Every member of the Holy Angels community is encouraged to see God in other people and share God’s love each day. On Service Day, the Academy joins forces to build a better world by collaborating on projects that improve the environment and uplift people in need. This annual May event reflects AHA’s status as a National Service Learning School and a sponsored work of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
Campus Ministry Director Kathleen Sylvester, who will be retiring at the end of this school year, and Campus Minister Maryanne Miloscia invest many hours organizing the activities held at the upper school. Students at the middle school participate in their own service activities, working with AHA Middle School Dean Traci Koval and several teachers.
“Service Day is always good for our faculty and students,” Mrs. Sylvester noted. “It is a break from the everyday routine, while fulfilling our mission of serving others. I love seeing the tired smiles of everyone when they return from the various sites. I love the variety of things that we do. The ninth grade always enjoys the food bank, and this year we added Father English Food Pantry for ninth grade.
“Sophomores work outside at Palisades Interstate Park and they always come back especially tired, but happy with what they have accomplished. Our juniors go to a variety of sites. Most of them work with the poor and vulnerable in Newark and Paterson at soup kitchens, child care centers, and outreach for pregnant women, among other places. The students all work hard and get so much out of what they do.”
Now that Sylvester has organized her last Service Day at Holy Angels, she shared: “I had mixed emotions today (May 3, 2023). I was almost tearful when everyone returned so happy. I know that this is a great thing for us to do and it is our mission; however, it is a very complex, difficult day to pull off with a myriad of details…God has new plans for me, I am sure.”
Ninth graders who volunteered at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside used their strength and energy to sort, organize, and repack donated food items. Angels in Grades 10 and 11 chose to lend a hand at various locations, including New Jersey Audubon’s Lorrimer Sanctuary, two different soup kitchens, a home for single mothers, and the Institute for Educational Achievement. Upper school students who remained on campus worked at the AHA greenhouse, where students from Project Greenhouse grow produce for a local food pantry, or helped organize the school store. Seniors, who are exempt from Service Day, have already amassed an aggregate of tens of thousands of service hours. Many continue their outreach in college and afterward.
Miss Koval, who oversaw the new middle school’s second Service Day, arranged a three-part adventure for students in Grades 6-8. The students developed an appreciation for how rewarding it can be to help others.
“We enjoyed learning about the difference between therapy dogs and service dogs in our visit from Mrs. Michele Meli and Mrs. Amy Strafford from Mickey’s Kids, and Mrs. Amy Schiano from Children’s Specialized Hospital,” Koval shared. “Mrs. Meli taught us about the Mickey’s Kids Charitable Foundation.” This organization raises funds to place service dogs with children who have special needs.
The students celebrated Liberty the dog’s birthday by singing happy birthday to her while she enjoyed a doggie cupcake. Petting the visiting pups was also part of the fun, Koval noted.
“It was a very satisfying and rewarding day as we felt as though we were able to learn about service opportunities while actually participating in activities that would benefit others,” she added.
Middle school students also made sandwiches and snack bags for Saint John’s Soup Kitchen in Newark, and created key chains to present to their elder relatives at AHA Middle School Grandparents’ Day (May 16).