The Service Learning Center: Here to Do Good, Well

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“Teach how to do good, well,” was the summary of the Service Learning Center’s mission in its presentation to M-A’s Shared Decision-Making Site Council. The Service Learning Center (SLC) is M-A’s “hub for service,” as Co-president Emiko Edmunds puts it, and it conducts service days, helps students organize service, and brings together all service clubs at M-A, from Surfriders to Intercambio. Student leaders organize in P-5 with the SLC Staff Director Andrew Stuart to collectively work out where to put their resources, how to advertise service opportunities to the school, and how to best help the M-A Community. 

In 2016, a group of students who had done volunteer work on a trip to Central America were enamored with the idea of service learning and wanted to bring it to M-A. Meeting with Stanford’s Design Center that year, and Haas Center in the next, the students began to create their own SLC, officially founding it in 2018 and putting what they learned into practice.

Service learning is service with equal focus on helping those being served and those doing the service. Stuart said, “Service learning can really offer infinite pathways to proactive benefits like resilience and combating loneliness. It helps with resilience; the studies back it. It helps with wellness. It helps with connection, integration, all the things we strive for at M-A. Service learning can really help people on an individual level.” Last March, researchers in China tested teaching service learning to college undergraduates and found that it had a clear, positive effect on emotional intelligence and dealing with difficult circumstances. Edmunds added, “It’s a really great way to bond with friends. You are manually doing stuff and hanging out and making new friends, while also engaging in service. It’s a really empowering experience.”

Between its creation and today, the SLC has been busy. They have worked with and directly integrated into some units in Ethnic Studies and the AVID program. They have organized voter pre-registration, with panels including State Senator Josh Becker to teach about voting. Their bread and butter, however, is service days. From sending the water polo team to Ecumenical Hunger, to mobilizing the freshman football team, they are a staple in the current organization. One of the most memorable moments for Stuart was a long way from M-A. “I was touched by the Care Bears trip, going all the way down to the Mexican-American border. They used the tenets of positive service and researched different programs on the border. They didn’t just decide to help; they really did the research, connected, and educated their group, and it was probably the best project I had seen in terms of sheer hard work,” Stuart said. SLC clubs also do cleanups in San Francisco and beaches in Half Moon Bay.

The SLC is now looking to tie service at M-A closer together with a united brand by using service days to bring more distant programs at M-A together and possibly creating the first Service Learning class at M-A. “We have a lot of new goals to raise awareness, increase our impact, and make sure we are actually addressing the needs of our community and of students,” Edmunds said. 

To Stuart, the importance of doing what you can is not to be understated. He said, “I think it’s fascinating to think about all the research done on service learning and sometimes I think we who run the Service Learning Center can feel alone in that knowledge. So, we want to really get out the message that service learning can be such a benefit to kids: from their mental health, to wellbeing, to resilience, to grades, to happiness. The more we can bring that message to M-A, the better off M-A can be.”

The SLC is active every weekday in P-5, and you can follow @maservicelearningcenter on Instagram for more information, or contact Andrew Stuart at astuart@seq.org to find ways to help. You can also join one of the many service clubs at M-A that work with the SLC.

Brian is a senior at M-A with a storied history of journalism. His favorite stories to write tend to be about school, local and state policies, politics, and issues, making the long and vague world of bureaucracy brief and understandable. He writes creatively and plays chess in his free time.

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