Instilling the value of service to others with a willing sprit is one of the most important aims of Verde Valley School. The critical skills and concrete tools of planning, funding, executing and assessing projects, in conjunction with a relationship-centered, empathetic world view enables our students to serve more effectively, to create a new paradigm for giving, and to continue to positively shape the world of tomorrow. Service to the school, the local community and the world is woven throughout most aspects of school life.
Globally, service at VVS focuses primarily on Global Goals. Now in its tenth year, the program came about as many programs at VVS have – we saw a need and formed a collaboration among students, faculty and local benefactors to reach out to a community all while educating our own. Each year students and faculty work on service projects based on the UN’s Global Goals, providing local service work along the way and culminating in a June trip to Malawi, Africa. Just as relationships define VVS, we strive to build relationships through Global Goals. Our work in Africa has always been accomplished in collaboration with Malawians – asking them what they need and not assuming we know those answers. Constructing buildings and concrete work projects were our first focus, but our work has evolved to better align with our mission. We work at a grassroots level supporting emergent communities that are empowering their own youth to create change. We give witness to their ability to help themselves and draw awareness to their problems and achievements.
Each year our service work in the Verde Valley is guided by the UN’s Global Goals, mirroring locally the work we will do that summer in Malawi. Our dedication to eradicating extreme poverty and hunger locally includes working with the Verde Food Council on their Backpacks for Kids program. In this program VVS students collect food donations and fill backpacks weekly for students at local Big Park Community School. Those elementary school students then take home the backpacks at the weekend, filling crucial nutritional gaps while they aren’t at school. Students also work with the TEWA holiday project on Northern Arizona tribal lands and for the past two years have solicited donations to provide each child at Third Mesa Elementary School with a winter coat. At the beginning of each school year, the VVS community votes to Fast for a Meal, a program where we forgo a lunch in the dining hall and use the money saved to donate to local hunger initiatives.
VVS students have a lot to offer one another and our community. Service to our own community takes the “think globally, act locally” maxim and really drives it home for all of us. On any given day you can find VVS students engaged in and in charge of on-campus service projects including sustainability projects like vermicomposting of kitchen waste, making environmentally friendly laundry soap for the dorm laundry rooms and the popular annual recycled fashion show, where students sew clothes from found materials around campus and organize a fashion show in Brady Hall. In the academic realm, students organize our peer tutoring program and provide lessons in languages not supported in our regular academic program, like Chichewa and Chinese. Student-led arts projects are on campus as well, including dance programs and a photo-series called Humans of VVS.