>> lem >> saint mary's college high school // integrated service program
We are called by the Gospel of Jesus Christ to serve one another. We take our inspiration from Matthew 25.31-46, the basis for what the Catholic Church teaches as the Corporal Works of Mercy. Jesus implored his followers to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to shelter the homeless, to clothe the naked, to visit the imprisoned and the sick.
At Saint Mary’s College High School, we have developed a Lasallian Catholic Integrated Service Program that meaningfully ties together components of our curricular and cocurricular programs. Our aim, through this comprehensive program, is to teach our learning community to constantly answer Christ’s call to service with inspiration from Saint Mary and the life and work of Saint John Baptist de La Salle.
Traditional secondary school service programs often resort to accumulating “hours” that intend to represent, in a quantitative way, an accurate engagement with service. The Lasallian Catholic Integrated Service Program, as a major program component of the overall Campus Ministry program, concentrates on the qualitative service experience. This is accomplished through four steps: (1) preparatory formation for the experience; (2) engaged active learning during the experience; (3) post-experience reflection; and (4) addressing future implications for self and society. In addition, a key aspect of our program focuses on intentional alignment with allied efforts across the school campus in order to maximize effective engagement of students with service opportunities.
We also believe, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI instructed in his encyclical entitled Caritas in Veritate, that charity and justice are intrinsically interlinked. It is impossible to have one without the other. To this end, we strive to educate our learning community on the social issues that surround the causes, the complexities, and the nuances of pervasive injustice. We do this through our allied Peace and Justice program, our Social Justice and Faith and Religion religious studies courses, and through the examination of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. We also complement this education with practical social action.
Our hope is that we will have planted the seeds in the hearts and minds of our students through the analysis of these issues, and that we will have nurtured those seeds during their time at Saint Mary’s College High School by engaging in a variety of meaningful social outreach. With the help of the Holy Spirit, those seeds will continue to blossom and to grow so that whatever field of studies students undertake in college, and in whatever line of work our young people enter, a graduate of Saint Mary’s College High School will know that to serve others and to look out for the last, the lost, and the least in society is integral and necessary to a life well lived.
A day is devoted to work with the Save the Bay Coastal Cleanup, a community organization dedicated to improving the local environment, as part of a comprehensive four-day program that introduces incoming freshmen to student life at Saint Mary’s.
Sophomore students devote a day during their excursion to working with the Alameda County Community Food Bank in order to learn about issues of food justice, children’s hunger in the local community, and health, wellness, and nutrition.
During our signature Enrichment Week program, many students partake in experiences designed to ameliorate and activate classroom learning. These experiences take place off campus and often in local communities. Many of the Enrichment Week courses feature opportunities for community service.
For example, the Catholic Youth Organization Caritas provides opportunities for Saint Mary’s students to be involved in leadership and service. As an environmental education program that stresses direct and active learning in nature, community building, and social and spiritual growth, Saint Mary’s students have opportunities to act as cabin counselors to elementary-age students while assisting teachers and naturalists on the various activities organized by Caritas.
Curricular Service Learning
Curricular service learning is an academic methodology and instructional strategy that aims to connect curricular learning outcomes with community service. A key component of curricular service learning is that it is integrates the classroom experience with the real world. Students are assessed according to intended learning outcomes.
Our science department is particularly engaged with various forms of curricular service learning including the water testing and removal of invasive plants in our neighboring Cordonices Creek, and the investigation of nutritional habits of young people through the Breakfast Cereal Project.
Our foreign languages department investigates the role of language through communication and correspondence with our "adopted children" in Senegal through the Christian Children’s Fund, and the production of books and comic strips for children in various Peace Corps programs.
Annual School Community Initiatives
Each year the Saint Mary’s College High School community engages in school wide charitable endeavors including blood drive supporting the Red Cross, and our Annual Financial Aid student fundraiser which helps Saint Mary’s students from underprivileged means afford school tuition.
During the liturgical season of Advent, our S.A.L.T. group collects socks for the Berkeley-based Catholic Worker House who, in turn distribute the items to the local needy. During the season of Lent, the same group operates a canned food drive in support of the Alameda County Community Food Bank.
Members of the Garden Club manage our own organic school garden. The fresh produce that our garden yields benefits our school community. The vegetables harvested from this garden are often used in meals for various school functions.
Our student-athletes engage in team building activities by getting involved in the local community. In particular, our tennis team engaged in a painting project at a 48-unit low income housing building in Berkeley and helped to staff and organize book sales at Pinole Public Library.
Performing Arts Programs
Our Drama on the Road program, sponsored by the Theater Arts department, takes budding student-thespians and their productions to local Catholic elementary schools in order to present their work and to share their gifts. The stories that our student-thespians produce relate clearly to the lives of their intended audiences often examining issues of identity, bullying, and self-esteem.
Immersion Experience Programs
Our Immersion Experience Programs are responses to the Gospel call of Jesus to "come and see" (John 1.39) where he dwells in the midst of the poor and marginalized. The immersion experience programs at Saint Mary’s are transformative, faith-based, cultural, and educational experiences. They offer the time and space for a gradual conversion of heart as each participant lives in community and encounters some of the conditions that the marginalized experience day after day. Service is an essential component of the Immersion Experience.
A new feature of our academic program is the Senior Project. As a culminating capstone experience, senior students have the opportunity to incorporate service as a major component in the design of their Senior Project. While providing significant latitude, students can come to understand that there are multiple opportunities for service in many fields and disciplines.
Social Action Lasallian Team (S.A.L.T.)
This club, open to all students, is the major student action arm of the Lasallian Catholic Integrated Service Program. The aim of the club is to create relationships and to build community with people by providing ongoing support to various school initiatives related to service.
In particular, students engaged in SALT support the work of the Oakland-based Saint Vincent de Paul Society, the Lasallian Educational Opportunities center in Oakland, the Oakland Mercy Care Center, and Margaret Trost’s Berkeley-based What If? Foundation dedicated to providing food and education programs for impoverished children in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.
All of these service experiences provide our students with opportunities to be in relationship with other people, with one another, and particularly with the forgotten and the marginalized. The service itself is not the object of our program, rather, it is the avenue by which we can break down the barriers that prevent us from seeing one another as sisters and brothers: a true community of people looking out for one another.