Giving Back to the Community


Even though winter never seems to end, spring fast approaches, and with it the due dates for community service. This transition leaves some students scrambling to meet the requirement. However, community service involves so much more than meeting a requirement.

“Part of Government, part of our curriculum, is citizenship [and] learning to be a good citizen,” Government teacher Margaret Richburg said, “ A big component of being a good citizen is giving back to your community.”

The Middle Years Program (MYP), a part of the IB program, values community service, because it helps the students become better people and benefit the world.

“The mission of the IB program, which covers both MYP and DP (Diploma Program), is about gaining a better understanding of the world around you and how you can make it a more caring, peaceful world,” MYP coordinator Linda Bradshaw said, “So community service is a pivotal component, allowing students the opportunity to help other people.”

The Diploma Program of IB, includes the Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) program to help keep diploma candidates well-rounded and not just focused on academics, according to CAS coordinator Lindsay Zurawski.

“That being said, I think AHS students are some of the most well-rounded I have ever seen,” Zurawski said. “They do sports. They do community service on their own without a program telling them they have to. They do art. They do music. They are just incredible in what they do and what they come up with.”

Community service has been a reality for many generations.

Richburg volunteered on political campaigns, with the Red Cross, and with park clean ups, when she was in high school. “It gave me experience, responsibility, giving back to the community, learning from others, learning through experience,” Richburg said.

Bradshaw volunteered at the hospital, because of ambitions to go into medicine.  “It was really beneficial to me because then I could get a taste [of a job in the medical field],” Bradshaw said. “It wasn’t on glamor and glory like I thought it was. I thought it was very beneficial. I thought it made me a stronger person. I learned empathy. I learned to manage my time, and just see new things.”

Community service helps students learn about their community and connect to what they are learning in their classes.

“For instance,” Richburg said, “with Government, we talk a lot in our curriculum about Government’s involvement in health care and other things like that. So if a student volunteers at a nursing home, hopefully they can make some connections there with cost of healthcare and things that they are learning about in the classroom or get an idea about the value that society places on the elderly.”

Students themselves benefit when they help their local community, as well as their neighbors and community members.

“The freshmen and sophomores have an opportunity to really help the community,” Bradshaw said. “A lot of [freshman] and [sophomores] don’t have transportation, so they are encouraged to do any kind of service that is free. Voluntary service, such as babysitting, helping the elderly neighbors, tutoring kids, or even helping within our building.”

Community service builds students’ pride and confidence.

“I think it benefits them personally, because first of all you get the experience and the pride in knowing that you helped your community or you helped a specific individual in your community achieve a goal. That’s a big confidence builder and point of pride,” Zurawski said.

Community service matures and transforms the students into traits that are mentioned in the IB learner . It encourages them to be inquirers, knowledgeable thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced, and reflective.

“It makes [students] more knowledgeable, it makes them thinkers, learners, all of the learner profile. It connects in their everyday life and in school,” Richburg said.

Community service is not just about the students, but also about the community-at-large. Students’ service have long and short term benefits.

Bradshaw has seen that organizations partner with AHS because of involved students. “I think that makes us stronger as a school when we do more with our surrounding areas because then everyone is going to benefit,” Bradshaw said.“I think as an Annandale pyramid and at the top of it being the high school, it’s our responsibility to help support all the levels of the students below because eventually they’re going to feed into us as well. So I think the partnership with our elementary schools has been very beneficial.”

Community service helps and improves AHS as a whole.

Zurawski has seen that students have helped at AHS, with cataloging theater props, tutoring, running clothing and book drives. “So I’ve seen a lot of time and a lot of goods go from our school out into the community to help in so many different ways,” Zurawski said.

Community service helps students consider occupations and vocations for their future.

“It kind of gives you a sneak peek of [a future job],” Bradshaw said, “It really is the mission of the school that it’s not just students that are in Government that should be doing community service in our building, it’s everyone.”