Serving the poor, helping the environment on Seattle Prep’s Day of Service

  • Written by Nathan Whalen
  • Published in Local
Ashley Mah, a Seattle Prep senior, plays chess with a resident at Frederic Ozanam House, a Catholic Housing Services residence for chronically homeless men age 55 years and older. Photo: Courtesy Seattle Preparatory School Ashley Mah, a Seattle Prep senior, plays chess with a resident at Frederic Ozanam House, a Catholic Housing Services residence for chronically homeless men age 55 years and older. Photo: Courtesy Seattle Preparatory School

SEATTLE – More than 750 Seattle Preparatory School students, faculty and staff gave back to their community with hands-on work at housing complexes and parks during the school’s annual Day of Service.

“Our students did everything from repainting or deep cleaning to preparing a meal,” said Rachel Ford, director of the Jesuit high school’s Magis Christian Service Program.

The school took a break from classes on April 19 to help at 18 sites operated by Catholic Community Services and Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington and 10 Seattle Parks and Recreation locations. In addition to the students, some 65 faculty and staff participated.

“The Day of Service is something I always look forward to,” said senior Thomas Reuter, a member of Holy Family Parish in Kirkland and leader of Seattle Prep’s global justice coalition.

Abby Allen, a freshman at Seattle Preparatory School, visits with a resident at Frederic Ozanam House, a Catholic Housing Services residence for chronically homeless men age 55 years and older. Photo: Courtesy Seattle Preparatory School

The event is part of Prep’s Peace and Justice Week. The coalition planned activities for the week, organized an assembly and led some of the service teams. This year’s service opportunities meshed with the group’s focus on homeless issues — especially affecting veterans, people with physical and mental disabilities, addicts and low-income families, Reuter said. Students worked at CCS/CHS housing complexes for men, women and families moving out of homelessness.

Seattle Prep began partnering with CHS in 2017 after students chose homelessness and housing as a social justice issue to examine, Ford said. Students this year have focused on low-income housing solutions — what to advocate, how to support construction of affordable housing and how to lobby lawmakers.

The work of their hands

About 30 Prep students in three teams worked on landscape projects at Santa Teresita del Niño Jesús, housing in the Delridge neighborhood for families transitioning from homelessness. “It happened to be a lot of weeding,” Reuter said.

At Belltown’s Dorothy Day House — home to low-income women, many of them disabled —students completed deep-cleaning projects in kitchens, basements and elevators. Other students cleaned the basement at St. Martin’s on Westlake, housing for chronically homeless men 55 and older.

And students cooked and cleaned for residents at the Josephinum, a 211-apartment building in downtown Seattle for low-income people and the formerly homeless.

“They’re helping us get to projects that we haven’t been able to get done,” said Lauren Pusich, the Josephinum’s event coordinator. Students were encouraged to share their experiences with the residents, to help dispel any feelings of isolation, Pusich said. “These are not separate communities,” she said. “We’re all connected.”

Emma Conaty, a senior at Seattle Prep, helps with gardening chores at Monica’s Village Place, an affordable housing
complex in Seattle’s Central District, operated by Catholic Housing Services. Photo: Courtesy Seattle Preparatory School

Other Prep students spent their service time pulling out invasive plants in Seattle parks, then laying burlap and covering it with wood chips — work that taught them the importance of healthy green spaces and educated them about the Earth Corps volunteer program, Ford said. Other work sites included the Burke-Gilman Trail and the trail system at Discovery Park.

With their service day behind them, members of the global justice coalition will talk about what they’ve learned, what’s next for the group and what social justice issues to emphasize.

“We have a focus on how we can help people and the community,” Reuter said.

Roxanne Anderson, a sophomore at Seattle Preparatory School, helps with planting at Seattle’s Interlaken Park. Anderson was among more than 750 students, faculty and staff who participated in Seattle Prep’s annual Day of Service. Photo: Courtesy Seattle Preparatory School