The History of Service Learning


Steeped in a long tradition of community service in North Adams, grassroots organizing and leadership by Drury High School faculty in 1992 led to the development of a pre-K-12, district-wide service-learning program. Drury High School continues to lead the initiative to spread the practice of service-learning both within the other schools and programs in the North Adams system as well as in the wider region. The service-learning program has been cited as a shining star within the school district. The ethics and practice of S-L are well infused into the culture and curriculum of the schools. Some projects recur repeatedly such as the Drury Senior/Senior (Citizen) Prom that has been held annually since 1994; however many are responsive to changing and immediate needs such as supporting victims of the recent disasters, addressing hunger in response to the economic recession, green energy projects, raising awareness about bullying, and collaborations with local artists and the Hoosic River Revival Coalition.

North Adams received its first grant for S-L from Learn and Serve America in 1993. The program grew rapidly and in 1999, the Corporation for National & Community Service named Drury High School a National Service-Learning Leader School. Representatives from Drury were hosted twice in Washington, DC for award ceremonies and leadership conferences. Such notables as Shirley Sagawa, Ted Sizer and Senators Ted Kennedy and Harris Woffard presented the awards.

The New England Association for School and Colleges recognized the excellence of the S-L program throughout its 2003 re-accreditation report on Drury High School. Citations included the program’s advancement of the school’s mission, its efficacy in teaching and learning, and as a central characteristic of a positive school climate.

The National Commission for Service-Learning, chaired by Senator John Glenn referenced the North Adams program in its 2002 report Learning in Deed: The Power of Service-Learning for American Schools. The Kellogg Foundation produced a film to accompany the Commission’s report and North Adams was one of three school systems featured in the film along with Philadelphia and San Francisco. Spotlighted local projects included Roberta Sullivan’s kindergarten project with the North Adams Regional Hospital and Sue Chilson’s high school Spanish students teaching lessons to elementary children. A clip featuring North Adams projects can be viewed on YouTube.

North Adams projects have been published in several books including Promising Practices; Kids Taking Action; and Lend A Hand: Exploring Service-Learning Through Children’s Literature as well as in numerous magazines, newspapers, etc. Program Coordinator Anne French contributed an essay and several North Adams projects were cited in The Complete Guide to Service-Learning: Proven, Practical Ways to Engage Students in Civic Responsibility, Academic Curriculum & Social Action (2010) by Cathryn Berger Kaye.

North Adams won First Place at the “Best of the Atlantic” Regional Service-Learning Showcase at the 2006 National Service-Learning Conference in Philadelphia for the exhibition: Education to Eradicate Terrorism: Afghanistan School Aid Project.

Multiple individual teachers, school administrators and classrooms have been presented with awards recognizing exemplary projects and leadership in service-learning. The Community Service-Learning Council to the Board of Education named James Montepare the 2010 Massachusetts Service-Learning Superintendent Leader and Drury Principal Amy Meehan the 2009 Principal Leader. Drury teachers Molly Meczywor (2010) and Keith David (2012) were selected for Community Service-Learning Teacher Leader Awards. All were recognized for their commitment to service-learning as an instructional methodology and for their leadership in advancing its practice. In 2013, Anne French was honored with the Outstanding Service-Learning Practitioner Award by the Massachusetts Service Alliance at their annual conference.