Service initiatives encourage students to give back


Leah Allen '22

For the month of January, the Sacred Heart Upper School raised funds for four organizations that provide support for underrepresented communities.

In accordance with Goal Three of the Sacred Heart Goals and Criteria, “a social awareness which impels to action,” the Upper School community service team spent the majority of this academic year gathering donations in support of different service organizations and educating students and faculty on various social issues.  For the month of January, the school’s service initiatives centered around preserving the dignity and worth of the human person, specifically those in marginalized communities.  To honor this theme, Sacred Heart Greenwich partnered with the Abilis organization, the Shepherd’s Center, the Red Cloud Indian School, and Blythedale Children’s Hospital.

Under the leadership of Mrs. Kerry Bader, Director of Upper School Social Justice and Service and Senior Seminar Service and Theology Teacher, senior Mary O’Connor, Head of Community Service, along with the Upper School community service ambassadors freshman Olivia Ritossa, sophomore Jenny Di Capua, junior Mary Hawthorne, and senior Caroline Guza, organize a service theme for each month as a way to keep the student body engaged in outreach.

Although the school can not sponsor in-person service opportunities this year due to pandemic restrictions, Mary Hawthorne believes that the Sacred Heart service initiatives have maintained their impact.

“One challenge that the community service team has faced due to the pandemic is a lack of hands on service,” Mary said.  “Usually students are able to volunteer and work together at an organization they are interested in, such as the Junior League of Greenwich, King Street Rehab, and the Carver Center.  Although we are not able to actually go to these places, we are still able to show our support through cards, donations, gifts, and by spreading awareness.” 

For the month of January, the community service team worked to increase student engagement in the school outreach initiatives by facilitating grade-level competitions to raise money for organizations that assist vulnerable or underrepresented populations.

Abilis is a non-profit organization that supports individuals with disabilities in Fairfield County. Courtesy of

Students in the ninth grade partnered with Abilis, a non-profit organization located in Greenwich, Connecticut that supports individuals with special needs from childhood to adulthood.  People with disabilities face various hardships in their daily lives, specifically as a result of environments, services, systems, and policies that do not cater to those with different physical and mental capabilities, according to  Abilis helps individuals reach developmental milestones by providing early intervention, customized therapy sessions, and family education programs.  They also provide life support, job training, and supported employment for adults, according to

Senior Ceci Duncan runs the Abilis Club at Sacred Heart, and spoke on the personal connection that she has with the organization’s mission.

“Abilis sets the standard for person-centered services through innovation, teamwork, and respect for the people we serve,” Ceci said.  “We believe that people with disabilities have the same rights as all people.  They are entitled to good healthcare and safety, meaningful choices, achievement, friendship, fulfilling work, and a comfortable place to live.  Having an autistic brother and meeting his neurodiverse classmates, I feel a personal calling to serve the disabled.  It’s meaningful to me and Abilis to acknowledge their dignity and dreams for the future.”

Tenth grade students raised funds for the Shepherd’s Center, a hospital that specializes in medical treatment, research, and rehabilitation for patients with neuromuscular conditions.  Juniors Claire Miller and Elisa Taylor are co-heads of the Compassion Cards Club and have partnered with this organization in the past.  Members of the Compassion Cards Club create cards and gift baskets for senior citizens, many of whom currently live in in-patient facilities, like the Shepherd’s Center, and who may feel isolated or unhappy during the pandemic.

Mr. Roger White Eyes, a teacher at the Red Cloud Indian School, visited Sacred Heart in March 2019.  Courtesy of Ms. Rachel Zurheide

Eleventh grade students worked with the Red Cloud Indian School, a private school located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  The Pine Ridge Reservation contains a number of the poorest communities in the United States, and as a result, has an average high school dropout rate of over 70 percent, according to  Sacred Heart has a continued partnership with the Red Cloud Indian School.

In previous years, students in the Pine Ridge Club, run by seniors Emma Rose Connolly and Lauren Mirando, visited the reservation to participate in Lakota Immersion programs, assist in classrooms, and learn about the effects of poverty on the Lakota Community.

Students in the twelfth grade partnered with Blythedale Children’s Hospital, another organization that Sacred Heart has supported in previous years.  The hospital is “dedicated to improving the health and quality of life of children with complex medical illnesses and conditions,” according to  Seniors Morgan Wilkens and Liv Lockwood are the co-heads of the Blythedale Club.  Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, students would spend time visiting children in the hospital.

Mary Hawthorne believes that the efforts of all four organizations to assist vulnerable communities reflects the true meaning of Sacred Heart service.

“Each one of these organizations is completely different regarding their specific cause, but all have a common goal of helping those in need,” Mary said.  “I feel that the work our school is doing in on honor of this theme is necessary because we need to spread positivity and support those struggling beyond our community.  This is what Sacred Heart service is all about.”

Featured Image by Leah Allen ’22