Community Service

The spirit of volunteerism at Gill St. Bernard's is authentic, enthusiastic and joyful—a reflection of our students, faculty and parents and all they bring to our community each day.
 
Founded on the understanding that helping others is an essential part of a purposeful life, community service is an integral part of our school. Many of our best-loved traditions, including Stone Soup Day, Turkey Day and the unit program, are built around or incorporate a strong element of service. In addition to these school-wide events, students at Gill St. Bernard's—through clubs, in collaboration with faculty members and on their own—often initiate and lead service activities. Perhaps the greatest testament to the volunteerism of our students lies in the fact that the school has never mandated service or considered it a pre-requisite for graduation. At Gill St. Bernard's, an eagerness to reach out to the needs of the larger community—and the larger world—is simply a way of life. 
For our Lower Schoolers, community service takes the form of service learning. Whether volunteering in our campus garden or collecting mittens, Lower School service projects are long- term and teacher led. Their goal is to help children see the benefit of their efforts and to reflect on the outcomes.
 
Community service for our youngest learners begins each year with the annual Stone Soup celebration, which is held in early October. The Stone Soup tradition highlights the power of sharing. Each child brings in diced vegetables that were harvested from the school garden or noodles from home and takes a turn dropping them into an enormous soup pot. Afterward, the youngest child in the school adds the soup stone to the pot. In the original fable, it is the youngest child in the village who is entrusted with the secret of the stone: namely that sharing, not magic, creates the soup from nothing.
Throughout Middle School, students increasingly take ownership of service activities. Although service remains an important piece of the curriculum, there is a veritable explosion of student-run initiatives in the middle grades. Several Middle School Clubs, including the Community Excellence Club, Half the Sky Club, the Garden Club and Reading Buddies are centered around service activities. Whether organizing a canned food drive or weaving paracord bracelets for Susan G. Komen Foundation, our Middle School students are committed to making the campus, the community and the world a better place to be.
 
Each year, GSB's Half the Sky Club hosts a bagel breakfast fundraiser for girls at the Kopila Valley School in Nepal. Last spring, the group was able to raise enough money to send six girls to school for one year, including medical costs, food, and supplies. In addition to supporting girls' education, the club is committed to advocating for girls' rights and gives our Middle School girls an opportunity to discuss issues affecting girls and women today, both at home and abroad. 
In Upper School, students begin to understand their role as leaders of the community, and they enthusiastically take the lead in organizing and implementing school-wide service events. In addition, many of our older students initiate service efforts on campus and take part in service outside of school. In recent years, Upper School students have held blanket drives, offered free tutoring services, hosted youth lacrosse clinics, collected sports equipment for underserved programs, volunteered with local EMT squads and with the national ski patrol, collected furniture for victims of fire and built homes in Guatemala and throughout New Jersey.
Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a rigorous, meaningful, and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.