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Ceili Leahy Day of Service

Students Helped At A Dozen Community Service Projects Around The City

Nearly 150 James Monroe High School seniors took part in the 12th annual Ceili Leahy Day of Service last Friday, each lending their efforts to a local non-profit while earning credits towards graduation. It was the second year of partnership between Fredericksburg City Public Schools and the Ceili Leahy Service Project, which founded the event.

Students rolled up their sleeves and got to work at one of a dozen area projects around town, with tasks including everything from garden work and litter clean-up to planting trees and painting murals. This year’s itinerary included scheduled projects at the following locations:

  • Downtown Greens – weeding and working in the lower garden.
  • Tree Fredericksburg – mulching trees on Idlewild Boulevard.
  • Friends of the Rappahannock – litter cleanup around Cossey Pond and Kenmore Park.
  • Fairy Godmother Project – organizing meal and art supplies.
  • Thurman Brisben Center – sorting and tidying the family and kids rooms.
  • Rappahannock Area Community Service Board – packaging Narcan kits.
  • Washington Heritage Museum – washing the wall of the Mary Washington Monument.
  • James Monroe High School – mural painting with artist Gabriel Pons.

Some students also chose to volunteer reading to younger students at Hugh Mercer and Lafayette Elementary Schools. Others continued their efforts into this week, with students scheduled to plant trees at Old Walker-Grant Middle School.

The idea for a partnership between James Monroe High School and the Ceili Leahy Service Project started with Fredericksburg City Public Schools CTE Coordinator Kristi Allison, who was looking for ways to provide students with “high quality work-based learning” opportunities while satisfying their Career and Technical Education (CTE) requirement for graduation. These are experiences that coincide with a student’s interests and goals, can integrate with their course work, and includes partnerships with local businesses and organizations.

Allison reached out to Leslie and John Leahy, founders and organizers of the Ceili Leahy Service Project, who also saw the potential in a collaboration. They established the event in honor of their daughter, a James Monroe High School graduate of the Class of ’14, who passed away from cancer in 2016. At the time Allison approached, the couple weren’t sure how much longer their outreach would continue.

“We were going to stop after 10 (years). And we were kind of heartbroken, because not everything lasts,” remembers Leslie Leahy.

The idea from Allison provided the inspiration (and assistance) the couple needed to continue their work. Fredericksburg City Public Schools taking over organizing efforts has allowed the two parents to pivot to a supportive roll, which was the boost the Leahy’s needed to keep going.

“We feel like we have another opportunity to continue to inspire students and help them realize the importance of community service,” Leahy says.

This year, approximately half of the volunteer students were fulfilling their requirement for graduation. Leahy hopes students will stay connected with the community
around them well after taking off their caps and gowns.
 

“We hope they want to do more. Ceili was a really big volunteer and loved to do community service.”

Since 2017, the state of Virginia has required high school students to fulfill a CTE requirement.
 
The Day of Service, which satisfies this requirement, is more than just the several hours of work in the field. Students first spend several class periods researching a local non-profit of their choice and writing a brief reflective piece about its work and impact. And while fulfilling a requirement certainly spurs some students to get active, Allison finds many others taking in the true spirit of volunteerism.
 
“The students really see this as an opportunity to give back to the community while also fulfilling a graduation requirement. We’d like to see this become more of a tradition and something that students look forward to being a part of every year,” says Allison.
 
While the Ceili Leahy Day of Service has hitherto only included seniors, Allison and Deputy Superintendent Dr. Eberhardt have plans to expand the day to include all Fredericksburg City Public School students. 
 
Local businesses can sponsor the event for $250 and receive their logo on the event t-shirt.
 
Learn more about the Ceili Leahy Service Project and the Ceili Leahy Day of Service at bit.ly/3xNKqkv.
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