FAC Scholars are Working to Make Our Community a Healthier, Kinder, and Safer Place to Live

Our 2021 Civic Service Learning Panel was held online this year.

By Mary-Anne Smith

Scholars in our Civic Service Learning (CSL) course are true change-makers! They are engaging in “problem-based” learning by identifying a pressing need in our community and taking action to address it. This year, they are looking at such important issues as teen mental health, social justice, and homelessness.

Created in 2016 for high school juniors, the goal of CSL is to ensure our students see themselves as part of a solution to a community issue or need

“Civic engagement is critical for empowering young people to foster volunteerism, develop practical skills for college, participate in political, economic, and social conversations, and become agents of positive change in their communities,” said Colleen DiDonato, English Teacher and Service Learning Coordinator, who worked tirelessly with the students throughout this process.

Students worked in teams to identify an essential need, explored what makes community development effective, prepared a proposal, and presented their plans virtually to a panel of experts on Wednesday, January 13, 2021.

The panel was made up of local leaders with backgrounds in business, non-profits, social services, education, and philanthropy who not only provided our scholars valuable feedback on their presentations but also generously provided financial support for the scholars to implement their project in the real world. 

Many thanks to Stacy Denton, Director of Upward Bound at Mercer County Community College; David Griffith, Executive Director of Episcopal Community Services; Peggy Krist, Director of the Jonathan D. Krist Foundation; Mary Kokesh, retired English teacher; Carl Seiden, Founder of Seiden Pharmaceutical Strategies, LLC; and Michael Vercelletto, Marketing Director at Church & Dwight Co. Inc. for your support!

“The students and their presentations were inspirational,” said panelist Carl Seiden. “I was so impressed with the thoughtfulness and creativity of the projects, the manner in which they were presented, and the excellent responses to questions that were asked. I feel a little better right now knowing that all of our futures rest in the hands of students like these.” 

Commenting on the impact of this experience, one student said, “I have learned that there’s so much power around you and in your community. Even with a place like Trenton, these CSL projects have made it even more obvious how much we want to help our community and each other.”

In recognition of their excellent work, members of this year’s class have been invited to participate in the National Youth Leadership Council’s 32nd Annual Service-Learning Conference Student Showcase on April 14-15, 2021.

Students will now move into putting their plans into action with implementation guided by their peers, teachers, and advisors. In the final phase, they will reflect and share their work, presenting their final results. 

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Michelle Lawlor

Michelle Lawlor, Marketing and Communications Associate, spearheads Foundation Academies’ marketing and communication efforts. Born and raised in Trenton, New Jersey, Michelle holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism/Multimedia Communications from Rider University.