians/students together with FF teens, parents, and chaperones for some holiday cheer. For three years running, FF teenagers work on an LED project in the Makerspace or attend a Varsity basketball game, are treated to dinner, and then the teens stuff stockings with toiletries and a $25 gift card donated by our community. Holiday Cheer represents the best of FCS. Parent/guardian/student/faculty volunteers, staff, and administrators support Holiday Cheer to make the holidays a little brighter for Families Forward Philadelphia.” Grace Hightower, Director of Fund Development at Families Forward Philadelphia, shares, “The Friends’ Central Holiday Cheer event offers many of our teens a few hours to escape homelessness. It's a wonderful opportunity for them to enjoy some new and exciting activities, make stockings for their loved ones, and receive a gift card so they can purchase something for themselves. The teens, their parents, and staff at Families Forward Philadelphia are very grateful for the continued generosity shown by the Friends Central community!”

Every year, Friends’ Central students perform more than 20,000 hours of service to the greater community and more than 1,700 hours of campus service. Designed to encourage individual responsibility, cooperation, and a sense of citizenship, service projects provide for students an opportunity to recognize “that of God” in themselves and those they serve—a key Quaker principle that guides the Friends’ Central experience. Service Coordinator Deborah Skapik explains, As I reflected on our program, I realized what strikes me this year is how the program cultivates students to be compassionate leaders in the social justice arena. Last week, two students who have participated in the Service Committee for three years, stopped by my office. I realized, over the past three years, these young women have been watching me and learning what it takes, in this case very specifically, to lead successful service projects. I am so proud of them and am made acutely aware of our responsibility as teachers to ‘walk-the-talk’ – students are always watching.  This is definitely service-LEARNING, not just service!” With even the smallest act of service, during the holidays and all year, our students are making positive changes in the world and in themselves. From three-year-olds to seniors, FCS students are eager to participate, learn, and lead – peacefully transforming the world one small act at a time.