Using a “Service Summit” to Develop Social Conscience Education School-Wide

Introduction

On December 4th, 2010 HKIS hosted its 4th annual “Service Summit,” an event that kicks off Humanities I in Action students’ Personal Action Projects (PAP).

This year, in addition to the 120 grade 9 Humanities I in Action students, 25 middle school students and 10 upper primary students also joined the event. This blog post will provide specific details about how the Service Summit was organized, the basic components of the Personal Action Project, the integration of the Service Summit into the Humanities I in Action curriculum, and the broader school-wide strategy that was involved in including other divisions at the Summit.

The Service Summit

This is the fourth year that Humanities I in Action students have participated in the Service Summit, the schedule of which has evolved over time.  This year’s event schedule followed the format below:

2:00-2:15             Introduction

2:15 – 3:00          Keynote Presentation: Leah and Alex from “Free the Children”

3:05 – 3:20          Workshop #1

3:25-3:40             Workshop #2

3:45-4:00             Workshop #3

4:05-4:20             Workshop #4

4:25 – 4:40           Workshop #5

4:45 – 5:00           Final Debrief with Leah & Alex

The first key ingredient of the Service Summit was to have an inspirational keynote presentation.  For some years we have known the organization “Free the Children,” the Canadian NGO started in 1995 by then 12-year old Craig Kielburger.  Four years ago Craig visited the school and inspired the entire campus with presentations leading up to our annual charity fashion show.  Since that time, we have invited “Free the Children” speakers to return on several occasions.  Having had presenter Leah Ruinsky come and provide an outstanding and well-rehearsed presentation with a co-leader last year, we invited her and Alex Meers, a leadership specialist with the organization, to return this year.  Their 45-minute presentation before 200 people attending the Summit in a large seminar room provided palpable energy, direction, and purpose for the day’s event.  Following a high-energy starter, they used a series of visuals and videos to introduce themselves and their organization, “Free the Children.”  The highlight of their presentation was the re-telling of dramatic personal stories of their own service experiences in China and India, memories that continue to inspire their passion for social change.

The second major component of the Service Summit was breakout sessions.  Students attended sessions presented by 17 student-run, on-campus service clubs and 6 off-campus NGOs.  Most of the on-campus groups are chapters of various organizations (e.g., Amnesty International, Habitat for Humanity, Global Issues Network, etc).  Two PAP groups from last year’s Humanities I in Action class also presented.  The NGO contingent represented causes such as refugees in Hong Kong, girls’ scholarships in China, and teaching about social issues at a local tutorial center. Having learned from past experience that students prefer shorter introductions to topics and groups, each session lasted only 15 minutes.  Following breakout presentations, everyone was brought back together for a final sendoff.  Leah and Alex led a short sharing of highlights and I closed the event with thank you’s and a final word of affirmation and support as they start  their PAPs.

Having run three previous Service Summits, the effect of this year’s event was enhanced with several fine-tuning steps.  First, thanks to the full support of the school administration, we were able to fly out two inspiring guests from “Free the Children” who know our school culture and could apply their strengths to our community’s needs.  Second, the ratio of 2/3 on-campus groups and 1/3 NGOs seemed to be a effective mix.  On the one hand, having the majority of groups coming from within the school kept the focus on in-house relationships and on-going school initiatives. On the other hand, off-campus NGOs injected new energy into the event as well as brought community recognition of the value of our PAPs.  The third key element of the Summit, better integration of the Service Summit into the Humanities I in Action curriculum, is explained in a section below.

Personal Action Projects

The Service Summit sets into motion student work on their Personal Action Projects. The basic parameters of the PAP are that students choose groups of four or less to study an issue and implement some action from December until May.  Since the amount of fundraising distracted from our educational goals as well as became an irritant to the school administration last year, we are encouraging students to choose activities where the most valuable gift is time rather than money.  Some project examples include: regular visits to a Hong Kong elderly home, bringing backpacks to street children in Manila, building a well in China, reducing students’ personal carbon footprint, and introducing “meatless Mondays” to the school cafeteria.  Time will be set aside in class (approximately one day in an 8-day rotation) for students to meet in groups to develop their project and to discuss their progress with teachers.  Students will receive a grade based on the process they undertake as well as the end product they demonstrate. Final presentations of their PAPs will occur in May.

Given the considerable time investment of the PAP, several years ago I interviewed groups from two classes at the end of the year to get student advice on whether we should continue the PAP in the future.  Despite a wide range of success (or lack thereof) on their PAPs, all groups felt it was worth the time.  They reasoned that since their education over the years had been mostly academic, they saw the PAP as a valuable opportunity to impact the world for some greater good.

Integration of the Service Summit into the Humanities I in Action Curriculum

The third important element that enhanced the Service Summit was using it as a means to better develop the goals of the Humanities I in Action course.  The Service Summit emerged out of an understanding of our students’ development needs.  Based on qualitative research with our students (Schmidt, 2009), we learned that social conscience education has three main components: awareness, emotional engagement, and action.  From August until the Service Summit in December, our curriculum addresses issues related to human nature and human behavior, primarily focusing on the darker side of these topics.  We read Lord of the Flies (Golding, 1954), examine the Milgram and Stanford psychology experiments, and study the topic of genocide, including Rwanda and Darfur.  We also have various out-of-the-classroom service experiences (e.g., hosting refugees at the school, doing a beach clean-up, entertaining children at a bereavement center).  The highlight of the course for many students is a 3-day visit to an orphanage in southern China in November.

In addition to these primary elements of the curriculum, teachers also occasionally refer to contemporary events to relate today’s newspaper headlines to the study of human nature.  Finally, issues such as forgiveness, restorative justice, and taking action for various causes are also included both as potential curative strategies for “mankind’s essential illness” (Golding, 1954, p. 189) as well as to maintain hope in the midst of a sobering curriculum.

With regard to the three major elements of social conscience education, students by this point in the semester have experienced a heightened sensitivity to human nature, themselves and their world.  Emotionally, topics such as genocide as well as their service experiences, especially the weekend trip to a Chinese orphanage, have touched many of the students deeply.  Once awareness and emotion are brought together in a class, most students then want to act on behalf of social causes and inequities.  From a longer-term perspective of personal growth, students believe that their social conscience education is incomplete without an action component (Schmidt, 2009).  Thus, early December seems to be an appropriate point in the curriculum to hold the Service Summit, and one that is necessary to achieve the goal of social conscience education.

Use of the Service Summit in School-Wide Strategy

From a school-wide perspective, the Service Summit supports one of our six Strategic Learning Results, “Contributing to Society,” which states that “students will develop the skills they need to form genuine relationships in our diverse society and to make contributions to our community.”  With regard to this goal, the high school has experienced tremendous growth over the last 15 years in its service program; other divisions have also included various elements of service in their curricular and extracurricular activities.  Recognizing the focus on service at the school, the Board of Managers has recently approved funding for a new building that will include a Service Learning Center to enhance social conscience education across all four divisions.  Thus including middle school and upper primary school students at the Service Summit, which had previously only been offered to high school students, supports a long-term goal of developing more social awareness and action across the entire school.

The Service Summit has also served to ameliorate some specific divisional concerns.  While the high school has had much success with a multitude of service projects, trips, courses, and events, these achievements have highlighted a challenge: many projects end once students who championed their particular causes graduate.  The Service Summit addresses this problem in that service club leaders share their passion with underclassmen about some issue in hopes that these students will carry on the graduating students’ projects.  This also attempts to deal with questions some seniors have about their long-term value to the school.  If younger students continue a project, seniors feel they have left a ‘legacy’.  On the other hand, younger students highly value the service and leadership experiences of older students.  Middle school students listen carefully when older students share what they have learned through their four years of high school.  Finally, “priming” of younger students before they get to high school further supports teaching Humanities I in Action classes.

Conclusion

The Service Summit event has emerged out of a belief that Humanities I in Action students need to put their learning into action in order to further develop the social conscience educational process. This year’s inclusion of guest speakers from a highly reputed NGO provided the confidence for organizers not only to support students’ Personal Actions Projects, but also to extend the value of this event to other divisions of the school.  Providing depth in the curriculum of one class, then, simultaneously was able to horizontally strengthen the school’s goal of “Contributing to Society” across other divisions of the school. It is hoped that the Service Summit will provide ideas and inspiration that can be incorporated into the future Service Learning Center at HKIS.

References

Golding, W. (1960). Lord of the flies. London: Faber and Faber.

Schmidt, M.E. (2009). Teaching for social conscience in Hong Kong secondary schools. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Western Australia,  Perth, Australia.

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About martinschmidtinasia

I have served as a humanities teacher at Hong Kong International School since 1990, teaching history, English, and religion courses. Since the mid-1990's I have also come to assume responsibility for many of the school's service learning initiatives. My position also included human care ministry with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in Hong Kong, southern China, and others parts of Asia from 1999-2014. Bringing my affluent students into contact with people served by the LCMS in Asia has proved to be beneficial to students and our community partners alike. Through these experience I have become committed to social conscience education, which gives students the opportunity to find their place in society in the context of challenging global realities.
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24 Responses to Using a “Service Summit” to Develop Social Conscience Education School-Wide

  1. Sasha Huynh says:

    I went to the Leadership Summit on Saturday morning. After the confusion of getting lost in the Middle School, I arrived to a room bustling with Middle Schoolers playing games. Maybe 3/4 of the time was dedicated to games that can be characterized as ice-breakers, like a rock-paper-scissor competition as well as skits. I must admit I didn’t really see the point in these activities — I mean they were fun, but they didn’t really seem valuable to me. When the 2 grown-ups (don’t know their names!) talked about style of leadership though, I was struck but the critical thinker style. It seemed to fit me quite exactly. I’m not so much a big-picture thinker, but more of a attention to the details person who is very cynical as to whether something will work or is worth the effort. It just made a lot of things clear to me. That’s why, I think, I’ve found it difficult to be completely into the service clubs that HKIS has, and even though I’ve participated in say Habitat for Humanity, I still have a lot of naggling doubts as to whether it truly helps or not.

    • Marty Schmidt says:

      Hi Sasha,

      Yes, I was struck by that, too, that you chose the analytical leadership style, as I mentioned to you. Hopefully, it validates your own approach to solving problems systemically. But the question that comes to mind is that I know you were voted the Mother Teresa of the India interim a couple of years ago. Are these two images – one the cool analyst and the other the face of God to the poor – two aspects of your personality. Or were you just really good at faking being Mother Teresa?:>

  2. Suzette says:

    I was lucky to have the opportunity to hear Alex and Leah speak to the Humanities in Action class on Friday, and for a short time afterwards Alex came to talk to us as an SSS class. I’ve been privileged to hear a couple of different Free The Children/ Me to We speakers (Craig and Spencer to name a few) and I am always really engaged by their talks. Although I knew a little about their organization before, I came into their presentation looking from a different perspective. Most of the time I have listened to the guest speakers’ presentations we have had this past quarter, mainly focusing on the basic information (what organization he or she is presenting, their experiences and opinions). Yet since I already have a fair idea of what Me to We does, Mr. Schmidt noted that should pay attention to their public speaking style, which I did.
    As a club leader at school, I know how easily students can be turned off by a monotone voice (as I go through the same thing when I listen to others speak). If the content is not relatable, engaging or presented in an interesting way, it is hard to keep everyone’s attention. If your speech is filled with “ums” or “uhs”, then it makes it hard to follow. Alex and Leah were used to presenting to kids, and so it was clear that they knew all this. Sure, Friday’s presentation was geared towards freshman and therefore had an ice-breaker amongst other things to keep it engaging. But for some reason it struck me then how important it is to involve your audience when you are speaking to them. They both spoke eloquently and clearly, but made it fun and asked a lot of questions.
    I was also at the service summit, and had to present for our club. It was kind of difficult at first (no one showed up the first session) because there were other very interesting presentations going on at the same time. However at the last session we had around 10 students. My teammates and I were using a similar PowerPoint we made for students at the beginning of the year during club-market place. But our audience was different. I thought of Alex and Leah’s presentation and decided to begin with a sort of fishbowl activity, and asked a lot of questions to the students that were there. I was worried that they would be silent, or feel awkward but I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Since our club mainly focuses on a single orphanage, I asked for them to share some of the experiences they had in other orphanages (instead of stuffing down information about the one we were going to present). I felt like the students were much more engaged and no one seemed to drowse off in the middle of our PowerPoint. So even though most of the students at the Service Summit were learning about the different service related causes they can become involved in, I think I learned something quite different.

  3. Stefanie Young says:

    I found Alex and Leah’s presentation on Friday to be really interesting; it made me think about what I really wanted to do in/after college. Working with Free the Children/Me to We seems extremely interesting; I think I could see myself doing that if becoming a Sports Psychologist doesn’t work out. I found the Icebreaker activities in the beginning to be kind of childish, maybe because we were with a bunch of freshmen, but I do agree that it is a great way to get to know one another, get the awkward-ness out of the way. Alex and Leah are both extremely dedicated people who want to help the society become a better place and I think its an amazing thing to have organizations like Free the Children and Me to We. After our session with the big group, we broke into smaller groups and talked to Alex as a class. I found this to be really interesting, to get to know Alex on a more personal level. I really liked how we went around and just talked about what we have done with service…although it was kind of awkward in the beginning, I think the conversation just flowed in the end. We asked him what he would do in the future, how he got to working with Free the Children and in turn he gave us advice and expanded on what we talked about. I thought it was a really interesting talk.

  4. Annie Gallivan says:

    First of all, I would like to thank you for inviting us few Upper Primary students. On behalf of the rest of them we thank you for our invitations. Here is my response to the questions you wanted us to answer:

    #1 The most important thing that I learned at the Service Summit was that even though we don’t know it, there are so many terrible things that happen in this world that we can prevent.

    #2 The most memorable thing that I interpreted was that there is an extremely large amount of people who live in cages in Kowloon.

    #3 Well, something that I learned about that I can do to help these problems is that Alex and Leah told me about a camp that belongs to the company “Me to We” that they work for. The camp is near my home in California which means that I could possibly attend it.

    #4 The High schoolers were very inviting and were great followers. The were organized and were very nice to me as partners.

    #5 Finally, I think that the main message of this session is that our generation can do more than everyone thinks they can. We will be responsible for the problems in the world in our later years. It is time that we start preventing these problems in the world.

    Once again we thank you for having us at The Service Summit.

  5. Christien Laible says:

    Along with Sasha (and Joyce and Chloe) I attended the Leadership Summit in the Middle School. I had just come from the 24 Hour Race and was headed right back up there after the summit, so my mind was elsewhere to begin. The “ice breaker” activities that Sasha alluded to were geared more towards younger kids and it didn’t help that I wasn’t exactly in the right frame of mind (i.e. that a middle-schooler would have). I was certainly hoping that we would work with leadership more than we did. That being said I appreciated Leah and Alex’s presentation style, which was fun, humorous at times, and very engaging. I was also pleasantly surprised with the creative and genuinely thoughtful responses from many of the middle school students. One girl came up with a very interesting metaphor for two images of different perspectives, which she related to China. Unfortunately, I had done the first three activities before (at camp) but I hope that they were new to the younger kids- who I believe were the intended audience. Although I had attended a seminar, led by Ms. Masters, about leadership styles before, the Power Ranger activity allowed me to reflect on both how I act and how I try to act. I use the word “act” instead of lead because as I mentioned to my small group, not everyone is or has to be a “leader”, especially in the traditional sense. I brought up the point that personally, I don’t consider myself a natural leader and I am content with that. I lead by example most of the time and that is enough. I felt that this point was lacking from the presentation and should have been expressed. I’m not sure how the student leadership team (SLT- I think?) is organized or how much they value/ gain from these “seminars” but I would be curious to know. Maybe something I could gather for the administration… Anyway, I would hate for kids to be required to attend these sessions and then not enjoy themselves and leave uninterested. I think children learn best from experience! Opportunities for fun and meaningful projects is another approach to this “system”. I am not implying that the middle school organizes a team for a 24 Hour Race to stop human trafficking, but I think if kids had some sort of a really positive experience helping others their passions would be ignited earlier. Maybe I got the wrong impressions and my comments are irrelevant. I’m not sure.

    • Christien Laible says:

      I wish I had gotten to hear Alex and Leah speak to the class- an older, more experienced audience! I know I would have taken more away from it!

  6. Chloe says:

    Like Sasha, I also went to the leadership summit Saturday morning. I’ve been to similar workshops last year, and I find the workshop this time a lot more fun. Also, the middle-school kids had more opportunities to speak out, which I think it’s really good for them. I find the photos with contrasting words really interesting because I saw how one photo can be matched with so many different words. The middle school students often connected the photos with service, but I think this is more than just service, it’s a philosophy- how should we perceive the world? On the other hand, I also liked the “different leadership styles” part, and I’m surprised how most high school students are at the “south” leadership style that stresses on working as a group. I find that description of trying to satisfy everyone etc of the south leadership style really suites me. I’m not out there, the loud leader, nor am I very creative, I’m kind of critical and realistic at times, but I’m very much the “south.”

    I actually really enjoyed the last section: talking to the middle school students, and I think we should’ve been given more time. The middle school students really want to know about the service opportunities in high school, and know how we lead and serve. Perhaps the service summit answered some of the unanswered question, but I think we should definitely do more of these small group discussions with the middle school students. I remember going to the service summit last year and during freshmen year, and it was mostly one-way, not much interactive parts where we can ask really personal questions in general. Anyways, I think it’s great to get students involved in service at an early stage!

  7. Thanks for your comments. A number of us at the school are trying to figure out how to promote more service and service leadership at the school – at the middle school and primary levels, not just the high school. What I hear you saying is that games are fine and necessary to connect to younger kids, but there is a desire for more content. The leadership wheel worked very well for my freshmen, but what other content can we deliver that can help accomplish these goals. Christien, you also raise the possibility that we should focus on experiential learning outside of classrooms. As we continue to think about a Service Learning Center, these are important questions.

  8. Audrey Schalhoub says:

    Before Saturday, I was completely nervous about how the Service Summit would pan out. I was to present two separate presentations at the same time and so I had to decide on which one needed me the most. That being the Library Cafe presentation. It was hard to attract students into the room because there was so many interesting speakers visiting and there just weren’t enough sessions for the service clubs or student-run organizations to reach out to the younger students. I think that I would have also gone to the more official speakers to hear the great stuff they have been doing. I thought Leah and Alex’s personal anecdotes about children helping children were moving. I must admit, I teared a handful during Alex’s story about the young 5 year old orphan who started crying in class and was comforted by the whole class…I especially loved the part when the eldest boy told him, “We are your family now”.
    However, besides the fact that there may have been too many clubs presenting and too little time, we did grab the attention of two young 6th grade girls who were curious about Fair Trade and the Library Cafe. We spoke with them for well over 30 minutes, showing them the FairTaste site, playing a little Fair Trade activity, and etc. It was exciting to see them so engaged in what we were saying. One girl kept asking questions about how she could help, and it really made us feel like we changed the mind of someone in the world…even if it was an 11 year old. Mr. Condon also came into our presentation and it gave us the opportunity to show him what we have been doing, which was also a very rewarding experience. I really did enjoy the Summit more than I initially thought I would. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I wanted to stay for longer because I felt like we could’ve presented it to more people and win their hearts too.

  9. Christopher Huie says:

    I attended both Alex and Leah’s presentation on “Free the Children” and “Me to We”on Friday and the Service Summit on Saturday. Both of these experiences were very worthwhile and they helped me gain man new insights.

    Regarding Alex and Leah’s presentation, I was struck by how young most of the “Free the Children” and “Me to We” staff was. They showed us some pictures of their workplace and their colleagues, and I realized that most of the staff was (or seemed to be) under the age of 30. This surprised me because I usually imagine people engaged in service as their full-time job as older and more mature. I always had the notion that you had to be financially stable and accomplished before you could take on a philanthropic job as your full-time one because that’s what I had planned to do.

    In our small discussion group with Alex, we asked him where he sees himself in five years, and he casually and quite proudly said that he likes where he’s at and he’s not quite sure. This struck me because it almost defied my own way of planning my life. I kind of live by Todd Miller’s philosophy, which is to plant the general direction of your life, but leave the specifics open. Alex’s “cluelesssness” made me think about where I see myself in the near future. Should I take the conventional path and find a stable job right after college? Or should I take the road less traveled and be like Alex and Lincoln (from Dialogue in the Dark) and explore different career options. The times are hard and finding a stable, well-paying job is become more and more difficult. Many of my parent’s friend’s children who are slightly older than me have skewed away from the “normal” path and pursued jobs at institutions such as “Teach for America” and the “Peace Core.” My encounter with Alex elucidated my misconception that people in philanthropy must be old, but at the same time stirred up confusion as to what I should do in the near future. There are so many paths, but I still don’t know which one to choose!

    At the Service Summit, I presented on UNICEF and the cage dwellers project that our club is trying to pursue. Strangely, I actually learned something new about my own service club. One student asked, “What percentage of your funds at UNICEF go to the actual cause?” At first, I honestly didn’t know how to answer this question because I didn’t the exact figures. Also, I know that UNICEF receives quite a lot of criticism from the public about this issue. However, Sharon Lam stepped in for me and explained that this year, we’re not donating to the headquarters in Hong Kong, but we’re using our funds to support a water sanitation project in Bos Plu, Cambodia through somebody’s senior project; thus, 100% of the funds would go to the cause. I understood where our funds would be going, but I had no idea what implications working with somebody’s senior project would have. Knowing that most, if not all, of our funds were going directly to our cause made me feel really proud of my club!

  10. Noah says:

    My word…they’re almost as young as we are.

    That was my first reaction to seeing Alex and Leah. Believe it or not, I actually thought Mr. Campeau was one of the service members — haven’t seen him around often in my defense. But it was interesting, not only because this was a presentation to Freshman, but because the presentation method of both Alex and Leah was a lot different from what I normally see. I shall explain.

    I often see presentations by distinguished and experienced service leaders in class, and elsewhere. They are not all the same, but they are all impressive. Each person has an air of confidence that I would suppose come with time, experience at speaking, and work in a job they can put their souls into. But Alex and Leah were different, not in the choice or work or their experience with speaking, but their age. It felt fresh, not in a better way then some speaks I’ve seen, but I’m pretty sure David Begbie doesn’t open a presentation to a bunch of CEO’s at the World Trade Summit with a whirlwind game of rock-paper-scissors. I’m not sure, I’ll ask him about that.

    …My point is that Alex and Leah’s speaking style and way of talking to us were radically different from what we normally experience. They interacted with us, they asked US questions (the audacity), and they dared to try and draw the reluctant Freshman class into a real discussion rather than getting up and saying their piece before inviting the discussion. It’s different, it’s radical, and it’s not bad.

    We’ve seen a lot of different speaking styles before, and I can’t say which is better. It’s just interesting that there seems to be a correlation between the length of life, and the way of presenting. Take Jason’s presentation for instance. This is the style we are students should try to adopt. We’re not old, we’re not too experienced, but we do have conviction. If we can speak like the people we’ve just seen, we’ll have nothing to fear from any public speech.

  11. JJ Kim says:

    I had also attended the service leadership summit on Saturday morning. As Sasha said, I did not find much point in the first few activities. I guess they were ice breakers to lighten up the mood. However, I wish that the perspective museum, ninja turtle thinking and the last discussions lasted longer than the ice breakers. Overall, the session seemed to be intended for the younger kids, and it’s possible that that’s the reason the ice breakers took up more time. It would have been nice if there was a separate session for purely high school students; it would have been very helpful. Nonetheless, I still got a lot out of the session, particularly during the ninja turtle thinking drill. At first, when the two leaders were reading out the four descriptions, I was quite embarrassed by my fit. The leader was reading the description for South, and seeing how a “push over” and timid person South seemed to personify, I wasn’t very attracted to go over to that spot. I wasn’t exactly a push-over. And I didn’t want to tell the others in the room that I was really that type of person. But it was closest so I went and sat there. Surprisingly, so many more people sat there too. I had always imagined a leader as someone who would fit in North: assertive, directive and persuasive. That day’s leadership summit proved me wrong. The many things in my personality and leadership style that I found as flaws, I realized, were truly my greatest advantages of being a leader.

    I found the perspective museum very thought-provoking. Many of the middle school students actually surprised me with such deep and different thinking. It made me very curious about how they would cope with the many courses and activities high school offers to their students. I really liked the comment about the prisoner. I had thought the same thing, but it was a little surprise that it came from a middle school student. They often seem to think the most obvious, like my brother. She had said that instead of being dangerous or hopeless, the image more or less represented a second chance. She elaborated her comment with some political concepts, but that was the basic point. I completely agreed. The perspective museum help me realize how optimistic I thought. I thought the cup was half full even before I saw the captions. Before I looked at the prisoner’s captions, I thought: “at least, he’s got a second chance to fix and change his lifestyle to one that is more fulfilling; he’s not executed.” I enjoyed the session, and I wish there could be a separate one solely for high school students that elaborates more on what we already have established in many of our classes.

  12. Joyce Yam says:

    I attended the service leadership workshop on the Saturday morning. As many other students have mentioned above, I found the ice-breakers and activities in the beginning a little… out of place. The leadership workshop was definitely geared to a much younger audience – and did help break the ice. As Christien also mentioned, I wish I was at Alex and Leah’s SSS presentation. I’m sure that the experience would have been much more satisfying – and that the stuff they address would be much more appropriate for age and situation right now (searching for our inner selves and future selves).

    The most useful thing that I’ve learned from the entire experience was the splitting into four groups according to our leadership styles. I didn’t really like the idea of being split into four groups – because I could relate myself to both the “Visionary” and the “Nurturer”. I wasn’t sure which one to go to – but since I could relate myself a little bit (just a little!) more to the description of Nurturer, I went to that group. However, I don’t think there are people that are purely one type of leadership. If there are, I think it’s pretty rare. Most of us pull and use different aspects of the four leadership aspects. As Alex and Leah said, it’s the “Sage” – wait did I remember this right? – that is most well-balanced: one that can take the strengths of the various leadership styles. It was definitely helpful listening to the different weaknesses that come with the different style of leadership – and that the “Alpha” method of leading is not necessarily the only correct one.

    Lastly, as voiced by other students, I really wish Alex and Leah had held a separate leadership session for high school students. I’m sure that those of us that went would benefit much more from such a session.

  13. Enoch says:

    Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the Yogathon or the Service Summit. Like Suzette mentioned, I was one of the students who heard Alex and Leah speak to the Humanities I in AC class as well as talk to Alex separately as an SSS class. I found talking to Alex to be particularly valuable, as I think a number of people in our class can envision being someone like him – a young, freshgrad working for a reputed social entreprise and loving every bit of it. That’s why I asked him how he even found out and eventually joined Me to We in the first place. He told us that he first heard about Free the Children in college from reading one of their books, and began looking deeper into the organization. He realized, from looking at their website, that the organization was very willing to help people start up Free the Children chapters around the world. He then started a Free the Children chapter at his college. After graduating, he interviewed for a job there, and was offered a position at Me to We, a partner organization with Free the Children. That’s how he got to where he is today. Two people from our class actually asked him what next steps are (Charlie missed out the first time the question was asked), and he explained that he doesn’t have many future plans as of yet and is intent on building up skills by working at Me to We. He is thinking of going for a postgraduate degree, however. As to whether working at Me to We or any other social entreprise seems to be his career path, he isn’t sure.

    Despite the uncertainty of his future direction, I think all of us in class privileged to hear Alex speak were inspired by him and his story. I think any one of us could see ourselves in his shoes, and he made the journey to getting one of these jobs seem easily within reach. I think working at one of the organizations would be a great alternative to 24/7 backbreaking lawyer or banking jobs, saving the stress and getting us involved in something real, tangible and exciting social change.

  14. jrfildes says:

    Alex and Leah’s presentation was informal, but informative. Their friendly approach to introducing the business which they help run, to help people, was a nice format. They had that young and enthusiastic feel about them, which enthused and encouraged the whole classroom. Alex’s more personal presentation and questions to us was quite handy in showing just how realistic it was to become charitable in your own way, on the very basic level. I think what Alex and Leah proved was that charity isn’t simply defined in the way we think of it traditionally anymore. Service has changed beyond the simple donation boxes. Action counts more than pennies out of the pocket.
    Taking a leadership role is an important step. Recent experiments to do with group scripts, in the cold streets of London, has gone to show how the individual is more likely to make an action of courtesy, as opposed to people in a group. Is this how we have to make decisions for the rest of our lives? Individual thought can get more done than just a group of executives on a round table. It applies to service, and our daily lives.

  15. Sheron Luk says:

    I went to the Yogathon and found it to be a very relaxing experience. Ms. Cliff led us through several yoga routines. In the beginning she talked about how our stressful days take a toll on our bodies. Since we are the “computer age” we are more prone to carpal tunnel syndrome. We went through different poses that stretched our sore muscles.
    What I especially liked about the Yogathon was that Ms. Cliff stated that there was no “perfect” position to get into. Each pose could only be perfected for each person’s body type. It was quite interesting how our mindset is that “everything can be perfectible” and “some people do it better than others.” Because when Ms. Cliff said “if you can reach your hands further back, it means that you’re more flexible”, I immediately saw other people clawing backwards trying to “beat” other people in flexibility. Then Ms. Cliff snapped us out of it and said that reaching the furthest wasn’t the point of the exercise. I thought overall this was a great experience, and really taught me that I should exercise that fits with the health of my body.

  16. Stuwie Wong says:

    I went to Alex and Leah’s presentation in class on Friday and found it inspirational that they are teaching things that we often take for granted. I think he was a bit surprised when he heard we have all taken part in service, and found it refreshing that we have at least had the opportunity to partake in it. They placed importance on leadership, and I think it’s great that they are trying to teach it around the world.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to attend the Service Summit on Saturday, but I think the idea itself is pretty neat. The amount of service and leadership is, in my opinion, the best thing our school provides us with, and it’s important we show these to the younger students, most of whom have not had the opportunity to take advantage of these benefits yet. I also liked having some external NGOs come in along with our own in-school service clubs, as students can have the chance to know what they can do outside of school as well.

  17. Michael Thai says:

    Like many of the students in class i went to hear Alex and Leah’s presentation in class. I think like many of the students in our class I was a little surprised to see that they were almost as young as us. I heard they were young but i didn’t know they would be that young. Just graduated. I thought that young would mean like 40 or something. I thought that Leah and Alex’s speech was very interesting. I think that it was geared more to the Humanities in action kids but i thought it was very useful none the less. I think that the biggest thing i got out of it would be that there are alot of people who are going into social entrepreneurship, and that it isn’t a bad thing to go into like many of the people i know are saying. My mom told me the other day about how my aunt used to be a successful business woman, but she went into social entrepreneurship and was never able to get back into the business world. She said that social entrepreneurship just doesn’t make the money that a business person would. I think my mom would prefer me not to, but if i really wanted to she would let me go into social entrepreneurship. I think that what Alex said about his career was really valuable. He doesn’t really know where he will be in 5 years, but he knows that he is very happy with where he is right now.
    I don’t need to know exactly where i want to be. Or where i want to be in 5 years. Alex wasn’t trying to get into me to we. He was trying to join free the children, but was asked to go to me to we. And although he never thought he would be there he is now, and he loves it. I think that life is always changing and you don’t need to know exactly where you want to be. Just follow something that you love, and you will get jobs that you enjoy doing.

  18. Charlie Kwok says:

    Although I didn’t attend the Leadership program by Alex and Leah, I still did feel like a leader walking into the Service Summit. But honestly speaking, it was a little awkward walking into the Service Summit three years after our Humanities in Action class. I went the year before last year to present, but I didn’t participate in the keynote. Three years later, with a hundred Humanities in Action freshmen, and us was a little awkward but also brought back warm feelings. Those warm feelings were the same warm feelings all those hundred Humanities in Action kids are now possessing. They are all in the zone of hope and compassion, thinking of the world in a negative and positive light, fighting for small change and big change. It’s astounding to look back at them and think, I was one of them, we were one of them. Time has passed so quickly, we forget that when we were freshmen, we were optimistic and naive. Now as seniors, most of us with many philanthropic accomplishments under our belts, we have experienced a lot of failures and successes. For me, I have seen a lot of lost causes, causes that our school has started but never finished, it makes me sad that those enthusiastic kids will have similar experiences in the future as they escalate up the High School ladder. I miss the optimism from freshmen year but I miss the drive and passion more.

  19. Tiffany Ong says:

    I got to see Alex and Leah’s presentation and I found them to be amazing speakers. Their tone to the presentation was informal and friendly but also very informative. Both of them really knew how to engage the audience. Every part of their presentation was interesting and even active. The ice breaker was great to get us moving around and talking to people we didn’t know. And when they started asking us questions, they would offer suggestions and provoking thoughts too. I thought one point that really came through well was the “interest+issue=change” equation. It’s a simple tool that gets me thinking about what my interests are and what issues I’m concerned about. It’s creative yet works well with kids.

    However, what I found to be more valuable was our conversation with Alex. We got to share some of our service experiences with him as well as ask questions about his background and how he got into Me to We. What I found to be amazing is quite humble and I would say in a way quite ‘realistic’. He’s not like Charles Watson that is going around to developing countries and setting up computers for them. Alex however is in his mid 20s and is kind of figuring out his path, like many of us would be in a few years. And when he stumbled upon a Free the Children book at the library, that provoked him to discover more about the organization and to eventually start a club at his college. This is when he got interviewed for Free the Children, when they recommended him to the Me to We organization. It’s yet another inspiring story, but somehow I found it more “close to home” in a sense in that it’s more reachable and joining a NGO is something/a step where I see in my own future.

  20. Kaho Lam says:

    Alex and Leah’s presentation was pretty entertaining. Because they were both so young, just graduated from college, they were pretty cool to talk to. I really liked what Leah said about how one person who was very environmentally conscious, really impacted her to be more environmentally friendly by recycling more. It made me realize that my friends do have a great impact on how I view the world. Some of my closest friends really have changed me to be a better person by setting good examples so I truly believe that setting an example can really make a huge difference in our society. I also liked hearing what Alex had to say about not knowing what he will do 5 years from now but he knows that he is happy with what he’s doing right now and that’s all that really matters. It was good to know because like Alex I also can’t see myself 5 years from now, like many others, I’m still in the process of exploring with what I like and don’t like so it’s good to see that as long as I’m happy with the present, I don’t have to worry too much about the future.

  21. Alex Meers says:

    This Summit was one of the most inspiring events I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of. Meeting students from secondary, middle, and even primary school who were so engaged and motivated was truly a memorable experience.

    Leah and I have had an opportunity to visit hundreds of schools over the past few years, but HKIS is by far among the few that place such emphasis on service and humanistic education. The attitudes among students and educators were very clear results of the impact that education founded on humanistic principals can have.

    So many highlights of our trip that we will never forget…the yogathon to fundraise for girls scholarships in China, the conversations with students during our workshops, and of course, the incredible energy from everyone at the service summit.

    We look forward to come back to HKIS in the future and to hear all of the incredible ways that these students are making a difference in their local and global communities.

    Big props to Mr. Schmidt for putting together yet another successful conference and for his continued efforts throughout the year in service-based education.

    UNTIL NEXT YEAR HKIS! We miss you already!
    Alex and Leah

  22. From DJ Condon, our head of school, in a school publication:

    Service Summit

    I am pleased to draw your attention to an extraordinary event that transpired here at HKIS recently, one entirely in line with our school Mission and the spirit of the season. Held in the Middle School, the 4th Annual Service Summit drew over 160 students, 35 presenters and a good number of faculty and administrators for a highly engaging keynote presentation from two dynamic young activists from the ‘Me to We’ organization. This was followed by a series of service workshops presented by NGO workers and our very own students. Service is clearly a very important part of the HKIS educational experience. Big thanks go to teacher Marty Schmidt for organizing this inspiring event.

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