Service & Social Justice
Service opportunities represent a vital part of the St. Patrick's curriculum, inviting students to engage with the larger world and develop an understanding of the complex challenges and needs of our local, national, and global communities. While these opportunities are numerous and varied, they reflect the core values of our mission and Episcopal identity in order to:
- inspire a spirit of compassion and understanding,
- respect the dignity of all human beings,
- engage in civic responsibility and global citizenship,
- view challenges to the human family from multiple perspectives,
- develop a lifelong commitment to service and making a difference in the world,
- promote empathy and build character, and
- develop a social justice framework.
One lasting image that captures the importance of service activity at St. Patrick’s is the arrival at school of our four-year-old PK students, each clutching a vegetable on the day each month when they will scrub and chop the items to make soup that older students and their parents will serve to homeless people that evening. Our three-year-old Nursery students prepare trail mix that day, which we call Helping Hands Day. Even with children at such young ages, St. Patrick’s strives to find a way to have them understand a social issue in hopes that both their understanding and their response to the issue will grow over time.
Lower School service takes place within the context of the classroom, as an extension of academic experiences, religion classes, or schoolwide service initiatives.
Examples of such service include:
- making sandwiches, soup, and trail mix for the award-winning Grate Patrol program. Students prepare food in the classrooms, and families and teachers help distribute meals twice a month with the Salvation Army,
- collecting medical supplies and funds in support of school fees, lunches, and teacher salaries for our sister school in Haiti,
- conducting book and video drives to supply Children’s Hospital with entertainment resources for patients,
- sending care packages to U.S. servicemen and women abroad, and
- participating in the "Souper Bowl" canned drive for St. Philip’s Food Distribution Center around the time of the Super Bowl.
In Grades 5 through 8, students participate in a either service-learning class or a religion class that incorporates service as part of the academic experience. The classes complement classroom learning about critical social issues with experiential learning by providing students opportunities to serve in the larger community. Student examine the root causes of hunger, homelessness, or poverty while learning about local and global organizations that combat these problems. Through grant-writing, website design, interviews, presentations, fundraising, and reflection, students learn what it takes to make a positive difference in the world.
Service learning initiatives include:
- participation in our annual Gifts for Goods Fair,
- interviewing local nonprofits and using website design,
- engaging in service projects with organizations like D.C. Central Kitchen, Martha’s Table, Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home for Seniors, So Others May Eat (SOME), and Iona Senior Services.
Our students have provided the impetus for St. Patrick's reaching out in response to global crises. After Hurricane Matthew and, more recently, after the 2016 earthquake caused extensive damage, St. Patrick's students were moved to act in support of our partner school and parish in Haiti, St. Etienne.
At St. Patrick's, we live our values of service, equity, and social justice and we encourage community members to recognize that we are part of something much larger than ourselves. Our four-decade partnership with St. Etienne de Bateau in Haiti, our summer enrichment program with Horizons Greater Washington, and our participation in the Grate Patrol program are hallmark programs of our school community.
Grate Patrol, an effort to feed the hungry in Washington, D.C. organized by the Salvation Army, is an important service opportunity in the life of St. Patrick’s. Grate Patrol dispatches a van stocked with food for distribution to the homeless and hungry throughout the city every night of the year. On a rotating basis and with the help of Room Parents, all students in Grades 1 through 8 make sandwiches and bag cookies and snacks multiple times during the school year for distribution on the Grate Patrol van. Nursery, PK, and Kindergarten students contribute by making soup and trail mix.
On the third and fourth Wednesdays of each month, a St. Patrick’s family and a faculty or staff member ride on the Salvation Army van to deliver the food. Distribution volunteers meet at St. Patrick’s at 6:00 pm, collect the food our students have made, and meet the van at the Salvation Army building in Foggy Bottom. Volunteers ride on the van, delivering food at several stops in downtown Washington, finishing for the evening between 8:00 and 8:30 pm.
Since 2009, St. Patrick’s has partnered with Horizons Greater Washington (HGW), part of a national network that provides a summer-based intervention to help students from low-income families continue learning at a time when they might otherwise experience a decline in their academic development. Each summer, cohorts of students in rising Grades 1 through 9—from our D.C. Public Schools partner Bancroft Elementary in Mount Pleasant—spend six weeks at the Day School engaged in a mix of academic and recreational activities, often under the instruction of St. Patrick’s teachers. Horizons students return every summer for close to a decade, and we commit to each family we enroll for that long. Many St. Patrick’s alumni serve as Horizons Assistant Teachers, or HATs.
Learn more about Horizons Greater Washington at St. Patrick's.
Since 1979, St. Patrick’s has maintained a relationship with St. Etienne Church and School in Haiti. Across the decades, countless members of the St. Patrick’s community—parishioners, faculty and staff, parents, students, and alumni—have contributed to this partnership through visits, cultural exchanges, educational opportunities, and fund drives.
Our Haiti partnership is one of our most cherished friendships and an integral part of our strategic work to make St. Patrick’s a more globally conscious community.
While Day School students had not traveled to Haiti since 2003—a result of political instability and, after the devastating earthquake of 2010, the need to concentrate on disaster relief—three Upper School students joined their parents and members of the faculty and staff on a recent visit, part of what we hope will become a regular feature of student involvement in this important work.
The St. Patrick’s Press provided the first comprehensive account of St. Patrick’s relationship with Haiti. That issue is available below.
You can also learn more about music in the community of St. Etienne in the video featured below by St. Patrick's music teacher Anne Tyler.
St. Patrick's Church and Day School work closely together to support our partner church and school in Haiti, St. Etienne. A beloved school fundraiser called Hoops for Haiti and a sale of Haitian art, along with other shared initiatives, raise funds. Our deep commitment to the St. Patrick's-St. Etienne partnership has grown over nearly four decades.
The Community Service Clubs are a backbone of the annual Gifts for Good, St. Patrick's alternative holiday gift fair. Founded in 2006, the fair reflects St. Patrick’s commitment to serving local and global communities. Students, teachers, and parents work together, in the true spirit of the holidays, to offer token gifts in exchange for donations to organizations or causes that are important to them. This year’s event was held Saturday, December 3, in the Gymnasium and Performance Center. Donations supported many organizations promoting the greater good, including Pristine Seas, D.C. Hunger Solutions, Covenant House, World Wildlife Fund, and a wide range of other social interests.
In addition, the clubs offer students an opportunity to learn about need, take action, and lead. Throughout the school year, the clubs study social issues, which provides context for their service efforts. In the past year, Grade 7 club members envisioned and managed a penny drive that raised money for Haitian Art to be used in classrooms. The Grade 6 club has made quilt squares for orphans in South Africa, collected Halloween candy for patients at NIH, donated costumes to children through Martha's Table, and gathered socks for people experiencing homelessness.
These and similar experiences cultivate in our students, and across all members of our community, looking beyond our own needs, taking thoughtful, positive action to improve our world, and habits of service.