Community Day comes with a side of controversy

Courtesy of Anne Gerbner
Courtesy of Anne Gerbner
Students at the Awbury Arboretum found a slithery friend on Community Day. From left: Bridget Curtin ’14, Joanna Booth ’15 and Isabelle Goldstein ’13.

This year marked the second ever all-Upper School Community Day. Classes were canceled on a slightly rainy Friday; 9th through 12th graders were sorted into groups, and were sent out for a morning of volunteering in the Germantown Community.

Many students had positive experiences. Caryn Miller ’13 said, “I worked at the Boys and Girls Club field picking up litter and moving things in their building. It was fun.”

At Awbury Arboretum, 20 students cleared a field for a future orchard while a few walked to a nearby historic mansion to do office work. Awbury Education Director Heather Zimmerman was delighted with the work and energy of the GFS crew.

However, as much as the masses enjoyed helping the community, some felt idle, even burdensome to the volunteer sites. Caryn said, “we were done after only an hour and then we just came back to school and played soccer. We didn’t really do that much.”

A similar opinion was echoed by Myles Wyche ’14 who said, “It was somewhat of a joke. We went there [Church Lane Garden, and] they didn’t have any real work for us to do. They were trying to make sure that we didn’t mess up the garden more than they were trying to make sure that we helped out the garden.”

Although GFS has the best intentions, it sometimes feels that those intentions are misguided. Many volunteer sites cannot handle a sudden large number of inexperienced kids coming for a few hours.

A lot of planning goes into making Community Day a success, but is one day really enough to make a difference?

This year also had a peculiarity in that it took place during the Day of Silence. While there were no particularly outspoken complaints, this aspect of the day seemed to occur without a hitch. The only request of Community Actions Club was that individuals who chose to be silent not be group leaders.

Katherine Walden ’13, leader of Support for Positive Body Image, had an insight on the obstacles. She said, “I think there might have been a miscommunication between Community Actions and SAGA. But honestly, club scheduling was crazy this year. The schedule has been so full all year that it was almost like everything had to happen on the same day.”

In my opinion, Day of Silence is a national event, and by excluding people who chose to be silent from being leaders, while it logistically made sense, defeats the purpose of demonstrating “being silent.”

Community Day for the most part went off without a hitch and it was followed by the closest GFS has ever been to a field day. I do not know if having hundreds of volunteers work on a single day is the best way to do it, but remaining involved in the Germantown community and doing our best to help out is at the very core of GFS.