This fall marks the return to Love Our Schools Love Our Schools Day Season! After a 2-year pause, we are thrilled to see volunteers return to school campuses – to see businesses and community organizations rally to support students, families, and teachers every Saturday this October, and even a few in November!
Sometimes people ask me what is so important about Love Our Schools Day. Can one day on a school campus really make a difference? Of course, this question is understandable, and yet, the answer still echoes with resounding power. YES! While we are completing simple projects, it is often what happens beneath the surface that makes the biggest impact. Have you ever had a friend or family member come alongside you and help you clean out a room before a surgery or before welcoming a new baby? Has someone helped you install a playground, plant a tree, fix your car? What difference did it make? How did it change not just the practical options you had available, but the way you experienced your world? What did it mean to you to not be alone in that moment?
You see, at the heart of a school is what connects us all. Community. Family. Children. Work. Education. A place where hope for a brighter future meets the action steps to prepare the next generation for exactly that. Schools are the place where the diversity of the community is represented. Schools are multi-generational and multi-cultural – where the history we share is passed down, and the solutions to new challenges are formed. When we work together, we find connection, support, and active hope for the future. And we find that we are not alone.
Recently I had the privilege of participating in a Love Our Schools Day event hosted at Franklin Police and Fire High School in the Phoenix Union High School District. This innovative school helps aspiring fire fighters and police officers learn how to enter these professions. I did not expect the amount of comradery and connection that I witnessed, but it stirred something deep within me to watch these fire fighters, police officers, and marines come alongside nonprofits, faith communities, and medical agencies to host a community resource fair as part of their offerings. Volunteers provided free haircuts, medical check-ups, car seats, and food to families in the neighborhood. Hundreds of people from all walks of life thronged the school and did not leave disappointed! Bounce houses and foam games were available for younger kids, music pumped up the excitement, and they even hosted a car show for teens and adults. We need the encouragement of days like these – to see the police department and community working together in such positive ways in the heart of our city where racial tensions and polarizing perspectives often keep people separated. We need to see unity. We need to experience community.
Love Our Schools Day is not only a service day FOR a school. It is a service day where students, educators, parents, and community members all join forces to make things better for their community. School projects can range from simple cleaning and maintenance, to painting murals, re-designing the teacher’s lounge, or putting a facelift on a sports field – the important thing is to focus efforts where they will make the biggest impact. Every organization and individual bring their area of expertise, assets, and connections. As students, parents, and educators work together to support the school, they find connection and inspiration for what is possible.
When Love Our Schools Day is at its best, students get to bring their energy to the projects and even represent the student voice as projects are selected. National Junior Honor Society, Kiwanis, student choirs, student government, student sports teams or DECA club members are bright examples of students leading the way as they give back to their school and community. In circumstances where Love Our Schools Day is coordinated throughout a school district, it is common to see the soccer or basketball team at the high school serve its feeder elementary school with a sports clinic, or rally spirit at a school assembly as well as supporting campus improvement projects. In these instances, not only is leadership development being shared across the district, but mentoring opportunities as well!
But it is also important to galvanize community organizations to participate in Love Our Schools Day. In fact, 70% of the people who live in neighborhoods around schools do not have students in that school. When residents receive most of their information about their local school from television news or election mailings, they do not have an accurate picture of what is happening behind school walls, or even how valuable the school is to their community. Often, they are unaware of how much the well-being of their neighborhood, business, home, houses of faith are connected to the health of the local school. When this happens, community members can miss opportunities for the realization of shared goals because they are not using their influence and assets strategically for the things that matter to all of them. Love Our Schools Day offers the chance for business, faith, nonprofit, and government leaders to peel back the curtain and discover what we have in common – to build relationships with others in their community and begin to build the community into the best version of itself.
One of my favorite things is getting to hear the behind-the-scenes questions, excitement, and ah-ha moments of school districts as they prepare for Love Our Schools Day. Recently one principal in particular described her favorite part of the day from last year. Her students took the initiative to choose the school projects and their enthusiasm was so contagious that they inspired a huge group of parents and community partners to join them. On the big day they painted speed bumps and curbs in their parking lot. I don’t know if painting curbs is the most popular example for a school volunteer day, but her students were so energized working together that they extended the day by 3 more hours and found several more projects that needed to be accomplished. As a parent, teacher, and leader I must admit that there is nothing quite as motivating for community members as watching our students lead the way to pay it forward!
We hope these stories entice you to take advantage of the opportunity to serve your local school for Love Our Schools Day. Bring your business, community organization or family with you to make a difference! We guarantee that your sore muscles will be worth the time, relationship building and good feelings you will have at the end of the day! Plus, you will be a part of something so much bigger than any one of us, because the way we treat one another impacts the way our children experience their world – and ultimately, the world we will hand them tomorrow.
Founder & CEO, School Connect