Community Engagement

Climate Protest 2019 Lucia Shin-McGill
Photo Credit Lucia Shin-McGill

At Catlin Gabel, community engagement occurs at every age. We want students to discover the many ways that they can act on their values while exercising empathy, leadership, and personal responsibility.

From the earliest grades, students are encouraged to think beyond themselves and reflect on how their actions impact others. By the time they reach the Upper School, students are expected to establish long-term and meaningful partnerships with community organizations so that their efforts have a positive impact.

Beginning and Lower School

Each grade level participates in a community learning project during the school year. In preschool, the emphasis is on being good stewards of shared spaces and participating in the school’s recycling and conservation efforts. In kindergarten, students create art for a local hospice facility. Older students will glean Catlin Gabel's orchards so that the fruit can be donated to the Oregon Food Bank, clean city parks, or volunteer in a retirement home. In addition to teacher-led efforts, students are supported when they develop their own initiatives, which have included launching clothing drives and raising funds for climate change through designing and selling t-shirts. 

Middle School

Each month, students and teachers engage in service projects that allow for involvement and action throughout the Portland area. Past Middle School community engagement projects have included collecting food and stocking the pantry of a local social service organization that helps the houseless; working in the Neighborhood House community center garden to support families in need; and collecting furniture and housewares to help with a refugee family relocation effort.

Upper School

Students develop a personal plan for community engagement at the beginning of each school year and identify an organization, issue, or a set of related projects that will serve as their focus points. Students in 9th and 10th grade either explore a range of short-term volunteer programs to solidify their interests or join projects started by upper class students. Approximately 30 student-led projects are offered in the Upper School each year. Past efforts have included include volunteer shifts with a youth suicide prevention organization; a book drive to benefit inmates at Columbia River Correctional Institution; collection and distribution of imperfect produce for Food Waste Prevention PDX; and student-produced drug prevention videos that were distributed to areas schools as a curriculum tool. 

The PLACE Program

Upper School students from Catlin Gabel and other area schools can participate in opportunities through the PLACE program, which are designed to help them learn how cities function so that they can amplify their voices in making cities work better for everyone. 


Beginning School Students dancing, smiling, hugging each other

Making Community Connections

By Ken Dubois, Editor

Six stories of how Catlin Gabel students identify issues and find ways to make a difference

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Learning How to Take Responsible Action

by Tim Bazemore, Head of School

Our students’ journey from self-awareness to community engagement

Read More

palma scholar program seminar

Social Impact Projects

Upper School students’ Social Impact Projects

Watch the Video