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Seattle Challenge 2021

Photo of the Seattle Academy Seattle Challenge 2021

Few things stay the same over generations and SAAS' Seattle Challenge is one of them. It is both an honor and a right of passage for our Seattle Academy 8th-grade students to participate in this capstone program which was started over 25 years ago. It involves, in typical times, an urban outdoor trip volunteering with over 50 different agencies over a 3-day period. 

Making the journey from Middle to Upper School is, in many ways, the first step for our students to find their place within the community. As our students get ready for this transition, we challenge them to dive into community service to learn about the communities around them. We ask them to participate in the difficult conversations surrounding individuals experiencing poverty and homelessness, socioeconomic and systemic hurdles. 

This year was no different. And, the challenges that our vulnerable communities face are, if anything, even greater. Our amazing Humanities teachers created a curriculum to help students understand the magnitude and complexity of issues concerning vulnerable populations in Seattle. Students then researched and interviewed an agency, and spent much of March 1st presenting to their classmates. "We want kids to dig deep," says Jen Bandy-Phillips, Seattle Challenge Coordinator. "Students were given a huge array of agencies that we work with. They learned about a specific agency, researched the heck out of it, interviewed a coordinator [of that agency], and created presentations to talk about these agencies. What they do, what their clientele is, how they can contribute—these were the group presentations."   

"The kids had agency this year. They were in the driver's seat, deciding which agencies they want to learn about, where they would want to volunteer. And interviewing someone from a nonprofit is a big deal," Jen remarks.     

March 2nd was a day of further action. Students rolled up their sleeves, bundled up, and worked together (at a safe distance) to package no cook food bags and toiletry kits for Pike Place Market Food Bank and Westside Baby. The camaraderie was seen throughout the day and our students put forth the core values that we embody here at SAAS. It was amazing to watch each student contribute boldly, right here in our gym and STREAM garage. Lively conversations filled the space as kids reunited with friends and saw others in person for the first time, all while adhering to social distancing, of course.   

"We are part of the community and it is an important part of our identity. We take care of one another," reflects Jen. This is evident not only with students but also with staff and faculty here at SAAS. "Everyone who works at SAAS—facilities, transportation, administration, teachers—everyone is in. You just jump in and do it." 

In the remarkable time of 90 minutes, about 107 students packaged 500 toiletry kits and 1,100 meals for distribution. The pace was contagious, and the impact resounding. 

Nice work class of '25! 

View more photos from this year's Seattle Challenge here. 

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