UCA Alumni Celebrate Service

July 01, 2005 | Gayle Haeger

For this year’s alumni weekend, Upper Columbia Academy (UCA) featured a number of people who had rarely, if ever, even been to the campus before. They were representatives from service organizations that UCA has had significant partnerships with over the last dozen years since the inception of HOPE Task Force, the school’s community-service curriculum.

With service being the theme for the weekend, it was natural to feature HOPE Task Force. Under this program, school is canceled all day six times each year. Rather than being in classes on those days, all of the students and the staff are out on community-service projects. It takes between 25 and 30 projects on each of those days to keep everyone busy.

For alumni weekend, alumni who are involved in ministry organizations were invited to set up booths around the gym. In addition to those, eight of the nearly 50 organizations that UCA works with had also been invited to participate.

During the main feature of the morning’s program, representatives from each of those organizations were interviewed by HOPE’s director, Cheri Corder. One of the school’s neighbors, Nona Hengen, was also interviewed.

Also on the stage during the interviews were students doing little “improv” routines. For example, to illustrate the help given Catholic Charities clients, students came out on stage with a wheelchair, looking for an old person to help. Corder suggested they check out some of those honor classes in the audience, but they opted for her instead. They raked and swept and cleaned around her as she was pushed across stage in the wheelchair, mumbling into the microphone until she finally escaped.

Later, a dozen members of the gymnastics team dashed in and did a quick pyramid and fall to highlight the shows and clinics they do in public elementary schools. Five clowns, who often visit inner-city childcare centers and nursing homes, tumbled onto stage and then sprinted through the audience, tossing carnations.

The audience was excited about the presentation, making comments such as “I’ve heard about HOPE Task Force for years, but I didn’t realize how much the students really do!” “I am thrilled to see this happening in one of our schools!” and “I just wish my church would start something like this!”

HOPE’s guests were as delighted by the experience as the audience. “Being on your campus has really inspired and blessed me at a very personal level,” said one. “Now I see why you turn out such quality students!”

A video collage showing students at work on actual projects was shown during the offertory. Because the school rents about 15 vans for each HOPE Task Force day, the weekend’s offering will go toward the purchase of another van to assist the school in continuing to offer a wide variety of service and witnessing projects, both on HOPE days and throughout the year.

For more on UCA’s HOPE Task Force program as well as alumni weekend, visit www.ucaa.org.