Deerfield Academy works hard to stay involved in our surrounding community and regularly encourages students to do the same. Dean of Spiritual Life Jan Flaska explained that Community Service has been a vital part of school culture and tradition since the days of Mr. Boyden.
“I’m just continuing something that pre-existed me and will post-exist [me],” he said, adding that the Boydens were the first to engage with the community outside of Deerfield.
“Service matters. Even though we’re a residential school, it’s [important] to get out into the community [and] to be involved,” Mr. Flaska said. “We have neighbors, and so we should be attentive to them in the same way they have been attentive to us. We’re a big community of people. [We have a responsibility] to share.” He added that there are many ways to get involved in service on and off campus.
Deerfield students travel to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts on Wednesdays to help them distribute food to partner organizations. Students participate in Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Franklin County, a mentorship program that has been a part of the community for decades, and have organized an internal program where Deerfield students are matched with local children. Also, each year Deerfield distributes about $25,000 to over two dozen students that get Summer Service grants.
Mr. Flaska said, “Most [of these grants are] intended to support students serving, working in their local communities.”
Some opportunities are simply built into the Deerfield curriculum. Freshman, for example, travel to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts on MLK Day.
Mr. Flaska said, “Part of the reason why we have all the 9th graders participate in this [project] day is to nurture a commitment to service and to advocacy early so that in the coming years they will do these things as well on their own.”
That’s true for the rest of the student body as well. Each student completes a service project with their co-curricular at least once a term. Deerfield offers three different Community Service Co-Curricular activities: volunteering at Deerfield and Sheffield elementary schools, working in the campus greenhouse, and traveling to Second Helpings. Quite a few students also become involved in community engagement through clubs they participate in or classes they take.
“It’s good to do good… and it might invite students to find more of those opportunities as they get older,” Mr. Flaska continued.
Deerfield students are spearheading their own service opportunities as well.
Jordan Manning ‘19 and Francis Gannon ‘21 created a program in which students prepare and serve breakfast at the Salvation Army in Greenfield on Thursday mornings. Other students have worked with Frontier High School to combat opioid addiction in Franklin County.
Some student volunteers pass their afternoons in local housing communities, spending time with children whose parents have to work long hours in order to feed their families.
Mr. Flaska finished, “Service is always rewarding. It’s not why you should be doing it necessarily… but it’s a consequence of doing something for others, for a cause.