From mental health to education: Students highlight service work through Archer in Action Fair

Junior+Lucia+Ponti+and+freshman+Avery+Greene+stand+by+posters+they+created+for+the+Archer+in+Action+Fair+to+highlight+their+work+with+Free+2+Be+Me+Dance+and+Hope+in+a+Suitcase.+Im+so+proud+of+the+students+who+are+really+figuring+out+what+theyre+passionate+about%E2%80%94+and+then+matching+that+up+as+a+way+to+give+back%2C+History+teacher+and+Service+Learning+Coordinator+Meg+Shirk+said.

Photo credit: Jordanna Boxer-Wachler

Junior Lucia Ponti and freshman Avery Greene stand by posters they created for the Archer in Action Fair to highlight their work with Free 2 Be Me Dance and Hope in a Suitcase. “I’m so proud of the students who are really figuring out what they’re passionate about and then matching that up as a way to give back,” Service Learning Coordinator Meg Shirk said.

By Nina Sperling , Senior Reporter

Baking cakes for children in foster care. Teaching French to preschoolers. Interning at a dance studio for dancers with disabilities. These are all examples of service work highlighted at the Archer in Action Fair hosted by the Artemis Center Thursday, Nov. 10.

Service Learning Coordinator Meg Shirk organized the fair this year. Participants were instructed to create a poster about their work and ways that other students can become involved in the organizations. Students who are aiming to earn a service award were required to participate.

The fair was held in the courtyard, and students listened to presentations about the organizations and the information on the posters. The fair was organized by topic, so students could easily access information about they topics they are interested in.

Shirk said that one of her goals for the fair was to have students share different opportunities to give back to the community with each other. She said she was inspired by seeing students getting motivated to be involved in service or activism through the fair.

“It’s always so incredible to talk to students about the work that they’re doing,” Shirk said. “There’s so much work happening behind the scenes that I don’t get to see and know about all the time. To see students create poster[s] with photos that really highlight the real impact that they’re making — there’s really nothing better than to see that on front display.”

As mental health challenges have significantly increased among teenagers since the COVID-19 pandemic, many Archer students have chosen to focus on mental health in their service work. Eight upper school students currently volunteer at Teen Line. The program, from Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, was created for teenagers to call, text or email other teenagers regarding mental health concerns or for a general need for connection.

Junior Remi Cannon joined Teen Line in 2021 and recently started taking calls after over 100 hours of training. Cannon said that she learned about Teen Line at Archer through Paola Hoffman (’22), and since joining, she has been able to further explore her passion for mental health.

“I had heard about teen line from [Hoffman], and I called the line in support when I was in sixth grade,” Cannon said. “I’ve always known I’ve wanted to become a therapist when I grow up, so I thought this was amazing volunteer work that aligned with my passions, but it’s also something that really helped me out when I was young, so I love to contribute to that.”

Seniors Audrey DeUgarte and Sara Steiner shared their work with the Salvation Army Westwood Transitional Village, a facility that supports previously unhoused people in their transition to stable housing. Steiner and DeUgarte volunteer in person, holding holiday parties and collection drives, such as collecting beauty products, toiletries and coats. They also served as counselors for the Westwood Transitional Village summer camp this past summer and facilitated activities such as games, field trips and reading.

“This is an issue that is really important, especially in L.A., when we have a really big homelessness issue,” Steiner said. “We were motivated to be able to give back and hopefully help people in changing their lives.”

Senior Ella Poon and sophomore Natalie Huang are also giving back through their work with Bored of Boredom, an online, student-run tutoring service for underprivileged students. Poon and Huang said working with Bored of Boredom is a rewarding experience, and it is also flexible and requires only a small time commitment.

“In the moment when [the students] finally understand what you’re teaching them, it’s really nice,” Huang said. “Also realizing that you can see how they grow and really get to know these people [is my favorite part].”

Although some service work can require a greater time commitment than others, such as volunteering for Teen Line, Cannon still encouraged students to participate if they are interested in mental health related issues.

“I definitely think Teen Line is not something that you do to get your school volunteer work completed. This is definitely a commitment,” Cannon said. “With mental health in general, [breaking] down the stigma as much as possible [is important]. Starting small with just talking to your friends about it — whatever you’re comfortable sharing, of course — but keep talking about mental health, and don’t keep it a secret.”

Shirk said that in the future, she hopes students will continue sharing their service work and giving back to their communities beyond Archer and the fair.

“I hope a lot of students that started service projects at Archer continue on with those passions and interests the rest of their life,” Shirk said. “I see a lot of students go for silver and gold recognition. I do exit interviews, and most of them say, ‘I’m going to do service in college,’ and ‘I’m going to continue my journey with service well beyond Archer.’ That’s what we’re really hoping for — this lifelong dedication to giving to others.”