Category Archives: Service

168 Reasons Why We Walk for Water

By Celeste Kettaneh ’20

All year long, we Americans tend to use water mindlessly.

Whether it be taking a shower or leaving the faucet running, our water-wasting habits are ingrained. Unlike many places in the world, we have the privilege of taking 60-minute showers and over-watering our plants.

While we use our limited supply of “infinite” amounts of water, others beyond our borders are suffering from diseases caused by their poor water treatment. In some places, it takes a three-mile journey, sunburned shoulders, and empty plastic gallons for a family to get their daily supply. Our separation in water collection expands beyond miles, literally and metaphorically. While we put on our faucets, others put on their shoes to walk for their water.

As a part of the WE Charity, an international charity and education partner based in Canada, schools all around the world were challenged to raise money to change these conditions. They planned to build wells from all the money collected where communities needed it most. The motive was pure: every $25 raised gave one child clean water for the rest of their lives.

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Standing Up Against Bullying on GLSEN’s Day of Silence

By Amelia Gomez ’22 and Hannah Sipich ’22

Last Friday, students around the world were silent in order to have their voices heard. This is GLSEN’s (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) Day of Silence. The Day of Silence was first organized in 1996 to bring awareness to the harassment and bullying LGBTQ+ students encounter. Bullying is unacceptable, and no one should be subjected to it anywhere, anytime.

We are proud to be part of the majority of Morgan Park Academy’s Middle and Upper School students who enthusiastically take part in this student-led movement. On this day, we dress in black and do not speak (except during class time). We are silent to remind ourselves and others that even though we want to use our voices and have ourselves heard, we cannot. This is how victims of bullying feel. They are afraid that if they speak out against what is happening to them, they will face more of the same treatment, or worse.

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My Week at Heifer Ranch & Global Village

By Saanvi Malkani ’23

Editor’s Note: A key part of Morgan Park Academy’s global curriculum is a week of school-wide global explorations each March, including a seventh-grade trip to the Heifer Ranch in Arkansas.

Sunday we had our near 13-hour bus ride to Perryville, Arkansas. It was a day consumed by our electronic devices, which will not happen again until Friday. The entire time I was anxious and eager to get to the ranch, which was inevitably in the middle of nowhere. The bus drive was slightly boring, but I got to witness the transition from the city to the rural fields. It was nice to escape my bubble in Chicago, in which everything is busy and chaotic, and transition into the serene, calm, and peaceful environment.

Although the bus ride was tiring, it was nice to be able to to rest up knowing what was in store for us tomorrow. I was very excited to finally be able to somewhat understand the things going on in the world and to be “off the grid” for a few days, while some people need to do it their whole lives.

[See more photos from this trip or check out stories and photos from other Global Week trips.]

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Meet Our Teachers: Derek Smith

Derek Smith teaches English and Social Studies classes in the Upper School and is our Director of Service Learning. He is teaching American literature and consumer economics this school year, his sixth at Morgan Park Academy.

Mr. Smith holds a B.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Master’s degree from Framingham State University.


What do you like best about teaching at Morgan Park Academy?

I enjoy how much autonomy and flexibility we are afforded as educators. I’ve created courses from scratch about Middle Eastern literature and about graphic novels, for example, and we’re reintroducing a speech class next spring. The encouragement to create new classes and to make use of our strengths enables and pushes us to continually grow as educators.

I also love our small community and the connection I have with students, including the opportunity to make connections outside of the classroom. As teachers here, we do not lose touch with our students once they graduate and move on to college and adult life.

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Summer Service Learning in Ecuador


Our journey into the Amazon rainforest was a long one: two flights, an eight-hour bus ride, and a boat ride before we reached the Minga Lodge on the Upper Napo River in northeast Ecuador. But it was worth every minute.

We were thrilled to represent the MPA faculty and school community on a remarkable service trip this summer, volunteering with fellow teachers from throughout the U.S. and Canada on a life-changing development project through the ME to WE charity program.

To say that we gained a fuller perspective on life and community is an understatement.

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The MPA Way: Service Day

Plenty of songs discuss the weather. Stormy Weather, Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain, Hurricane, and mixing similes, Rock You Like a Hurricane.

But what song was I thinking about on October 5th? No Rain.

derekitThis wasn’t just some meteorological curiosity to plan my wardrobe; this forecast was central to our school’s Service Day October 6th. A week of checking the weather and the forecast the night before concluded that it was only a 20% chance of rain.

Naturally then, it rained the whole day. We had twelve different locations that the Middle and Upper school students were to attend, see, and a third of them were outdoors.

If there’s one aspect of being the school’s Service Learning Coordinator I’ve learned is most valuable, it’s being flexible. Because something pops up – like when the rain comes again, there’s nothing we can do, except to let it rain.

The day went smoothly in spite of the random variables because of the trust I had in other faculty members and with the dedicated members of our Service Council.

A week before Service Day, for example, one of our locations cancelled on us. Why? Their warehouse was empty and they no longer had any work for us. Coupled with another snafu in scheduling, and another one with the rain that wouldn’t stop, we had to switch plans three separate times, and twice in the final week. The amount of texting, of calling, of others agreeing to help out at the last minute was remarkable.

Still, the logistics behind planning any event are probably better left unsaid. Suffice to say, our school did magnificently. Below are some of the highlights.

We went to Smith Village, spending time with the residents, making door decorations and playing Jeopardy.

We went to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, making lanterns (“thousands of them, several students claimed”).

We went to the Ronald McDonald House in Hyde Park and prepared a meal, and taught at least one student how to boil water.

service2016itWe went to The Courage Program and organized toys and clothing; The Forest Preserve to remove invasive species with loppers and bow saws; Arts of Life to paint; The Dog District to also paint and to walk dogs; Burr Oak Academy as teacher aids for the lower school; The Talking Farm to prepare for an upcoming fundraiser; The Franciscan Outreach to better organize and to learn about their organization; helped clean up and beautify our own campus, making cards and Halloween-themed decorations, and learning different methods of conservation.

It’s always reassuring when students give positive feedback about their respective locations, particularly when they express a desire to return. For, after all, it’s not intended for Service Day to be merely a day out of class, a day to be “filled up” and forgotten. It’s part of our mission for MPA to stay active in and around the community, and I hope students will take the initiative, to build sustainable relationships with organizations on their own.
In short, MPA at every age group had an opportunity to give back on our Fall Service Day. The rain might have dampened the ground, but not our collective spirits. There will always be a thousand variables when trying to organize any event, but with last Thursday’s rain, MPA might as well have been singing in it.

By Derek Smith

Mr. Smith teaches Upper School Social Studies and English. He also is MPA’s Service Learning Coordinator.

GLSEN’s Day of Silence: Working to End Bullying

GLSEN day of silence

By Claire Mordi ’15

Founded in 1996, GLSEN’s (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) Day of Silence is a day where students all over the world can band together to make a powerful impact within their schools on the topic of LGBT bullying. I am pleased to say that with a lot of planning and preparation, Morgan Park Academy’s Upper School and Middle School students were able to take part in this event to show that bullying is not acceptable anywhere, at anytime, no matter who you are.

Our student committee promoted the event by writing complimentary Post-it notes on each of our classmates’ lockers, selling T-shirts and bracelets, and organizing a huge bake sale — all leading up to the celebrated Day of Silence on April 24, when the students and faculty came dressed in black or in the Day of Silence T-shirts. Participating students remained silent during the school day outside of class participation.

But this year, not only did we on the committee want to call attention to bullying based on sexual orientation, we aimed to highlight all types of bullying, whether it’s about your sexual orientation, race or ethnic background, appearance, or your personality.

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