The entire faculty and staff of Tacoma-based Charles Wright Academy skipped school on Feb. 15.
While the group enjoyed rare sunny skies, a case of Spring Fever was not the cause of the wide-spread absenteeism. Instead it was the school’s designated community service day for all faculty and staff. Every year, with students away for the President’s Day holiday, the faculty and staff gather for professional development.
About three years ago, they decided to add community engagement to their professional development curriculum. In the three years since the community outreach component was added, the teachers have volunteered more than 600 hours in support of numerous projects around Pierce County, including beach cleanup at nearby Chambers Bay and working in the greenhouses and fields at L’Arche Farms in Tacoma.
The organizations receiving support evolve from year to year based on employee interest. Every year, employees nominate projects or organizations in the surrounding communities where they wish to volunteer their time and talents. And every year, when students are away enjoying the long holiday weekend, the faculty and staff head out in groups large and small to help their neighbors.
Setting aside a day for employees to volunteer has many benefits according to organizers.
“Of course, it benefits the recipients, but it’s also been beneficial to our own campus community,” said Sam Harris, Charles Wright’s Middle School Librarian and one of the event’s coordinators. “It’s an opportunity for faculty and staff with different responsibilities on campus to work together. That fosters communication, deeper understanding, and ultimately helps strengthen our own community."