Nine Upper School students spent some time this summer learning about leadership, and then putting what they learned in a classroom to work in the real world in the Florida Keys.
“The group studied leadership and life skills to provide an engaging perspective on what being a leader means,” said John Weaver, MVA dean of students. “Once we covered the classroom aspects, we exercised those skills through a variety of service projects in the Florida Keys, which are still recovering from the devastation that Hurricane Irma caused in 2018. It was a fulfilling experience that I think will have a lasting impact on these students.”
Starting with a service project at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, students assisted park rangers with mulching a nature trail. The group did nearly three times the length that the rangers expected through their hard and very hot work! After completing the project, the group cooled down while learning about the types of sea life, followed by lunch and an ocean dip. The day was concluded by a glass bottom boat trip that whisked the students six miles offshore to the Great Florida Reef - the third largest coral reef in the world. They enjoyed identifying the variety of sea life that inhabited the reef - colorful fish of all sizes, turtles, coral, and sea creature.
The second project was at the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon, where they toured the facility and saw some of the training that goes on behind the scenes for the rescued mammals. They jumped into the painting project at the newly constructed visitor building. It was another very hot day, but no one complained and the group achieved another successful service project.
The final service project was serving at Farm Share, a nonprofit organization that provides food to families, children, seniors, and individuals in need throughout Florida. They feed tens of millions of people and distribute more than 55 million pounds of healthy and nutritious food annually. Meals for families were packaged with a goal of completing ten bins, with each bin holding 125 meals, which the group exceeded by packaging 12 bins (the equivalent of 1500 grocery bags) - that would feed approximately 6,000 people!
“It was a great trip and I really enjoyed helping the community and building relationships with classmates who I didn’t know that well,” said Ava Barbey, ninth grade student. “There were so many experiences I’ve never had it’s hard to pick one moment that stands out, but seeing people’s faces when we completed a project and knowing that we were making a difference in someone’s day was what I remember most. I’ve learned skills that I’ll be able to use in everything I do, like in volleyball or in class. It’s been an amazing experience for me.”
“It wasn’t all work, we definitely incorporated moments of fun, relaxation, and of course great food! In our down time, it was really good to hear the students share their most memorable moments from the trip and see them connecting the dots with our philosophy of leadership,” said Mr. Weaver.