Learning Behind the Scenes at CA

It takes a hard-working staff of more than 100 to keep CA running smoothly—grass mowed, snow shoveled, buildings maintained, and more than 1,000 faculty, staff and students fed every day. Now, thanks to Tenth Grade On-Campus Service Day, students have a better idea of how much non-stop behind-the-scenes effort it takes to run CA. For one day, Upper School sophomores put academics aside and instead of learning at CA, they volunteer to work for CA, maintaining the campus or working in the dining hall. Sometimes CA students learn in the classroom—and sometimes they learn in the kitchen.

“In class, students have learned the 6 C’s—Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, Character and Cultural Competence,” says Lisa Dean, Coordinator of Upper School Service Learning. “Service learning gives students the opportunity to see how those skills can be used in the real world.”

Early on a Tuesday morning, the students in Science Teacher David Frankel’s Advisory group gather at the dining hall—not at their usual tables, but in the kitchen. General Manager of Sodexo Paul Worley has already met with the students to answer questions and discuss what to expect, how to dress, and how to be safe while preparing lunch at CA.

Even with that preparation, students are awed by scope of the operation behind the public-facing food stations. As Patrick Schmid and Will Gerash move small mountains of cooked spaghetti, Schmid gestures over his shoulder to a giant pot on the stove. “That’s 15 gallons!” he exclaims. “The sheer amount of food is insane.”

“We never get to see the happenings back here,” Gerash adds. “They are so organized!”

In a far corner, Jasmine Moore and Anderson Dodge have set up a peanut butter sandwich assembly line. On a mission to prepare dozens of sandwiches prior to lunch, they, too, are surprised by what they are learning in the kitchen.

“I always thought that everyone showed up to work here about one hour before lunch,” Moore says. “They get here at 6:00 a.m.!”

“The process of preparing food is longer and bigger than we thought,” Dodge adds.

Those kinds of insights are exactly what Dean hopes to see in students when she surveys them about their experience after the On-Campus Service Day. “This experience puts students into someone else’s shoes,” she says. “They appreciate what goes into preparing nice meal options or taking care of a 93-acre campus, and they learn empathy.”

By the time that all faculty, staff, and students descend on the dining hall, the sophomore volunteers are ready. Quinn Taylor and Lulu Geller, both with hair fashionably tied up in  hairnets, are running the deli station like old hands, making subs as fast as they can. They don’t stop until the long line comes to an end. Talyor admits she was “a little confused” at the start but “figured it out.”

Geller summed her experience in one sentence. “There are a lot of kids who eat here, and they eat a lot of food!”

The Sophomore On-Campus Service Day is just one of many volunteer opportunities for CA students, including student clubs which have service components. During their junior year, students begin working on a Community Impact Project which is completed during their senior year. “It is impressive to see them incorporate their passions into a self-directed project,” Dean says. “They learn to see the bigger picture.”

Patrick, Will, Quinn, Lulu, Jasmine and Anderson spent their afternoon cleaning the eating area of the dining hall. By the time, they completed their day, they had new insight into what it takes to run the school they attend and new appreciation for the people who work at CA everyday.