Educating middle school boys has many important facets. Our Cardigan boys clearly acquire many skills in the classroom, on the athletic fields, and living in the dorms. Learning to serve others adds to these character building blocks. A certain amount of empathy is required when a Cardigan student chooses to give up their limited free time in order to serve others. Through service, boys also learn that they have a tendency to make assumptions about people and the world around them that are based on our visual perception. While this holds true for people of all ages, teaching this concept to students can sometimes be difficult.
It’s true that one kind act has the power to make a difference in the world, and it can snowball into something that affects others in a powerful way. A middle school-aged student working to serve others is incredibly inspiring and will ignite a spark in others. These soft skills are what we hope they will acquire and more importantly practice, as we guide the Cardigan boys to be leaders of tomorrow. With the many problems facing our world today, it’s important that our students have a sense of service ingrained in them, to give them the skills and abilities to care for those in need.
With our very busy schedules, life on The Point can sometimes keep the Cardigan community in a bubble. From washing the cars at the police station to cleaning up trash on the roadside, the Cardigan boys are learning what it means to serve off-campus and what it means to be a member of the Canaan, New Hampshire community. We have now reached a point where we receive emails and calls from residents that need extra help with yard work and chores, and the boys jump at the opportunity to do so. It is important for the residents of Canaan to know that our boys value the relationship we have with the Town of Canaan, but also for the Cardigan boys to know that this is a symbiotic relationship. For example, when a Cardigan athlete is injured, our local police and ambulance are on the scene in minutes.
By the end of every academic year, all students and faculty have been involved in one or more service activities. Whether it be through our Thursday afternoon clubs program, Sunday morning service activity, sports team, all-school service day, or weekend activities program, all members of our Cardigan community have the opportunity to serve others. Some of the activities include stocking the shelves at the local food pantry on Sunday mornings, running in the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth (CHaD) 5K or half-marathon, raking leaves or stacking wood for a local elderly person, as well as many others. Our all-school service day has the students work on a project by grade. For example, the sixth- graders will volunteer at a local farm learning about animals and assisting with chores. The seventh graders help the local Lions Club by cleaning up their charity dirt bike track, eighth graders help the town of Canaan in a spring clean-up day, while the ninth graders will write letters thanking trustees, alumni, and donors for their service and commitment to Cardigan.
I feel the history of service lies in the commitment preceded by the legends of Cardigan who devoted their lives to our school. Coach Jim Marrion H’03, P'88, GP’03,’05,’14 coined the phrase “Help the other fella” and it is still repeated at least once a week today. Whenever you would speak to Coach, somewhere in that conversation he would offer, “What can I do to help you,” even if you were not asking for assistance. The annual service award, presented during Commencement, is named after Dudley Clark H’08 who spent so many years quietly serving others. The work and effort Dudley made behind the scenes delivering mail; driving, waiting and caring for injured boys on hospital runs; and handing out donuts to students at morning break were only a few examples how he served our community. Long-time faculty member Alex Gray H’12, P’14,’16, who is ready to help anybody at any point, will often be heard saying “Lift while you climb.”
In 2006, after working for four years at Cardigan, I was fortunate to receive a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship that allowed me to pursue a master’s degree in France. During these two years, I volunteer taught in some under-resourced schools honoring Rotary’s motto of “Service Above Self.” This was a rewarding experience that I wanted to share with the boys upon my return to Cardigan, and helped to formalize the community service program, creating more service opportunities for our students. Now, we have faculty and students taking the lead on these projects as we continue to teach that service is a skill that we need to practice, just like we would when we learn how to write an essay, conjugate a verb in a foreign language, or master that shot on the sports field.
Written by Ryan Sinclair, Cardigan's Director of Global Leadership and Service Learning, this article originally appeared in the Winter 2018/19 issue of the Cardigan Chronicle.