This April, with greater knowledge of and a visible end to the pandemic nationally, Shorecrest brought back Service Week for the Upper School. Ninth, tenth and twelfth grade students gave back to the community in ways they couldn’t recently, reinforcing empathetic and compassionate behavior.
Shorecrest Upper School Service Week has given students opportunities to contribute forms of public service in the counties surrounding Tampa Bay and beyond for over a decade. Environmental preservation, meal packing for those who are food insecure, art advocating for a cause, supporting Veterans, rehabilitating horses, cleaning local beaches, and many other programs have been available to students. Below, readers may find a comprehensive guide to the premise of each available 2021 Service Week project and learn how Shorecrest is aiding public welfare with each.
For students who want to help those less fortunate in the Tampa Bay community in a more direct manner, volunteer work with organizations such as The Kind Mouse and Goodwill are options, along with the Hunger Awareness service week program.
Thankfully, COVID-19 hasn’t altered aiding The Kind Mouse too much, apart from the required masks and gloves worn by volunteers. The Kind Mouse is an organization that packs meals and food for families to take home during hard times. We interviewed Mattie Tomey ‘21, a student volunteering at The Kind Mouse this week. She volunteered there a few times before this week and is continuing to do so because she believes it helps the community in ways most services can’t. She's passionate about this work because she thinks that “families should be able to get the food and nutrients they need without having to worry.” Many children who have uncertain access to food rely on school lunches for nutrition, but during a pandemic much of that is upended. The Kind Mouse helps to alleviate this extra stress by providing meals to kids who are in quarantine and don’t have access to school lunches like they regularly would.
The Hunger Awareness service group was created to label and date food products for The Kind Mouse, and transformed into so much more thanks to Miss Thorn. The kids in the group began by watching documentaries about food deserts and food insecurity in the nation. Then they wrote letters to thank people who donated to The Kind Mouse, as well as the operators of the program. Lauren Brumbelow ‘24, a freshman at Shorecrest, stated how creating posters to raise awareness is her favorite part because, “it creates an opportunity for an artistic outlook on the project and allows us to spread awareness in a simple way.”
Art With A Message
For those looking to share an artistic message, the art program SeaUsRise put a musical spin on climate change awareness. Murals For A Cause and Knitting For A Good Cause were also available to interested students. For those who wanted to keep spirits high on campus, the Positivity Rocks program combined painting and random acts of kindness by painting rocks with positive messages and placing them around campus, hopefully lifting the spirits of those who find and read them.
Visual Arts Department Chair Mrs. Gaglio hosted Murals/Art For a Cause. Students created their own paintings to be auctioned off to benefit CASA, the preeminent domestic violence center for Pinellas County that has provided life-saving services to women, children, and men for many years. This service program is creative and fun for students and painting fanatics. Students in this service week have also been painting a mural outside of Landy Hall to brighten up the campus. Everything painted on the mural represents Florida or St. Pete in some way. This includes pelicans, geckos, flowers, and much more.
SeaUsRise is an organization co-founded by Mr. Updike, the Upper School’s Band Director. He partnered with Shorecrest to provide a service opportunity for students this week. Their mission statement is “to inspire the creation of unifying music for global climate action.” SeaUsRise aims to create a musical front for the climate change movement to help inspire change and raise awareness. This project focused on helping SeaUsRise with various tasks, while exposing students to the skills needed to run a successful nonprofit. Originally the project was going to focus on preparing for a live event to raise awareness for the cause, but due to COVID-19 safety requirements the event was cancelled.
The knitting service project is supporting a group called “Project Linus.” This group’s main goal is to receive handmade blankets from volunteers all around the country. They then distribute these blankets to children who need a hug. The blankets go to children’s hospitals, shelters, and social service agencies where ill or traumatized kids reside. Miss Ekblad, the adult supervisor of this service group, stated, “I love watching the kids learn how to knit.” One of the members of the group, senior Shaherzad Chawdree ‘21, stated she “loves learning to knit, knowing that it will help comfort kids in need. It is also a very good motivation for learning a new skill.” This project is an amazing service opportunity that benefits millions and follows all COVID-19 guidelines. The students sit inside, socially distanced and masked, knitting away squares to eventually create full blankets.
A nearby non-profit facility run by Shawn Jayroe and Kelly Ford treats abused and neglected horses. With the help of many volunteers and donations, RVR Horse Rescue rescues and rehabilitates horses from all over the state, and they have once again partnered with Shorecrest for service week. Students worked together to take care of the horses whilst learning the dangers and commonality of abuse. Ella Holland ‘21 said of her experience at the rescue that she loved “getting to see the horses and knowing that I am helping to make their lives better. COVID guidelines did not affect our work at all. Having masks was actually pleasant because it blocked any dust from going into our mouths.” This project is a great way to show kids the meaning of hard work while helping support a great cause.
Although access to the outdoors has been limited this past year, Shorecrest hasn’t forgotten about the environment. For Service Week there are three separate programs dedicated to cleaning up the environment. Beach Cleanup Society travels to various beaches around the county to perform thorough cleaning. The Fort De Soto service group focuses their efforts on improving the beaches at Fort De Soto and making sure the park is in good condition to be enjoyed by the community. Keep Pinellas Beautiful, an outside organization that has partnered with Shorecrest for many years, does various habitat restoration projects around the county.
Beach Cleanup society was founded by students with the goal of keeping beaches around Pinellas clean and helping to reduce ocean pollution. It is one of the largest Upper School student clubs due to its cause being so important to the student body.
Keep Pinellas Beautiful is a local nonprofit organization focused on keeping the environment of Pinellas county in pristine condition. In 2020, they reported that their volunteer labor was worth 431 thousand dollars of community improvement. This week the group has been cleaning up trash around the county and planting native species to help improve and restore the environment, maintaining biodiversity in our parks. The work helps work towards a healthier ecosystem and a more beautiful landscape.
Fort De Soto is routinely voted as one of the best beaches in the country, and is a massively important natural resource for Pinellas County. The park is an important habitat as well as a draw for tourists. That’s why Shorecrest has partnered with the park for service week. This week Shorecrest students helped park staff restore and repair various park facilities to keep everything in working order and ensuring the park can be enjoyed by all.
Flexible Learning Students & Letter Writing
Despite many Chargers learning from home, Service Week coordinator Mr. Duran-Medina found a way to let students participate virtually. Under the oversight of Shorecrest faculty and teachers, several letter writing programs brighten the days of the less fortunate.
There are several service groups dedicated to writing letters of kindness to the people who serve our community. COVID-19 has affected many people throughout the community and writing letters is a great way to show our appreciation to these valuable members. The teachers at Shorecrest are hosting letter writing sessions for many different people in our community. Writing these letters helps to put smiles on everyone’s face, despite the effects of COVID-19. Specifically, these groups are writing to first responders such as police officers, firefighters, and medics, as well as military personnel and elderly people. COVID-19 has put people in isolation for the past year and weighed heavily on the hearts of many of these workers. Writing letters of appreciation helps to lift their spirits and let them know that their efforts and participation in the community do not go unnoticed. Students wrote short paragraphs expressing their appreciation and drew cute pictures on the cards to give the people a laugh.
Writing letters to first responders, health professionals, elders, and military personnel can have a huge impact on their mental health. Mr. Brown, Mrs. Peck, Mrs. Frey, Mrs. Elouej, Mr. Ndiaye, Mr. Fludd, and Mr. Wahlgren hosted letter writings. The "Support Our Troops" service group made 663 cards for deployed troops!
Some Chargers made heartwarming remarks about why they chose writing letters of thanks during Service Week. James Floto ‘23 said he would not be where he is now without all the things the teachers have done for him and everyone else, so he wanted to thank Shorecrest faculty. Cam Lerner ‘23 wrote letters to first responders and said that he wanted to “do something that would make the people who put their lives on the line everyday to protect us feel good.” Keeping elderly people involved in our daily lives can make them happy, especially when they are your relatives! Lucy Thomas ‘23 chose to write letters to the elderly to bring joy to those who are stuck by themselves in isolation due to COVID-19. Lucy enjoys “the little things in life” and believes that these letters could bring joy to these people. “Even a small letter can have a big impact on someone,” she said.
Archiving Shorecrest’s History
The goal of the Archiving service group was to create a new exhibition to go in the second floor of Charger Commons. They went through Shorecrest archives to find photos, videos, folders, and yearbooks to put a visual timeline of the school together. They discovered how Shorecrest has changed over the years. They found old uniforms, different trends, and learned how teaching methods have changed since 1923. One students said, "I have so much more pride in Shorecrest after this week. Hearing people's stories really made me feel connected to the school."
Becket Foster ‘23, a sophomore in the Archiving program, was asked about his experience working with this group and he said, “My favorite part about this program is going through the archives because I get to see little toy cars, and even Shorecrest uniforms. We also get to go through video cassette tapes and watch old plays from many years ago.” The sophomore class - the Class of 2023 - will be graduating on Shorecrest’s 100th year anniversary and can be called the Centennial Class.
Instead of participating in Service Week, the Shorecrest community held a special event to help prepare the Juniors for college applications. All week, the juniors have been listening to lectures and working on their college resumes to help ready them for this grueling process. They have been working on discovering themselves as well as what makes each of them unique. They have been doing workshops that include asking parents and other important people in their lives to talk about what makes them unique. Along with these workshops, the juniors are also creating rough drafts for college essays. They are working on them early so they can edit these essays over the next few months and perfect them when it comes time to send them in. The second half of the day is dedicated to ACT and SAT tutoring. This tutoring is to help them with their test taking skills and to give them tips on how to get a higher score.
And finally there are those of us who are telling you this story: the Service Week Storytelling group. We gathered information about each project, interviewed participants, took photos and videos, and tried to capture this meaningful Shorecrest Upper School experience. Many of the photos included here were taken by members of this group.
While the scope of Service Week has been reduced due to COVID-19 and there are no national or international service trips, Chargers worked hard to serve the community through many service projects and learned much about themselves and others. View many more Service Week 2021 photos here.