Ravens Beyond the Classroom: A Look Into the Middle School Service Learning Program
Participation in service learning and community service projects is a hallmark of the Middle School experience at Ravenscroft, allowing students and faculty to integrate the work of Lead From Here through partnerships with local organizations.
Middle School Academic Skills Instructor Melony Lightfoot and former Middle School Director Bruce Miller had a vision of starting a community service program within the division, which later served as the catalyst for larger school-wide service initiatives. Beginning in 1982, Mrs. Lightfoot served as the Middle School Community Service Coordinator, where she organized community service events on campus and in the community. By participating in summer faculty enrichment grants, and engaging in professional development at N.C. State through its Community Service: An Integrated Program in the Academic Curriculum course, Mrs. Lightfoot worked to plan and organize meaningful, grade level specific activities that built upon the School’s educational philosophy of the development of the total child through community leadership and service.
Mrs. Lightfoot presented on the School’s community service program in 1994 at the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools (NCAIS) Annual Conference, and her work was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Council for Religion in Independent School’s (CRIS) 1991 publication Award-Winning Community Service Programs in Independent Schools. Additionally, the community service initiative was featured in North Carolina Middle School Association’s 1995 monograph on service projects, and in the 1991-1992 publication of The League Journal. In 1996, Ravenscroft Middle School was the recipient of the Helping Hand Mission Humanitarian Award in recognition of the School’s “devoted and valuable service to help the homeless, supplying food to needy families and giving gifts and toys to the underprivileged children in the Raleigh and the Wake County Area”.
Through the years, the community service program has evolved into a service learning model, and is deeply rooted to the School’s mission and values. At the present time, Middle School Student Activities Coordinator Ed Yohman facilitates the service learning program where he works to strategically partner with local nonprofits, parks, museums and businesses that will expose students to a range of service learning projects. During the 2015-2016 school year, the Service Learning Program is partnering with Note in the Pocket, Elmcroft Senior Living, Serving Our Soldiers, eMammal, St. Saviour’s Center, and Raleigh Parks and Recreation.
The Frankie Lemmon School, and Learning Together are additional organizations that the Middle School is partnering with this year, a relationship that extends for more than 30 years. Both organizations work with children experiencing developmental delays, and through the Service Learning Program, Ravenscroft students have the opportunity to learn about the two organizations and work and mentor their “Raven Buddies”. Mrs. Lightfoot commented on the importance of this partnership, stating, “Working with children from the Frankie Lemmon School and Learning Together allows our students to see firsthand how they can make a lasting impact on children and truly provide a positive experience for each and every child.”
Mr. Yohman’s seventh grade advisory has the unique opportunity to volunteer at St. Saviour’s Center, a community outreach facility located at Ravenscroft’s original location on Tucker Street in Downtown Raleigh. While completing service learning, students help in the center’s food pantry and diaper train, assist with landscaping, shrub pruning or gardening.
The Middle School also participates in division-wide service projects and fundraisers including the annual Food Drive, and the Guardian ad Litem’s Guardian Angel Program. This year, the Middle School is also participating in a jean and clothing drive, and has worked with the Upper School’s S.O.S. club to support veterans and active service members. Many of the service projects the Middle School participates in are led by student leaders, who work collaboratively to engage the entire student body in their endeavors.
In addition to its alignment with the curriculum and Lead From Here, the Middle School Service Learning Program strives to expose students to a range of service opportunities in the area, with an overall goal of encouraging extended student involvement in areas of interest or passion. Additionally, students engage in written and oral reflection with their advisors and teachers throughout the process, allowing for students to organically identify ways in which they are able to model the work of Lead From Here.
Through Mr. Yohman’s work as the Student Activities Coordinator and an Academic Advisor, he noted that Lead From Here has transformed the way in which we teach students about citizenship and leadership. “In conjunction with the Middle School Service Learning Program, Lead From Here is a vehicle that implements the mission of the School in a meaningful and authentic way, providing students with the training and empowerment to go into their communities to support others or to raise awareness for causes that speak to them.”
As students continue their academic journeys at Ravenscroft, many will join organizations like Key Club, participate in school-wide initiatives and fundraisers, or even start their own non-profit. Mr. Yohman stated “Should someone ask, ‘What does Ravenscroft do in the arena of leadership & service?’, I would reply ‘Where do I start, and how long do you have to listen?’”
“We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey
After earning a B.S. in Special Education from Appalachian State University, Melony Lightfoot joined the Ravenscroft Community in 1981 as a Middle School Academic Skills Instructor. During her time at Ravenscroft, Mrs. Lightfoot has taught Lower, Middle, and Upper School, and served as an Academic Advisor in grades 6 through 8. In addition to her role as a teacher and advisor, Mrs. Lightfoot currently coordinates Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) in the Middle School, and is a member of the Faculty Diversity and Inclusivity Committee. Mrs. Lightfoot has also served at the Middle School Community Service Coordinator, coached JV Cheerleading, and served as the faculty sponsor of the Pep Club and Student Council. Mrs. Lightfoot received Ravenscroft’s O’Herron Distinguished Faculty Award in 1997, and Helton Award in 2008.
Ed Yohman joined Ravenscroft in 1978 as a Middle School Math Instructor. During his tenure at Ravenscroft, Mr. Yohman has coached Varsity Boys and Girls Soccer, served as the School Webmaster, Professional Development Coordinator, Chaired the School Re-Accreditation Committee, United Way Campaign, and served on the NCAIS Annual Conference Planning Committee. Mr. Yohman was appointed to the position of Middle School Student Activities Coordinator in 1997 and is currently serving as an Academic Advisor to seventh grade students. In 2004, Mr. Yohman was inducted into the Ravenscroft Sports Hall of Fame, and was the recipient of Ravenscroft’s Helton Award in 2005.