The entire Oak Knoll School community, continuing a nearly 20-year tradition, spent Thursday, October 24, 2019, serving local charitable organizations during the school’s annual Service Day.
More than 325 Upper School students helped more than a dozen local organizations that support, among other things, the local homeless community, agricultural needs and educational efforts.
“It’s really special that everyone – all the teachers and the students – as a community go out and do service,” said Elizabeth Athaide ’21, who was one of several students to plant saplings at the Willowwood Arboretum in Chester.
“It’s a really unique experience that’s good to take time to appreciate,” Athaide added.
Ella McGoldrick ’22, one of the students who organized donations for the thrift store at the Market Street Mission in Morristown, said she especially enjoyed sharing the experience with her classmates.
“It’s special because you get to do it with a lot of the people from your community and you get to bond with them, too,” said McGoldrick.
Yet another group of Upper School students and faculty ventured to the Sacred Heart School in Jersey City, a school Oak Knoll has a special partnership through service for several years.
There, Teresa Pollard ’21 and Julianna Feit ’20 ran a Halloween crafts workshop and art project, respectively, with the students. Meanwhile, Mary Margaret Schroeder ’20 and Janet Pearce ’21 held a calligraphy workshop.
Additionally, Upper School dance and physical education teacher Carlee Bennett and Upper School health and physical education teacher Mimi Hartnett did dance and yoga workshops with the Sacred Heart students.
At New Eyes for the Needy in Millburn, students sorted donated eyeglasses that will help people throughout the United States and other parts of the world see.
“The students are going to afford people to see things with their eyes, and when you see things with your eyes it also opens your heart,” said Upper School theology teacher Coleen Bradley, who accompanied the students.
Among the other organizations served were the Raptor Trust, Community Food Bank, the Dominican Sisters, Bridges Outreach, Lyons Veteran Hospital, Atlantic Homecare and Hospice, Bernice’s Place and the Reeves-Reed Arboretum.
One of the unique aspects of Service Day is that it is embraced schoolwide, as Lower School students collected donated items that they assembled into breakfast bags and personal-item kits to benefit those served by the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless.
A new dimension to the Lower School Service Day activities was fifth- and sixth-grade students taking a leadership role and running activities related to the importance of charity for their counterparts in kindergarten through the fourth grade.
“The Oak Knoll community is really unique in that we drop everything on Service Day to be an important member of the community,” said Beth Huck ’84, grade 6 language arts, reading and religion teacher. “It’s everyone’s opportunity to give back.”
Service Day has been a staple at Oak Knoll since 2002, though the entire school community works tirelessly to live out the example of founder Cornelia Connelly throughout the year, both when school is in session and during school breaks.