Over the past summer, Spencer Hall (Form V) and I had the tremendous opportunity to take part in the Bishop T. Walker fellowship throughout the project “Inspiring the Youth in Our Own Backyard: Educating and Mentoring Underserved Kids in Washington D.C.” Spencer and I originally chose this topic for a number of reasons, the primary being a sense of responsibility and overwhelming privilege that we as St. Albans students have. St. Albans fosters our academic growth, athletic and artistic endeavors, all while instilling a strong sense of community through our creed of honor, respect, responsibility, and compassion. It teaches us to work hard, to stay organized, to choose the hard right over the easy wrong, to preserve, to challenge ourselves, and ultimately to build a character within ourselves that strives for excellence and love.
It was extremely perplexing, therefore, to see that in our same city some children do not even know when their next meal is coming. While we get to enjoy the sheer beauty of the Bishop’s Garden or the Cathedral windows, these kids who are mere miles from us struggle with hunger, education, violence, and poverty. It was this disparity in which Spencer and I were filled with a deep sense of responsibility and duty to pursue this project: to build a connection and relationship with these communities in the Washington, D.C. area, and moreover to spread our resources to the less fortunate.
We partnered with KidPower, an organization which desires to inspire underprivileged kids through leadership, academic achievement, and health and wellness. They also assist a variety of public schools within the south D.C. area rather than just one. Our original plan was to travel to these schools and help out in their summer learning programs, with academics in the morning and enrichment sessions such as sports or gardening in the afternoons. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, our plans shifted drastically. We were extremely disappointed in the apparent circumstances, but nevertheless, adapted and revised our plan accordingly as KidPower was able to shift their programs to a virtual basis. Rather than simply help out in classes, we now created our own!
Spencer and I taught a chemistry class to elementary and middle school students over Google Classroom. We would create labs and procedures for the kids to follow, record ourselves doing a lab demonstration for a specific week, and then teach the concepts behind the labs through google slideshows. Each lab was extremely easy and safe to do using minimal equipment so that the kids could get a hands-on learning approach. For example, one of our favorites was called the Density Column, in which we taught the kids about density by having them pour different liquids into the same cup; liquids such as honey and corn syrup were at the bottom whereas water and oil were at the top because of their differing densities! Because there was no travel, food, or lodging to worry about in a typical fellowship, we were able to spend the grant on lab materials. We then shipped these items to each student so that they could participate and follow along.
The bulk of our budget, however, was crucially spent on chromebooks for the kids. When COVID-19 first struck in March last year, a lot of children in Southeast D.C. did not have access to proper internet or computers, and thus their academic growth was halted. All of these computers were shipped to each family’s home so that they could attend our class, KidPower’s other summer activities, and most importantly continue their education in their coming school year. We taught these children for 5 weeks, with each week offering a new lab and concept to go with it. Our google classroom page also functioned as an OnCampus of sorts, with us being able to post announcements and videos while the kids could post questions they had or pictures of them doing the lab too.
Lastly, we did not want this opportunity to be simply a summer of help - we wanted to create a long-lasting partnership with KidPower in which STA students could continue to help tutor and teach underprivileged kids throughout the years to come and after we graduate, and thanks to the help of Rev. Sam, we have! A few STA students have already taught enrichment sessions and served as tutors, and we would love for more of you all to participate in our program. It is a great way to get service hours (especially for underclassmen or those who haven’t been able to due to COVID-19) and give back to the community. If you are interested, you can contact either myself, Spencer Hall, or Rev. Sam to get involved!
Located in Washington D.C., St. Albans School is a private, all boys day and boarding school. For more than a century, St. Albans has offered a distinctive educational experience for young men in grades 4 through 12. While our students reach exceptional academic goals and exhibit first-rate athletic and artistic achievements, as an Episcopal school we place equal emphasis upon moral and spiritual education.