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Students Perform Day of Community Service

The entire student body at the Harvey School headed to Yonkers Tuesday, where kids traded pens and notebooks for paintbrushes and brooms.

About 250 students skipped school Tuesday—but that doesn't mean they didn't learn anything.

Julia Meyer learned how to cover the corners when housepainting the three-story rectory at Yonkers church. She also learned that community service can be fun. 

"To be honest, I wasn't that excited to go," said the Harvey School senior and Chappaqua resident. "It was tiring, but on the bus home I reaized I had a better time than I expected—while helping other people." 

About 250 teenagers fanned out into the neighborhood around the Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Yonkers Tuesday morning for a day of service planned by the Harvey School in Katonah in partnership with Westchester Habitat for Humanity.

Students cleaned the church basement, spruced up a park, painted walls and fences, potted flowers and tutored local school children.

Sam Smyth, also a senior, said he expected to get dirty but he didn't expect to enjoy it so much. "The thing that surprised me is that I learned I actually like involving myself with other kids to do projects like this—going with the whole school was great," said the Wilton resident. 

Patrick Taylor, a Bedford resident, learned what it takes to be a teaching assistant when he spent the day at a school near the church. "I had a lot of interaction with young kids. I got a sense of their community and enjoyed seeing their eagerness and be able to help them get to the next level of their learning," he said.

Beth Visintainer, Harvey's dean of students, said the activity was a great community builder because they mixed the students from grades nine through 12 into groups of kids that didn't necessarily know each other.

"To take over 250 kids on 7 buses into an area we didn't know and get introduced to the work that was going to happen and watch it all unfold—you could sense the goodwill in the air," she said.

William Porter, the school's director of admissions, painted and helped to oversee students. He said the idea for the all-school service trip came from Phil Lazzaro, who started last year as the new head of the upper school, and was planned in large part by Pat Normandeau, the school's special events coordinator.

"We believe all kids should have the experience of doing good works for others," Porter explained, noting that among the diverse student body were Harvey students from Yonkers who were helping their neighbors from home.

"It's always nice to see students in new situations—on stepladders, with paint brushes, and just working really hard," said Porter. He also said the partnership with Habitat for Humanity helped students get a lot out of the activity, and in particular, the inspiration provided by was a wonderful addition:

"He was so energetic, he was high-fiving students and encouraging them...and though it sounds cliché, he really does 'talk the talk,' while 'walking the walk.'"

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