What's Next? The Catlin Gabel Service Corps Begins!

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A student and an alumnus talk about the joy of volunteering as a community

From the Winter 2010-11 Caller

The Catlin Gabel Service Corps debuted in October with three community-wide days of working together for the greater good. The Service Corps emerged from our community process to figure out “What’s Next” after the Rummage Sale. As we examined what we would miss most about Rummage, we came to consensus around several essential ingredients for developing a new tradition: multigenerations working side by side and having fun together, serving the greater Portland community, student leadership, and demonstrating who we are at Catlin Gabel. The Service Corps was developed with these elements in mind. You can find out more on our website. Since those fall service days, the Service Corps has also gathered 50 boxes of books from our community for children at Bienestar, a migrant worker housing complex in Hillsboro where our students help with their Homework Club. More events and projects are in the works—and we encourage all our community members, past and present, to come and pitch in, work together, and have fun.

The Energy and Fun of Volunteering
By Qiddist Hammerly ’12

As a Catlin Gabel student, I’ve participated in many activities at the Oregon Food Bank. In Lower School, we collected food during the fall harvest festival. In 8th grade, we participated in monthly service at the Food Bank, and in high school we often ask the students for food donations. These ordinary and expected contributions have made the Oregon Food Bank a familiar name to all Catlin Gabel students, yet I have never experienced it in the way I did with the Catlin Gabel Service Corps in November. As part of this year’s initiative to provide cross generational, community-building service opportunities, more than 75 students, parents, alumni, and faculty-staff joined together for a day of packing pasta— and it was anything but ordinary.

If one thing was exceptionally exciting about this service activity, it was the palpable energy of the kids. Eagerly running back and forth and lifting boxes almost bigger than themselves, the kids probably worked the hardest of anyone. For close to three hours, we packed boxes of various kinds of pasta in two-pound bags. At any given table, students, parents, teachers, and siblings worked side by side. Some kids eagerly scurried back and forth, providing each table with more empty boxes, and taking the full boxes to the growing tower of pasta.

The tangibility of our work made it appealing and rewarding for everyone; at the end of the day, we could look over and see just how many pounds we packed, and how many families we were feeding. One Lower School student checked the weight of each bag meticulously to make sure no one family would receive more food than another. Some of the adults, who seemed apprehensive about letting the kids handle tape guns and carry heavy boxes, grew impressed with their unfaltering persistence. Everyone joked and laughed while scooping bag after bag, and we even participated in some friendly competition, betting on whose table team could pack their boxes of pasta the fastest.

After we were done packing, we enjoyed a group lunch at McMenamin’s. It was only then that I realized how rare it is to see so many different Catlin Gabel constituencies in one place. I had the chance to catch up with one of my 1st grade teachers, make a new friend, and chat with parents. Enjoying lunch together wrapped up the day in the perfect way. Too often when we engage in service, we simply break off and return to our daily work without any processing or reflection. Having a relaxed meal together allowed everyone to reflect on the day, catch up, and enjoy each other’s company.

What made this day so successful was the connection we felt as we volunteered. We weren’t simply packing boxes of pasta: we were engaging with each other and observing the product of our work. I think this service experience provides a glimpse into the future possibilities of multigenerational service at Catlin Gabel, both on our own campus and in the greater community. Despite the occasionally excessive use of the word “community” in our, well, community, engaging in service as a community truly is a unique experience that exceeds the benefits of individual volunteerism. Looking back over my 12 years at the school, some of the memories that stand out most to me are the engaging service projects I participated in with my Catlin Gabel family. At the Food Bank that day I could clearly see in our students’ eyes that very same engagement and motivation.

Qiddist Hammerly is a junior at Catlin Gabel and a Malone Scholar. She has been involved for years in community service.
 

Connecting Through Tree-planting
By Markus Hutchins ’02

After the revelry of the previous night’s Homecoming victory (we defeated OES 2–0), I was excited to spend the day with fellow Eagles at the inaugural Catlin Gabel Service Corps outing to Mary Woodward Garden Wetlands. When we arrived, my parents and I were greeted by a warm cup of coffee and a big hug from Middle School head Paul Andrichuk. We introduced ourselves to our fellow and future alumni, received our assignments, and then headed out into the wetlands.
 
The tools were heavy but effective, and the task was hard but rewarding: removing non-native invasive plants and replacing them with native species and trees. Working alongside former teachers, parents, and current students was a pleasure, and providing our service to the greater community reminded me of the core values of Rummage. The clearing and planting activity was not limited to the Catlin Gabel community, so having the opportunity to work with others for the benefit of the great Portland ecology, knowing we represented one of our school’s core principles, was a positive experience and wonderfully rewarding.
 
Nostalgia was in attendance as well; while clearing ivy, a little girl shared her excitement about the 1st grade overnight. My own overnight trip was more than 19 years ago, yet I still remember my tentmates, where we camped, and the fun we had. Experiences outside the classroom are the fibers that shape Catlin Gabel. Similar moments and conversations always remind me how fortunate I am to have Catlin Gabel as the foundation of my education.
 
After the work was completed, our troop of volunteers piled back onto the school bus and shared lunch at a nearby restaurant. While relaxing and enjoying the sunny setting, I spoke with English teacher Art Leo and some parents of current students. We discussed Catlin Gabel, college admissions, sports, my career path, and a host of other topics. I found that sharing my own experience at the school, and its lasting impact on my life, was extremely rewarding. The parents seemed appreciative of the opportunity to speak in a relaxed forum. They asked many thought provoking questions, even some I later shared with fellow classmates. Crossgenerational discussions are unfortunately rare, but I hope that with the continuation and future growth of the Catlin Gabel Service Corps, these can occur on a more regular basis.
 
As I reflect on the day, I am thankful on multiple levels. Providing service to the community, interacting with current students and alumni, and sharing the experience with faculty and staff made for a true Catlin Gabel experience. I look forward to participating in many more Catlin Gabel Service Corps events in the future.
 
Markus Hutchins ’02 is the alumni board president and a member of the school’s board of trustees.