Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

November 2016

Nobles Parents' Newsletter November 2016

"A Parent Guide to Service at Nobles: Not just getting it done, but finding meaningful opportunities" by Director of EXCEL Ben Snyder



At a recent meeting of local independent school leaders I discovered, much to my surprise, that Nobles was the standard bearer in terms of having a significant service requirement. “It isn’t really genuine ‘service’ if it’s required” said one administrator at another school. Someone else shared that their school “encouraged” students to become involved and that “many” did. I walked away simultaneously dismayed by the lack of commitment from peer schools yet proud of the long standing “culture of service” at Nobles and its direct connection to fulfilling our mission of “leadership for the public good.”

John F. Kennedy’s observation "For those to whom much is given, much is required" (or expected) has biblical roots which reflect the timelessness of the expectation that individuals have commitments to one another;  those blessed with opportunity are obligated to behave in ways that benefit the common good.  Beyond that philosophical foundation lies the pragmatic consideration that if we believe something is critical to the development of a young person’s intellect and character, we must require it — not simply make it an optional activity.

At Nobles, our goal is for every student to find an opportunity to serve in a way that has meaning for her or him and that fulfills a broader community need.

So what is the requirement — and how do Noble students fulfill it?

Every upper school student is required to perform, document, and reflect upon 80 hours of service prior to graduation. Most students fulfill their requirement (and more than two thirds of the Class of 2016 exceeded the requirement) through Nobles EXCEL program offerings including:

  • Afternoon program community service (available every season for all upper school students)
  • Travel programs — Nobles service trips generally include up to 40 hours of service.
  • Other programs such as tutoring for Achieve, participating in the Empty Bowls program, working at the Stamp Out Hunger drive, Ride for Food event or with Sunday sled hockey

A handful of students  fulfill their requirement by documenting service with outside organizations, especially those with which the student or family has prior relationships. To pursue such “independent” service (in the summer, on weekends or during vacations) students must have their service approved by the EXCEL Community Service team. In addition, the service must be for a non-profit, not involve a family member as a supervisor, and preferably puts a student into an unfamiliar or challenging environment that benefits an underserved community.

Students are also asked to reflect on their service (through journals or presentations) as we know such reflection leads to more impactful learning. In addition, we work to provide context for students around the societal needs to which their service is responding and the strategies employed to address some of the larger issues involved.

To give a sense of what is possible, below are some examples of how some current students and a recent grad have engaged with service at Nobles;

  • A recent Nobles graduate worked at the Dedham YMCA afterschool program through our afternoon program, traveled with Nobles to Rwanda and was co-president of an Indo-American Youth Service group.
  • A current Nobles junior was part of the Nobles afternoon program tutoring at the Ohrenberger School in Boston, tutors for the Achieve program, helped found the “Golden Dawgs” program connecting local seniors with Nobles students and has been on the Nobles service trip to Romania.
  • A Nobles senior participated in the afternoon program Empty Bowls which benefited local food pantries, went on a Nobles service trip, and through her church participated in a mission trip to Philadelphia and helps out at her church’s “rest stop” to help the homeless in Boston.
  • One of the members of the Class of 2017 has been significantly involved in the sled hockey program at Nobles as well as tutoring in Achieve and used his photography skills to be an event photographer at a local community benefit race.

We have learned that “one size doesn’t fit all” and what may have a deep sense of meaning and purpose for one student simply may not resonate with another. We hope that all students  ultimately find a service path that is meaningful to them, be it close by or halfway around the world.

The Nobles service requirement has been in place for almost thirty years, is not going anywhere, and we continue to work hard to help students find a place in their busy lives to unearth meaningful ways to contribute to the public good.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to any member of the EXCEL service team — Linda Hurley, Holly Bonomo and Amy Joyce. 

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Dedham, Massachusetts
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If you have questions, comments or suggestions for this newsletter, email Kim Neal at kim_neal@nobles.edu.