To commemorate their fifteenth anniversary, The Girls’ School of Austin launched a ’15 Years 15 Hours’ challenge to their students, faculty, and staff. The goal was for each girl to volunteer 15 hours over the course of the school year. The GSA community eagerly accepted this challenge! Many girls started the year off strong with various Hurricane Harvey relief efforts that included fundraising efforts, hosting diaper drives, and putting together care packages. The holidays brought another spike in activity as girls volunteered with Operation Blue Santa, Community First Village, and Angle Giving Tree to name a few. The girls continued strong, giving of their time throughout the winter and spring, with organizations such as the Ronald McDonald House, Urban Roots, Austin Pets Alive, Mobile Loaves and Fishes, Girls Giving Grants, and many more. Some students even created their own community service projects. These included lemonade stands and bake sales in which the proceeds were donated to a favorite charity. One imaginative artist put her creative talents to work by commissioning pet portraits to benefit Austin Pets Alive.
Throughout the year, students were recognized in school-wide community meetings once they reached 5, 10 and 15 hours of service. Once individual students reached the 15-hour goal, they received a Community Service Award and a Teo’s Gelato gift certificate. Ultimately, all 150 girls participated in the community service challenge with 66 girls reaching the goal of 15 hours before the end of the school year. GSA’s service learning coordinator, Shanna Prewitt-Hines, said, “It was quite incredible to see the girls step into this challenge without hesitation. When we launched this endeavor back at the start of school, we could only dream of the work they would do in the community. To see every single girl, from the youngest to the oldest, engage in work around the community to make Austin an even better place was awe-inspiring. These girls are amazing, and the future certainly looks bright with these girls at the helm.” The hours earned for this challenge were completed in the students’ own time and were in addition to The Girls’ School’s already robust service learning program in which each grade is paired with a local organization. The community engagement done through the service learning program connects directly with the girls’ classroom studies and takes part in regular intervals throughout the year.
Ultimately, the GSA set a goal of 1,500 hours between students and teachers for the year and kept track of the hours on a poster displayed in the front office. The community easily surpassed the original goal, completing over 1,800 hours! To wrap up the project, in the final Community Meeting of the year, girls who exceeded the original goal were recognized in a special ceremony. Kindergartners with 15 or more hours and girls in grades 1 – 8 who logged 20 or more hours were donned with purple capes and masks and dubbed GSA’s ‘Service Super Heroes’. The school concluded the ceremony with a slideshow featuring photographs of the students volunteering in their community from throughout the year. The challenge has been so popular that GSA plans to continue the tradition of encouraging and recognizing out-of-school volunteer work next year and in the years to come.
Watch a video of our service superstars in action: