2010 Bezos Scholar Paul Elish and his educator, Jennifer Bourassa, created the Community Service Initiative (CSI) student group to encourage student service with the intent of improving their school, Presque Isle High School (PIHS), and the greater community.
Throughout the year, CSI facilitated several service-oriented initiatives that established strong connections between community organizations and students.
First, the CSI group worked with district administration to institute a paper-recycling program at the high school. Recycling containers were purchased with seed funding and was paired with an awareness campaign on of the basics of recycling paper. This initiative culminated on “Wear Green for a Greener Blue Day,” when students and teachers wore green to show their support for a more environmentally-friendly high school.
The next CSI initiative was the Rice Bowl. The Rice Bowl supported the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP). Students and faculty played educational games on FreeRice.com and for every correct answer, a food donation was made to WFP. . Awards were given to the classes with the highest rice-donation totals at PIHS’s first annual “Rice Bowl.”
Next, CSI took on the Origami Cranes challenge offered by the Students Rebuild program, which issued the challenge in response to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. PIHS art class students and community members donated over 400 folded paper cranes, contributing $800 to Architecture for Humanity’s rebuilding work in Japan.
The final and largest CSI initiative was Teen Night at the Library. Community members were encouraged to visit the library to read, play games, share food, create arts and crafts, explore the library technology offerings, experience the photo gallery, and partake in a writing workshop hosted by New Brunswick author, Wendy Koenig. Through the popularity of Teen Night, the library expanded on existing teen after-hour events and became a Safe Place for vulnerable teens.
Paul shares, “We took ideas for initiatives from students and faculty to ensure service was always a subject of discussion through our school. This not only helped CSI be a vehicle for serving the community, but also encouraged a culture of service within the high school.”