Trinity’s Office of Public Service, under the direction of Dr. Sarah Bennison and in conjunction with a team of nine faculty members, oversees Kindergarten-twelfth grade service initiatives and supports faculty in service learning work. Trinity’s program in Public Service works to engage students and faculty in our mission to “engage the larger community of city, nation, and world of which we are a part,” to “serve our neighbors” and to “give joyfully and generously to others.” Beginning in the Lower School and extending throughout Trinity’s three divisions, students engage in meaningful curricular and co-curricular service learning work. Trinity’s transformative service learning approach is grounded in our commitment to L.E.A.R.N. from others in our community and beyond. Through service learning work, imbedded throughout our curriculum, students learn to:
- LEAD with love.
- ENGAGE with meaning.
- ACT with care.
- REFLECT with intelligence.
- NAVIGATE change.
Trinity takes a transformative approach to service learning. Many are familiar with the term “community service" and have participated in these forms of service by raising money for causes, organizing charitable drives, or participating in hands-on service projects or activities. While community service activities play a valuable role in society, Trinity is working toward what is called a "service learning" approach. Scholars Joel Westheimer and Joseph Kahne articulate the difference between these approaches in their writing on citizenship. They outline three different types of citizens: personally responsible, participatory, and transformative. The personally responsible citizen acts responsibly in the community; the participatory citizen is an active member of community organizations and/or improvement efforts; the transformative citizen critically assesses social, political, and economic structures.
At Trinity, we seek to educate students to be critical thinkers with nuanced frameworks of understanding the world. Our mission asks us to be "persuasive and courageous citizens." In keeping with these ideas, Trinity's Office of Public Service incorporates a service learning approach, applying what we learn in school to effective work in the world.
Service learning, put simply, is the application of knowledge for community needs. We seek to build on community service models which focus on individual volunteerism. We are working toward a service learning approach focused on developing citizens who seek to solve systemic human and community issues through innovative and imaginative approaches. This is a transformative approach; this is service learning.