Hilltop teaches community service

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  • Hilltop Country School students and teachers have adopted Ungerman Park and Station Park as part of the New Jersey Clean Waterways. Photos provided

  • From left, students Emily, Allison, Charlotte, Logan, James, and Sofia join in the effort

  • Sofia does her part

  • So does Hilltop 4th grade teacher Janet Vigeland

  • Community service nurtures thoughtful leaders

— Community Service has always played a central role at Hilltop Country Day School. This year, however, Hilltop has refocused its community service initiative with two key focal points:

• Teach and model for our kids the importance of giving back and service to others. How? All parents are asked to work alongside their children for these monthly service projects. We believe that parents are the most important teacher in a child’s life and, thus, must demonstrate how to lead and how to serve.

• Engage more directly with our surrounding communities. Hilltop has operated in relative anonymity for the past 50 years and it is time this changes. Each service opportunity has taken place off campus or with a local non-profit to help generate a wider scope of impact.

Every month a different grade has spearheaded a community service project and invited the entire school, parents included, to join. Each service project starts out with an informal gathering of Hilltop families to simply meet, connect, and have fun. In this age of digital consumption we believe it’s critical for families to foster face-to-face conversation and engagement. A few examples of our service projects this year:

• Trash pick-up and trail maintenance at Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area around Ryker Lake.

• Helping to unload Toys for Tots trailers at Project Self-Sufficiency.

• Family Fun day with Pass-It-Along.

• Adopted Ungerman Park and Station Park as part of the New Jersey Clean Waterways.

Watching parents and their kids work together to give back on weekends has simply been inspiring. While many schools require a certain number of service hours per month or year, here at Hilltop it is more organic and, thus, helps to build intrinsic motivation.

Head of School Kevin Folan notes, “All too often kids are pressured to do community service to help build their resumes. Here at Hilltop it’s different. We believe in appealing to the intrinsic motivation in all of our kids. By building these habits at the elementary level we are preparing these young men and women to be purposeful and thoughtful leaders.”

On May 19, Hilltop is participating in Pass-it-Along Day. We are doing a cleanup project at the Knoll Heights senior living facility just across the street from us. While this is geared towards Hilltop families we invite others throughout Sussex County to join us in helping to leave our communities better than we found it.

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