In New York City, as in Toronto, walking a few blocks can make a big difference in your surroundings. Pockets of wealth often give way to very different neighbourhoods, almost instantly.
Principal Hardy’s address at assembly began with a story about two New York City schools which, with only six miles between them, are worlds apart. Eight years ago, the affluent Ethical Culture Fieldston School in Upper West-Side Manhattan and the low-income University Heights High School in the Bronx began exchanging letters. Eventually, their connection culminated in students from each institution spending a full day at the other school. (Click here to read the full story from The New York Times Magazine
Students were then paired off – Fieldston students with University Heights students – and asked to share stories that represented important elements of their lives. Each student presented their partner’s stories to a larger group.
“The goal of this exercise was to develop empathy,” Principal Hardy said. “At the end of the day, students had a better understanding of each other’s perspectives.”
Building empathy is one of the pillars of Greenwood’s service learning program. Whether they’re creating crafts for SickKids patients, working with children with autism, or running a before-school breakfast program in Regent Park, students become active members of a wide variety of communities.
“Over 300 students participated in service learning this year,” Principal Hardy said. “You all played a crucial role in supporting others, while broadening your own view of the world. As you move through life, you’ll be able to use that empathetic disposition in many different situations.”
Principal Hardy concluded by recognizing the groups that make service learning at Greenwood possible. “It’s high levels of participation from students, excellent support from Ms. McBeth, Lub, teachers and parents, and strong relationships with our community partners that make Greenwood’s service learning program so vibrant,” he said.