Community service is a priority at Bridgeway Academy. Not only for our staff and our educators–but also for our students. It’s so important, in fact, that we encourage student involvement in their communities at all ages and require community service hours from our high school students. Why? Because Bridgeway Academy believes that students should live beyond themselves and assist those in need within their communities.
This is the driving force behind Bridgeway Academy’s involvement with Compassion International, a holistic child development program that works directly through local churches in impoverished nations. Compassion International focuses on children and their education, nutrition, basic life skills, relationship skills, and medical care. Their centers provide all of these needs, along with other services such as job skills and training, in a safe and loving environment. Additionally, Compassion International supports businesses in these communities by purchasing materials from local merchants as well as offering micro-loans to guardians so they are able to start or expand their own businesses to better provide for their families.
In times of true need, such as during a natural disaster or when a child requires extreme intervention, Compassion International raises funds and helps through their Act for Compassion. And that’s where Bridgeway Academy’s community service enters the picture.
Act for Compassion
According to Holly Morgan, a Bridgeway Academy academic advisor who spearheads our community service initiatives, including Act for Compassion, this will be Bridgeway’s sixth year participating in fundraising for Compassion International through Act for Compassion.
In each of those six years, Holly and her student volunteers have focused on one major issue and committed to fundraising for that need. In past years, Bridgeway Academy participated in fundraising for disaster relief, COVID pandemic relief, special needs children, Water for Life, and children at risk of exploitation. This year’s initiative focuses on Haiti, a nation struggling through an ongoing, deadly political crisis as well as gang violence and an economy in shambles.
How Bridgeway Academy Is Helping Haiti
For more than a decade, Haiti has been hit with one tragedy after another. First a devastating earthquake in 2010, then the destruction of Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Just four years later, COVID-19 struck, followed by another powerful earthquake and intense political violence culminating in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July of 2021. The country’s economy was already among the poorest in the world, and these recent events have done nothing to aid in the recovery.
For these reasons, as well as Compassion International’s prior outreach in the country, Holly and her Bridgeway Academy student volunteers decided to make Haiti the focus of this year’s Act for Compassion. Following the 2010 earthquake, Compassion International quickly brought in relief supplies by truck (and even on donkeys) while other organizations waited for Haiti’s airport to open. Former sponsored children of Haiti, appreciative of how much Compassion International had helped them in years prior, assisted in the efforts by bringing supplies to families. By 2015, Compassion International had built 25 new schools and helped so many families in need. For this year’s Act for Compassion, “Hope for Haiti,” student volunteers will read each email detailing Compassion International’s involvement in the initiative (researched by Bridgeway Academy’s very own National Beta Club students), watch the linked videos, journal their thoughts on the issue, make a donation, and participate in Act Day on March 24, 2022.
Act Day is where the rubber meets the road. On this day, the student volunteers are not only encouraged to help those in need within their own communities, but they’re also asked to reflect on the mission by putting themselves in the shoes of those they’re helping. For example, our students may take on the challenge of living as a child in poverty by skipping one meal and only eating portioned food for the other two meals, similar to that of a child in a developing or impoverished country; they might be tasked with limiting their entire family’s water consumption to 10 gallons; or they might have to design a home for four that is only 100 square feet in size.
These exercises allow our students to truly understand the struggles of those they’re seeking to assist while also pushing them to use outside-the-box thinking in order to survive. One Bridgeway Academy student, an 11th grader named Grace Probst, participated in the limited-gallons-of-water act, and it created a whole new perspective. “I used only five gallons of water for the entire day,” explained Grace. “I drank a gallon of water for the day, I used some of the water for my pets, cooking my two meals, washing dishes, and washing my face and brushing my teeth.
“I can feel how problematic only having five gallons of water could be, given the other tasks and occurrences that necessitate the need for water,” she continued. “One day gave me an example of the challenge, and I can only imagine how excruciatingly difficult life would be carrying on days, weeks, and months with this bit of water.”
Defining Community Service in Multiple Ways
Act for Compassion is one of many community service projects in which Bridgeway Academy participates. According to Holly, “we do a donation drive for God’s Pit Crew in November to help with natural disaster relief in the US. In December, the National Beta students send out an email about ‘Giving Now and All Year Long’ with some amazing ideas. Come April, we also have Earth Week, which has a full week of daily activities and volunteer ideas for helping our planet, along with some journaling on what is learned in those emails.”
The National Beta Honors Club students also create their own initiatives, implemented in late spring each year, designed to get those in their community involved. Overall, up to 70 of our high school students participate in Act for Compassion, a very impressive number indicative of the community service dedication modeled by Bridgeway Academy.
Beyond the inherent good involved with community service, these types of initiatives also build the Bridgeway Academy community in so many ways. “Being able to participate in something so much greater than yourself, that you know others from your school are also participating in, can lead to togetherness,” explained Holly. “Conversations end up happening on our social media or in our Live Online Classes and clubs about these events.”
Sometimes these discussions happen organically within clubs that have nothing to do with community service. “The high school Minecraft Club recently had a great conversation about community service and the Act for Compassion event,” said Holly. “When a service event, like Earth Week, involves helping out at the local level, students are making even more connections and may find they have the heart and drive for a particular aspect of their community.”
Bridgeway Academy 11th grader and student volunteer Liam Pinzone agrees with Holly. “Community service builds spirit in communities by helping with morale, showing that you want to make a difference and make a change, making you closer to your community, and building togetherness.”
The Socialization Aspect
As you’re aware, socialization is always a topic of conversation regarding homeschooling. Not only do these community service projects and events provide tangible assistance to those in need, they also promote socialization between fellow students as well as between students and their communities. The sharing of ideas during Act for Compassion, Bridgeway Academy’s Spirit Week, the December Giving email, and Earth Week are excellent opportunities for students to get together (virtually), chat, and, well, socialize with fellow students who share similar interests and the passion to help others.
Ashton Hobbie, an 11th grader and frequent volunteer at Bridgeway Academy, believes that the act of community service alone enables natural socialization and interaction “because in order to do community service, you usually have to speak to someone to set up your project, and with that brings socialization–as well as talking about it with my peers after it’s done.”
Grace also believes that community service is a wonderful opportunity for socialization. “Getting out in the community to engage in community service events allows participants a greater reach into society, networking opportunities, and improved social skills,” she said. “These initiatives teach students how important helping those in need is and, in turn, more firmly links students to the community. Also, volunteers can meet neighbors and others in the community. Further, community service builds and improves skills that a student will need in the future workplace and allows the student to ‘try out’ a career. It is a valuable experience to practice socializing in different environments.”
The good that comes from participating in community service is immeasurable–for both the volunteers and the recipients of the goodwill. The sense of humanity, the compassion for others, the actual act of providing necessities to those in need, the community building, and the unity are all wonderful results of community service, which is why Bridgeway Academy so proudly encourages it from its students.
“So many working together for a common good helps with bringing about unity,” stated Holly. And that’s something we can all use more of these days.