Washington Township High School nationally recognized for outstanding community service

The Jefferson Award Foundation named the school “Top Ambassador School” for the second consecutive year

The Washington Township High School Students In Action club performed 144,493 hours of service this year, and raised more than $164,000 for charity and local community members in need. In doing so, the school was named the “Top Ambassador School” in the nation, recognized for community service and leadership efforts through the Jefferson Awards Foundation for the second consecutive year.

Washington Township joined the Jefferson Awards Foundation Students in Action program four years ago. According to the Jefferson Award Foundation website, Students in Action “develops high school students into community leaders.” Working under three pillars — leadership, engagement and impact — the students work to meet seven goals: engage the school community; establish an effective leadership team; expand volunteer capacity; expand financial capacity; tell service stories; grow and expand the mission of SIA; and innovate.

Members of Washington Township’s SIA prepare annual reports on the service performed by students that year, as well as create a multi-media presentation on their community impact.

“This is a really big school and everybody needs somebody to rely on sometimes and our club can help people who need that help,” freshman Alyssa Green said. “It makes me happy to know we’re being recognized. I like going to school here because we do things like this.”

Washington Township was named the №1 service leadership school in the state in 2013 and 2014, and was named №3 and №1 in the nation those same years. By receiving such high recognition, the high school earned a place in the elite “Ambassador Schools” program. Ambassador schools are those that have won first in their region twice in a row.

According to community advisor Josh Aronovitch, there are fewer than 10 schools that have reached the ambassador level. This year, Washington Township competed against six schools across the country, each judging each other’s written reports and multi-media presentations. The school with the highest rating is named the “Top Ambassador School,” a title Washington Township High School has received two years in a row.

“More than anything, community service is what defines Washington Township, what makes us unique,” Aronovitch said. “It’s great for SIA to have the ability to compile that service, share stories of it and get national recognition for the community as a whole.”

SIA collaborated with the Changing Our World Project and the middle school Future Acts clubs, along with numerous community members, to raise more than $53,000 in this year’s Helping Hands Hoagie Sale, benefiting local families facing serious illnesses. Other notable projects include the Blanket Project, where more than 700 blankets were made, some being sold to raise money for local residents and teachers in need, as well as some being donated to shelters, and a carnation sale on Valentine’s Day.

“Any school can have great classes and academics, but the focus on service here teaches students to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” Aronovitch said. “That’s truly invaluable.”

Of the 43 SIA club members, freshmen Lauren Faustino, Alyssa Bollendorf and Green, sophomore Diana Chan and seniors Ben Curwin and Ally Gracie will attend the annual Jefferson Awards national ceremonies in Washington, D.C., on June 22.

Having the students involved is really going to be a fantastic opportunity for them to learn all of these different life skills,” faculty co-advisor Lindsay Radziak said. “They are setting the example for how service really does make a difference.”

According to Curwin, who joined SIA two years ago and attended the national ceremony last year, the event will begin with one-minute speeches by all of those who received the Jefferson Awards. Later, students will attend workshops to meet other students and community service figures, visit the capital building to speak with senators and attend a black-tie dinner where awards will be distributed.

“We don’t do this because we want the recognition, but it is nice to be recognized for it so other states and people across the nation can see the work that we do here,” faculty co-advisor Eisa Jackson said. “When they see how much we really do, we hope more kids will get involved because they see what is going on and find a place for them to get involved as well.”

To watch the SIA video to promote the 2016–17 school year service projects, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOdFUFVo38w&feature=youtu.be.