Students Got As Much Out of Volunteering as They Gave

Before Brooks School's class of 2018 graduated and went out into the world, they went out into their community, and spent a morning in service helping local non-profit organizations in the Merrimack Valley.

"I enjoyed getting off campus with my classmates and being able to do something that impacts people outside of Brooks," said Connor Breen '18, who volunteered with six other students at Windrush Farm (shown below), across town from campus in North Andover.

Visit to see the full gallery of photos from the class of 2018's Community Service Day.

Breen and 104 other students in the just-graduated class came together to support the mission of seven organizations that provide services, support and recreational opportunities to the communities in which they operate on May 23.

"The kids were amazing," said Kevin Block, Superintendent of the Andover/North Andover Management Unit of the Trustees, The Stevens-Coolidge Place (shown above and below). "They came ready to work and got more done in two hours than I ever could have imagined."

Many of the organizations are ones with whom the school has been working through our Community Service afternoon activity program during the school year – all provided the Brooks students a chance to give back, in various ways:

  • Project Home Again: Students unpacked and moved donated furniture for staff at the Lawrence, Mass.-based non-profit that provides low-income families in need with new and used household goods, furniture and appliances.
  • Windrush Farm: Literal heavy lifting was part of the job for volunteers at Windrush, which offers therapeutic and recreational riding and equine-assisted activities to adults and children with special needs. Students picked up rocks in the horse pens, dug holes, cleaned up and did various other manual labor tasks.
  • The Stevens-Coolidge Place: Getting hands dirty was also a requirement for students working at this historical landmark in North Andover. They helped mulching, planting and gardening to beautify the property for visitors.
  • Camp Tasker: Summer camp programs through the Boys & Girls Club of Haverhill, Mass. are held at Camp Tasker, in Newton, New Hampshire. Brooksians assisted the camp organizers prepare for their summer sessions by cleaning up the boats and all of the picnic tables and readying the picnic area for campers.
  • The Greater Lawrence Community Boating Club: Cleaning was key at this Lawrence facility, which offers sailing lessons, kayaking, canoeing, paddle-boarding, crew team and rowing for all ages and skill levels on the Merrimack River. Students scrubbed up in the boathouse and throughout the property (before enjoying a bit of time out on the water themselves).
  • Lawrence Boys & Girls Club: More than 4,000 young students use this youth development center a year (500 in the center's programs daily!), so Brooks students volunteering at this Lawrence, Mass. facility focused on cleaning, by washing walls and wiping up kids' cubbies and tables.
  • Bobbin Farm: Brooks' campus farmer JoAnn Robichaud runs this small, busy farm on the edge of campus. Students helped her prepare for the summer growing season by staking, planting, landscaping and pitching in on other essential activities.

This dedicated morning of community service prior to graduation has been a tradition for more than a decade. It's hard to tell, though, who benefits from it more – the organizations or the students.

"It was fun to learn something new," said Kate Packard '18 of her volunteering on campus at the Bobbin Farm. "I've never planted tomatoes before! And I really enjoyed getting to spend time with my classmates while doing something to help the community. Brooks has given me so much over the past four years."

Melany Blanco '18 worked alongside Packard at the farm and echoed the sentiment. "I liked it because this was something that I had never done during my time at Brooks," said Blanco. "And I learned, unsurprisingly, that working on a farm is hard work especially when the sun is beaming down on you."

The satisfaction of helping out was what Breen most appreciated from his experience at Windrush Farm. "It was really cool to see how grateful the staff at Windrush were for us coming to help, and it felt good to learn about how they help people with disabilities," he said. "It was great to know that my little piece of work could end up helping a kid who isn't as fortunate as my classmates and I am."

Even the smallest gesture of community service can make a big difference, learned Jason Gold '18 and Bella O'Shea '18.

"We helped sort, move and deliver a set of mattresses, which allowed a single mother to get her kids out of foster care and back home," said Gold, who volunteered at Project Home Again. "It was incredible to know we helped with something so important and emotional."

Post-trip to Camp Tasker, Bella O'Shea said, "I realized we should gather together grade-wide and school-wide more often to help with community service projects. We should incorporate more community service days and opportunities to help out in the local area because even a few hours of service makes a huge difference for these organizations."

For more information about Brooks School's Community Service program, click here.

About one third of the sixth-form has been engaged in community service on campus during their time at Brooks said Director of Community Service and Assistant Dean of Student Ashley Johnson. And that's exactly why she believes that this day for the entire sixth-form is so important.

"It is so easy, especially in the last few days of school, to be focused on graduating and not looking at the outside world as much," she said. "This initiative gives students perspective and gets them thinking outside of themselves. Ultimately, we hope that it gets them thinking about being greater citizens of the world."

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Commencement Weekend 2018

Brooks celebrated the sixth-form's graduation with two days of prizes, speeches and special moments.

Spring Activity Awards

Athletes and teammates in afternoon activities were honored in chapel on Friday.

What Would You Say to Your Younger Self?

Brooks' bulletin board tradition gives graduating students a way to share advice — and be remembered long after they leave campus.