By Louisa Burdette, Director of Research and Opportunity, GIVE Advisor
At the 56th Commencement ceremony, Derryfield’s graduating senior class confirmed their commitment to community service with their choice of a class gift: a one thousand dollar donation to Special Olympics of New Hampshire. Derryfield has been partnering with the Special Olympics for over twenty years, with students volunteering at the Winter Games in Waterville Valley. The Special Olympics, sadly, had been on hold for the last three years due to the pandemic, so this year saw a huge outpouring of enthusiastic students ready to get back to this beloved tradition.
In fact, so many upper school students applied that participation was limited to the junior and senior classes. The thirty-nine Derryfield volunteers gave their all to make the Games’ comeback a success. They set up courses for the snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and alpine events, and cheered on athletes at the Opening Ceremonies and medal awards. They decorated for the Monday night dance, then boogied the night away alongside the athletes. Shelby Cote, Vice President for Programs at SONH calls the relationship with Derryfield “invaluable,” saying, “Throughout our time in Waterville Valley, Derryfield students enthusiastically jumped in wherever help was needed and were complimented left and right for their efforts.”
In addition to our partnership with the Special Olympics, Derryfield students continued to lend a hand in the local community. Advisory groups continued to assemble Thanksgiving baskets with all the fixings for a turkey dinner (made possible by the unflagging support of Lindner Dental who provide at least fifty turkeys each year), and donated them to Manchester families.
With in-person volunteering opportunities limited, students found innovative ways to give back. Madison Viger ’23 and Prayag Patel ’24 launched a Derryfield chapter of Paper Airplanes, an international tutoring organization that matches tutors with students in conflict- affected areas like Syria, Ukraine, and Afghanistan. They connect over Zoom for English language instruction.
Proud Display of Volunteerism
Over the course of the 22-23 school year, Derryfield volunteers were back with a vengeance. The Red Cross Club organized a successful blood drive. Equity Club participated in and raised over three thousand dollars for Waypoint’s Sleep Out to combat youth homelessness. Community service was woven into the curriculum as sixth grade math students put their knowledge of ratios and fractions to good use in scaling up recipes, then cooking and serving lunch at the Slusser Senior Center in Hopkinton. Eighth graders partnered with students at Webster Elementary School for lessons in science and leadership.
In Explorations, upper school students who joined Community Connections traveled by van to volunteer throughout Manchester. They assembled food kits for Manchester students in danger of going hungry over the weekend at Fueled by Kids, which was founded by Grace Mikol ’18. Students offered technology help to seniors at RiverWoods, solving pesky problems with emails or photo-sharing. They sorted through donations of food and other supplies at the Families in Transition food pantry.
Through GIVE Club, students shared ideas about volunteer opportunities, banded together to raise money, participated in the Walk Against Hunger, and collected in-kind donations for FIT. In the fall, GIVE volunteers raked leaves for seniors, and, in spring, tilled the New Hampshire Food Bank’s Production Garden. A new and exciting initiative for GIVE was a tutoring program for newly-arrived Afghan refugees. In the summer of ’22, Mitch Cayer ’23 began working with a group of volunteers—now called the NH Afghan Support Group— who were helping Afghan families make the transition to life in the U.S. While the adult volunteers helped with driving, paperwork, meals and housing, Mitch and a group of his friends worked with the children to strengthen their English. The families, eager for their children to succeed in school, wanted the tutoring to continue during the school year. This resulted in a weekly tutoring session in Derryfield’s Milne library. A group of ten Afghan children ages 7-12 were paired with Derryfield students to read, write, practice math, draw pictures, make kites, laugh, and learn.
Abby Stark ’23 was an active volunteer through Community Connections and the Afghan tutoring program. She reflects on the value of service, saying, “My biggest takeaway from my experiences with Community Connections and tutoring the [Afghan] students has got to be the joy it brought me. Through some stressful times at DS, just the idea that I was going to explore a new organization in my community or was going to work with my student at the end of the day really helped me get through the tough work. However, in the end, all of the volunteer opportunities that DS has offered me has in turn taught me how symbiotic community service is. I am forever grateful for the connections I have made.”