Students Explore Innovative Service Learning Opportunities

Eden Golomb, Contributing Writer

In the Upper School, students are required to devote a minimum of 40 hours (previously 30 due to COVID-19) towards service, whether on campus, in New York City, or beyond. Students have found many ways to achieve this goal, ranging from participating in one of Poly’s Service Learning Teams (SLTs), joining the peer academic coaches, or working for an organization outside of school that sparks their interest.


Finding service learning opportunities that appeal to the student body hasn’t always been easy, especially during the years most affected by COVID-19. “Some organizations are gone,” said Director of Service Learning Elijah Sivin. “Some people left their former jobs at nonprofits so maintaining contacts has been a problem.”


 But despite the challenges that COVID-19 posed on service learning, some current students are still finding innovative ways to help communities in need. For senior Marie Culmine, her time spent working at hospitals was beneficial because she hopes to become a doctor in the future. By spending time working at medical offices and aiding patients, she was able to help people and learn more about the profession. Culmine especially enjoyed working at Maimonides Medical Center because she “got to directly interact with the patients.”


Last year, senior Sebastian de Luque also successfully completed a service project that aligned with his interests. He collected soccer supplies from a league in Battery Park and personally delivered them to a Colombian organization that is working towards keeping kids off the streets. 


 “Soccer has just been such an essential part of my life,” said de Luque when asked about why he desired to grant Colombian kids this opportunity. “[I want] to help them fall in love with the sport the same way I did.”


De Luque’s trip to Colombia made such an impact on him that he plans to repeat the experience again this summer. “It feels great,” he said. “Seeing their reactions to getting stuff that I took for granted is enlightening.”


Students interested in getting involved in service-related activities can consult a spreadsheet of well-intentioned organizations and programs made by an SLT that ran this winter. For more information, ask Sivin in Room 103A.