This story was originally published in the Spring 2012 issue of Harker Quarterly
Before the lower school went on winter break to celebrate the holiday season, grade 4 students organized their annual toy drive, collecting, counting and loading 809 toys. Student council members helped deliver the items to San Jose-based Sacred Heart Community Services (SHCS) and received a tour of the facilities that serve more than 18,000 families a month. “The volunteers at SHCS were thrilled with the donation,” Joe Connolly, K-5 dean of students, wrote in an email. “Your donations went a long way towards helping them reach their goal of making sure that every child has a toy to enjoy.” Before Christmas weekend, Sacred Heart put 16,000 gifts on display, where 5,000 parents with children in need picked out toys to bring home for Christmas.
On Dec. 27, grade 3 families helped organize clothing donations, sort bread and prepare food items for SHCS. Organized by Heather Wardenburg (Amy, grade 11; Ricky, grade 3) and Stephanie Woolsey, grade 3 teacher and alumni mother, this holiday volunteer opportunity aligned with Woolsey’s desire to build community within the school while giving back to the larger community. Woolsey had volunteered with SHCS previously and found that it was “one of the few organizations that can use younger kids.” Kristin Tong, grade 3, spent her day bagging pears, apples and potatoes and enjoyed spending time with her friends outside, where “we got to help people.”
The lower school also continued to work with the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital (LPCH) at Stanford University to brighten the walls and corridors of the hospital. This collaboration stemmed from a discussion between students and Eric Hoffman, lower school art department chair. Freshman Matthew Ho, then grade 5, suggested LPCH as a potential partner and, in spring 2009, about 50 pieces of student art marked the beginning of a long-term relationship. In December, an art curation and interior design team visited the lower school campus to select a new collection for rotation.
The students showcased their work in the conference room and the team selected grade 4’s spread of ceramic desserts and about 45 pieces of flatwork to display in LPCH’s clinic.
At the end of January, the lower school held a special assembly in celebration of this year’s successful pajama collection and book drive. Dressed in pajamas for the occasion, upper school sophomores visited their grade 3 counterparts as part of the Eagle Buddies program and spent the duration of the assembly catching up, reading and celebrating the 425 pairs of pajamas and 475 books that were donated to families in need. Pallie Zambrano, co-president of the Northern California chapter of the Pajama Program, picked up the donations and congratulated the students, informing them that Harker has donated more than 1,800 pairs of pajamas in the last five years.
The middle school’s Service Club held its annual used coat drive, which was once again a great success, according to club advisor Steven Hewitt. The club collected more than 200 coats for InnVision, an organization dedicated to keeping the Bay Area’s homeless warm during the winter months. “The middle school Service Club’s annual donation of coats to InnVision has been a tradition for nearly 10 years now, and in that time we have donated close to, if not more than, 2,000 winter coats,” Hewitt said. “I’m exceedingly proud of the students in the club who gave their time and effort to the drive.”
Seven grade 6 advisories joined together in February to send 110 Valentine’s Day cards to deployed military personnel around the world. These cards, filled with heartfelt messages, comments, jokes and words of encouragement, were shipped in care packages through the nonprofit A Million Thanks. Some advisories continued their efforts through March, making thank you cards to be delivered later this year.
The upper school also helped with gift giving this past holiday season, donating toys and items to Family Supportive Housing, Scott Lane Elementary and Sacred Heart Community Service. Kerry Enzensperger, community service coordinator, recognized seniors Farrah Gulzar, Asia Howard, Dylan Qian and Michael Wu; juniors Michael Chen, Ashley Del Alto, Andre Tran and Daniel Wang; and freshman Katy Sanchez for their help in delivering the gifts to the three organizations.
On Jan. 28, upper school students joined Save the Bay in their restoration efforts, “Planting for Penguins.” More than 20 students spent the day at the Faber Tract in East Palo Alto weeding invasive mustard plants and planting different species of native plants in an effort to revitalize the marsh area. The students were pleasantly surprised to find that the lower school had also organized an outing for the same day and both worked alongside each other on the stretch by the levee. Interested in saving endangered species, Justin Gerard, grade 10, spent a portion of the day planting gum plants, which will eventually grow large enough for birds to use as shelter from predators. “I really liked this work because the progress was evident as we looked at the hundreds of plants that our group managed to root into the soil,” Gerard said.
The upper school also continued efforts on-site, hosting a Kicks Against Cancer pizza party for families and organizing an “Ai Support Japan” week (“ai” means “love” in Japanese). Japan Club reached out to Japanese National Honor Society (JNHS) advisor Masako Onakado about hosting a fundraiser this year and Onakado found a fitting cause and organization in Japan. Worried that people were forgetting about the devastation and difficulties Japan continues to face, Onakado made contact with a nonprofit organization helping coordinate efforts to fundraise for the Onagawa Kogakkan School and others. The school, in Onogawa, Miyagi, where the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami struck, helps provide classes and self-study areas to elementary and middle school students, many of whom are still living in temporary housing.
“There are many students who were really concerned about Japan and have wanted to do something for the country,” Onakado said, recalling the 2,700 paper cranes students folded after the earthquake hit Japan, “so I wanted us to take action and communicate with the Harker community that Japan needs long-term support.”
During the week, the JNHS and Japan Club sold tote bags with buttons designed by students, wristbands, candy, hot chocolate and Japanese tea, raising more than $1,500 for Onagawa Kougakkan students.
To learn more about Harker’s community service efforts, visit news.harker.org and search “service.”