Scholars’ Academy ‘Civics For All Fair’ Harvests A Bounty of Community Engagement

 Scholars’ Academy ‘Civics For All Fair’ Harvests  A Bounty of Community Engagement

By Kami-Leigh Agard

Mother Teresa once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples,” and this past Friday, March 22, the waters of civic leadership and community service were indeed rippling for high school students at Scholars’ Academy’s First Annual Civics For All Fair.

In celebration of NYC Department of Education’s (DOE) Civics For All Week, Scholars’ Student Government Association (SGA) organized the Fair to not only help students meet their community service graduation requirements, but also fan a wave of civic leadership and community service. About 25 local nonprofits and civic organizations were invited to personally meet students and pique their interest in volunteering with their respective groups. Also, keeping in tune with the DOE’s 2024 “Civics For All” theme, “Democracy Needs You!”—Scholars’ fair also featured a voter registration drive for students, 16 years of age or older, who are U.S. citizens. Significantly, present at the Fair were Scholars’ alumni, still actively involved with organizations they volunteered with since their high school days. Also, attendees were given a tour and gifted produce from the school’s new hydroponic farm, plus goodie bags.

According to Scholars’ SGA President Surya Mohan, the Fair’s purpose was not just about pinpointing opportunities to fulfill basic community service graduation requirements, but also to introduce students to organizations that align with causes they are passionate about. Mohan, a senior, said, “The reason we proposed this event was to further our school’s mission of creating a student body that has a more civically engaged citizenry. Our goal was to get students involved and understand the different ways they can get involved in the community that align with their interests.”

As for what categories of organizations that were invited, SGA Vice President Olupelumi “Faith” Ajimati, also in her senior year, shared, “We mostly targeted organizations located around our school community that are accessible to students. Plus, diversity. We wanted a wide range of organizations that align with students’ passions. Some examples are RISE (Rockaway Initiative for Sustainability and Equity), the NYPD 100th Precinct, South Queens Women’s March, Broad Channel Athletic Club, Rockaway St. Camillus Special Olympics, Campaign Against Hunger, Rockaway WISH, Rockaway WISH Jr., Rockaway Beach Autism Families and many more. Many of our current students and alumni still actively volunteer with these organizations, and actually helped run their booths at the Fair.”

Judging from the throngs of Scholars’ high school students from each class, who swarmed tables at the Fair, they were not just interested in learning about various organizations and their missions, but were excited to jump in and volunteer immediately.

Ajimati said, “We received a lot of positive feedback. A lot of students shared that they want this Fair to be annual because it gives them ways to network and spot different volunteer opportunities during the school year and summer months. Also, our school is very big on community service. Our requirement is 25 hours per year. So, this Fair was a great avenue for students to meet, network and sign up for volunteer opportunities.”

One organization present at the Fair was the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department (BCVFD). Chief George Conklin shared why attending events such as these is critical for their department’s volunteer recruitment. “We need volunteers to continue our mission as an all-volunteer fire department. Today, more than ever, we need volunteers.”

According to data from the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), of the more than one-million firefighters in the U.S, 65% of them are volunteers. Of the more than 29,000 fire departments across the country, almost 19,000 of them are run completely by volunteers.

Scholars’ SGA Advisor Kimberly Newman said, “It’s really important to know that our SGA students are 16, 17 and 18 years old and care enough that they’re taking the time to organize these events for other people in the school community. They all are super involved in school, whether it’s through student government, other clubs, sports, plus, they’re all in the hardest classes offered at the school. They’re all in AP classes. And for them to take the time to put this together, I think it’s really important to know that these are young kids who are not standing on the sidelines. They want to engage in society in terms of volunteering. Plus, at the event, they manned their own tables: Scholars’ Academy Key Club, Scholars’ Academy Farm Team and Scholars’ Academy Media Team. Plus, they had a table where they were registering students to vote.

“The fair was mutually beneficial for the students and the organizations. Students were able to learn about various opportunities while organizations were able to spread awareness and garner supporters and new members.”

Based on the success of this year’s Fair, Newman said this is now going to be an annual event, and the goal is to perhaps even open it up to Scholars’ middle school students.

“Our eighth graders are old enough to volunteer and are a little more independent. With the younger ones, parents would need to be involved, and we definitely want them to be aware about the Fair and other initiatives going on in the school community,” Newman said,

If any organization wishes to participate in next year’s Scholars’ Civics For All Fair, reach out to Student Government Advisor Kimberly Newman via email: 

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