Community Outreach & Global Engagement: A Year in Review

The 2021-2022 WRA school year has been rich with fulfilling service opportunities, positively impacting the greater community, but most especially our students. Students donated clothing for local shelters, rang bells for the Salvation Army, spread joy on the Polar Express, baked and sold cookies in support of relief efforts in the Ukraine, hosted a WRA greenhouse-grown plant sale in conjunction with the Color Run to benefit the Oglala Lakota Reservation and made countless other service contributions this year. It's safe to say Western Reserve Academy students, faculty and staff care.

It's also no wonder that one of the guiding principles of our Strategic Plan is inspiring a future of light and truth through citizenship and regional and global engagement. Classes, such as Mission in Action taught by Midge Karam '79, Fine & Performing Arts Department faculty member, and Service Learning Engineering led by Wanda Boesch, Science Chair and Director of Community Outreach & Global Engagement, coupled with our Service Leaders program and class-wide service events throughout the year, propel WRA's social mission. Our impact has not gone unnoticed. The International Institute of Akron paid a personal visit to the Chapel to thank our community and share the power of our contributions this year. Madhu Sharma, Executive Director, shared how much our welcome cards and backpacks meant to refugees, and inspired students to continue social justice work. Sharma thanked students and said Western Reserve Academy should be proud of how we represent not only this region but the country as a whole.

From an early start, WRA students learn that service can and should become a very natural part of their everyday lives. Graduating senior and four-year Service Leader David King explained that he initially became intrigued in the Service Leader program because his peers were joining. "I honestly just wanted to see what all the hype was about!" His experience has been transformative, shared King. "Joining Service Leaders truly altered how I value social engagement. I always knew community service was an integral part of education, but I never realized how much you can learn from organizing service opportunities for other students."

It only helps that, thanks to student creativity, service at WRA is also fun! We can credit jump scares, spooky makeup and the efforts of Service Leaders as they transformed Hayden Hall into a philanthropic haunted Hayden Hall for the 30 laundry baskets, pillows and handmade welcome cards donated to resettled families in October. Candy cane sales drove Toys for Tots donations in December, February Crush-o-Grams supported rare DIPG childhood cancer research, with the added benefit of providing students with the opportunity to share messages of love. A hope-filled spring brought children to campus on Big Brother Big Sister Give Back Day because of a generous grant from the Mary Durstine McArtor Reynolds '83 Memorial Giving Fund and runners, walkers (and dancers!) together for the Color Run, in support of the Oglala Lakota Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. King offered words of wisdom to future leaders. "...don't think you're 'too cool' to help others out. Being kind is a universally appreciated quality, but being generous through giving back is unmatched," advised King. "Make time in your schedule to be involved in service. It's the best way of self-reflection while still making headway for great causes!"

Beyond campus, Western Reserve Academy has served the International Institute of Akron, Salvation Army, the Cleveland Metroparks system, Haven of Rest, Legacies of Success, The Joseph House, the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank and more. Students are consistently complimented on their leadership skills and positive attitudes. We also look forward to representing WRA for the first time in two years this summer during the "Reserve on the Rez'' program in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

There's no limit to the good the Reserve community can spread. After all, countless alumni reference their Reserve days as providing a foundation for their contributions. Maria Paparella '16, founder of Chair-ity, an organization in support of area youth as they transition out of the foster system, invited WRA juniors to help move furniture in September. And, of course, Mary Durstine McArtor Reynolds '83, whose memory is honored through her generous giving fund. From Akron, Cleveland to the Ukraine and beyond, we're growing world changers!