Building a well in Africa, teaching children English, and meeting with people who have been deported. These are all different activities that students immerse themselves in while fulfilling their Christian service requirements.
In the Bible, the idea of Christian Service is stated through Matthew 25: 35-40, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
The idea of Christian Service stemmed through God’s love and the compassion that Jesus showed to all those around him. Due to the love and compassion showed by Christ, people around the world show compassion to the poor and disadvantaged and spread God’s love.
According to “Vatican Radio”, Pope Francis stated, “The greatest is the one who serves the most, the one who is always at the service of others, not the ones who boast, who seek power, money, vanity and pride,” he said, according to Vatican Radio.”
Christ’s love has influenced Catholic schools all around the world to spread the love of God through Christian Service. Notre Dame Preparatory requires its students to complete 30 hours of service per year, accumulating 120 hours by the time they graduate. As a result of this requirement, many students find their calling. Leslie Gjerstad, the Head of Christian Service at Notre Dame, remarked, “Jesus came for us and commands us to service not because, just because … it’s because it’s good food for our soul and it helps us find out who we are and who we are as God’s children.”
Clubs on campus
Not only are there options outside of school to help the community, Christian Service League (CSL) runs different drives every month to collect monetary, as well as physical donations, for organizations across the Valley. For example, during the month of November, the student body was encouraged to donate cans for St. Mary’s Food Bank. With the collection lasting the entire month of November, NDP was able to help out the poor during the Thanksgiving season. Other clubs on campus also do remarkable work to help out not only in the community, but abroad as well. H2O Club was created with the hopes of raising money to build a well in Africa. The club has raised $1,200 of the $5,000 that is needed in order to build a well. The club’s mission is to provide clean and accessible water for a poor village in Africa and to forever establish an NDP legacy. NDP also helps out the community while throwing an annual festival for HopeKids. In January, the NDP community came together to throw a day of fun and excitement for children who have life-threatening and terminal illnesses. This day is designed to momentarily remove the worries and stresses of medical issues and bills, in order for the children and families to simply have a good day. NDP clubs collaborate during HopeKids, putting together fun games based on the theme of the year. Volunteering with HopeKids is a favorite amongst students because they get to interact with adorable children and be able to put a smile on their faces.
Sophomore Sophie O’Shei reflected, “I really like helping people and it’s really nice to see the kid’s with smiles on their faces even when they’re going through a hard time.”
This year, the theme for Hope Kids was Jungle, so clubs such as French Club offered face painting with jungle animals. Baking Club hosted a “(Cake) Walk in the Jungle” in the cafeteria, where young children relished the opportunity to compete and win a cake. With a few hundred students on campus hanging out and interacting with these children, NDP students learn valuable lessons about why it is so important to spread God’s love through service. NDP is unapologetically a Catholic school, and instead of calling it simply community service, it is referred to as Christian service. The chaplain at NDP, Father Kurt, discussed the importance of service and the stigma that often comes along with service.
Fr. Kurt stated, “The topic of service has come up before and it’s always been a difficult topic because people just see it as a requirement and just as something to get done. We’re trying to encourage a lifelong desire to serving and not something you just complete during high school, but something that will stick with you for the rest of your life.”
It can often be difficult for students to get motivated to do service. For many students, it is simply seen as just another requirement from the school, and if not completed, there could be severe consequences. However, an important part of Christian service is that students are encouraged to find their passions. There are several service trips overseas to places such as Peru and Tanzania. Mason Stuart, an NDP senior, went to Tanzania the summer before his senior year. Stuart described his trip to Tanzania as life-changing, since he witnessed a different culture and was moved by the children with whom he interacted. It truly showed him how lucky he is and taught him that he must not take anything for granted in his life; he is truly fortunate. This opportunity is not just for students; even teachers are able to experience and reflect on service trips. Theology teacher Thomas Coast went to Peru with students and K2 Adventures.
“We spent a lot of time helping out families, children of families who are in need,” Coast said, “A lot of that was bringing gifts down like supplies, toys, toothbrushes, etc … We brought it to various schools around Peru.” Coast continued reflecting by saying,“ Joy is contagious. When the recipients of the gifts are joyful, our students are joyful … Having a witness to that in your life is probably the most lasting thing.”
When asked how he would convince someone to go on Peru, he jokingly said, “Do you want a life-changing experience or not”?
Service continues past senior year
The amount of service completed by students on campus is highly regarded by colleges when looking at applications. NDP alumni Alyssa Heid received the “Canyon Christian Schools Consortium Scholarship” at Grand Canyon University in West Phoenix.
Heid stated, “To keep this scholarship, we have to help out around the GCU campus by volunteering with sporting events, tutoring, HopeKids, and so many more opportunities.”
When reflecting on her time doing service at NDP, Heid stated, “Ever since I did Christian Service at NDP, I learned to never take anything for granted but also that life is not all about the materialistic things.”
The life lessons students learned during their time at NDP shows them the importance of going out into the community and helping those who are less fortunate. Not only do students see and interact with people who are less fortunate, but they also learn about the human side of them. Often, when people think about those who are less fortunate, they see them as less privileged and struggling. However, when providing service, one can learn about the stories about the people and how they got there. Next, students who have graduated from NDP have the opportunity to take what they have learned and apply it to the real world. NDP alum Cara Thompson, a sophomore at Penn State, is also a part of the sorority Delta Gamma, which requires 10 hours of community service per semester. Her favorite memory doing service was Anchor Slam.
“Anchor Slam was a basketball tournament game where each member made a team of four people and competed against each other and all funds went to our foundation,” she said.
Not only is Thompson heavily involved in her sorority and its service, she is also heavily involved with service events at Penn State.
“I am involved greatly in Penn State’s major service organization- THON” Thompson said. “THON is the largest student philanthropy in the world, and is a 46-hour dance marathon benefiting pediatric cancer. I am involved in several organizations yearlong to raise money for the event, and it has been one of my favorite parts of college so far.”
Thompson stated that the most important lesson that NDP taught her was, “Not only are you helping the people you are working for, but you are acting out of love and bettering yourself in the process.”
Day-long life-changing trip
In order for students to be inspired to learn about the stories of individual people, NDP offers a day service trip to Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. During their time in Nogales, the students and teachers volunteer at Kino Border Initiative (KBI).
“We arrived at the Kino shelter and served the migrants food,” explained senior Reina Squires. “They were so thankful for our help. After we served the migrants, we visited the women’s shelter and got to listen to their stories on how they were forced to leave their home country. These stories were heart-wrenching, but it opened up my eyes to the world around me.”
It can often be difficult for students to decide whether or not they want to go on such an impactful, yet long trip to Nogales. Students miss a full day of school, leaving at 5 a.m., and returning to campus at approximately 9 p.m.
Squires said, “ After going on NPH [Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos] and seeing how fun service trips could be, I decided to go on Kino. It seemed like a great experience, and I was always interested in immigration issues, so I wanted to do whatever I could to help.”
The trip to Kino also offers students to learn more about a prevalent topic that is especially debated in Arizona: immigration. For junior Ivanna Cuellar, Kino was an opportunity to see and learn about the hardships that people face, and to see and learn their reasoning for trying to migrate to the United States.
Cuellar reflectively stated, “I learned that many of these immigrants often need to escape from their homeland due to threats of violence and lack of money to support their own family.”
Kino allows NDP students to explore all sides of a debate that often lingers here in Arizona. Students have the opportunity to interact with people who are being sent back to their homeland. The Kino trip also encourages students to delve into issues that they feel moved to learn more about. For Cuellar, it was learning more about human rights.
“This definitely inspired me to promote human rights,” Cuellar said. “For these people because many have been dehumanized by immigration police and the Coyotes who brought them in the U.S. in the first place.”
Kino is a great opportunity for students to get out of their comfort zone, explore the challenges of immigration, and learn about the struggles of people from a different country.
Comparing other Catholic schools
Students at other Catholic schools have similar experiences. Brophy College Prep senior Michael Murphy experienced a life-changing event, due to the service that was required by his school. Murphy worked in undeveloped schools in rural Tanzania for a week.
When asked what inspired him to go, Murphy explained. “I felt as if it would be a great learning experience for myself to understand their culture and their day-to-day suffering.”
At Brophy, service hours are distributed differently than at NDP. Brophy requires its sophomores to log 40 service hours and juniors must complete 50. Xavier College Prep, an all-girls school, requires its student to complete 50 service hours throughout their junior year. Though the number of hours are different between the three high schools, the same message of helping those in need translates to students.
Xavier senior Isabel Jonson stated, “Giving back to the community is important and it’s good to get out of your bubble and interact with people you wouldn’t normally get to see.”
Students at Brophy, Xavier, and Notre Dame volunteer at a plethora of different service organizations. Some of the most popular organizations for students at NDP include St. Vincent de Paul, St. Mary’s Food Bank, and Andre House. Along with helping others, the student volunteers explored their passions. For Murphy, it was going out of his comfort zone to a different country. For Jonson, it was learning about the individual stories of people who she would not have otherwise encountered. For Brophy senior Jack Dimond, it was quite unique. Dimond explored public school education and heavily volunteered with other schools.
“I worked with schools a lot,” he said. “I learned how charter schools are pretty much the only schools that can help some neighborhoods out just because of how bad the income taxes are. Especially in some of the high population low income areas.”
All of these students stated how grateful they were for the opportunity to be introduced to this service as a result of their school. It may often be difficult for students to get involved in activities like this, had it not been for their schools inspiring them to go out, get involved, and follow Christ’s mission.
In conclusion, service is not something that should simply be seen as a burden on a student. It is an opportunity to get involved with the community and an opportunity to find one’s passion. Students who go out and do service learn incredible life lessons. They can take the gifts that have received and go on to do greater and better things within or outside their communities.
As defined by the NDP website, “Christian Service, or reaching out to those in need because of your Christian call to holiness, is an essential part of what it means to be a follower of Christ and a contributing member of society. Loving our neighbor implies a willingness to be of service and to reach beyond ourselves to those in need.”
By spreading God’s love, students are able to see the impact they can make on the lives of others. In conclusion, service is an important part of what it means to be Christian, and service required by schools only reinforces and teaches the students how they can make the world a better place. As Mark 10:45 states, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”