Community Engagement

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

Catlin Gabel supports inspired learning leading to responsible action.

Community engagement at Catlin Gabel is about students seeking opportunities to be members of the Portland community, acting on their values, and exercising empathy, leadership, citizenship, and personal responsibility. From the earliest grades, students are encouraged to think beyond themselves and contribute what they can; in high school, they are expected to engage with community organizations and create meaningful, long-term reciprocal relationships that have a positive impact.

Beginning School

Students are presented with opportunities that help them begin to develop a lifelong sense of service based on empathy, personal efficacy, and responsibility. The emphasis in preschool is on being good stewards of shared spaces, as students learn to care for the classroom and campus environment, and participate in the school’s recycling and conservation efforts. In kindergarten, students show their concern for community members outside of school by creating artwork for the residents of a local hospice facility, a collection of cheerful children’s art that parents deliver monthly.

Lower School

Community engagement opportunities are designed to teach empathy, leadership, citizenship, and personal responsibility. In addition to teacher-organized service learning, students are supported in their own initiatives, such as the 2nd graders’ funding-raising campaign for disaster relief efforts, and the 5th graders’ clothing and toy drive for the homeless.

Each Lower School grade is involved in a community engagement learning project over the course of the year, which may include volunteering in a retirement home, organizing food drives, gleaning orchards to collect fruit for the Oregon Food Bank, or cleaning city parks.

Middle School

Students and teachers spread out across the Portland area each month to engage in a variety of service projects. Their community engagement is about involvement and action, and an opportunity to share with the larger community. Middle schoolers become engaged in issues they care about and learn how individuals can make a difference.

Recent Middle School community engagement projects include collecting food and stocking the pantry of a local social service organization serving the homeless; 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 based on guidelines established by the Catlin Gabel Student Association. Students identify an organization, issue, or set of related projects that will serve as their focus for the year. 
In 9th grade, students are invited to join older students in pre-existing projects and off-campus organizations. Sophomores often engage in a variety of short terms projects in order to experience a wide range of organizations. In 11th and 12th grades, students capitalize on greater independence to pursue projects in the larger Portland area; they are encouraged to organize group projects that create opportunities for younger peers. Approximately 30 student-led projects are offered in the Upper School each year.

Recent community engagement efforts initiated by Upper School students 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, distributed to areas schools as a curriculum tool. 

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

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palma scholar program seminar

Social Impact Projects

Upper School students’ Social Impact Projects

Watch the Video