StC Summer Leadership and Service Program Focuses on Social Justice

Rising Richmond area high school seniors come to campus to learn about leadership and community service and applications to social justice.
Developing leadership skills and a commitment to community service are critical parts of the St. Christopher’s experience. This summer, StC’s Summer Institute on Leadership and Public Service Program hosted 17 rising seniors from around Richmond to develop leadership skills and a commitment to service within their schools and communities.

The program’s daily schedule, led by StC faculty members Christie Wilson, Jon Piper, Kyle Burnette and Jen O’Ferrall, is interactive, experiential and wide-ranging. Participants build teamwork skills during outdoor adventures, take part in lively classroom debates, hear from guest speakers and visit area community service organizations. 

Will Ellis, a rising senior at the Steward School, appreciated the opportunity to help others directly during a group shift at Shepherds Way Relief Center in downtown Richmond. “I really liked being in the middle of things, rather than trying to help from a distance,” said Ellis.

The longstanding program focuses on a unifying theme every year, and this summer, SILPS focused on community service through the lens of advancing social justice. “They’re passionate about the topic,” said O’Ferrall, Lower School Co-Director of Student Life and Reading Specialist. “We talk so much about leadership and service, and it’s their job as leaders to ask themselves ‘How do I use my skillset to provide for better opportunities for others?’” 

Jack Ireland ‘’22 believes that the emphasis on social justice helped bring the issues facing some of Richmond’s vulnerable populations into focus. “I got a lot out of the Shepherd’s Way experience,” said the StC rising senior. “It’s helped me to think about issues like homelessness in a way that I hadn’t before.” 

At the end of the two-week program, students are asked to prepare a final project that incorporates what they’ve learned, present it to the group and launch them at their schools in the fall. Gayatri Kucherlapati who attends Deep Run High School is working on a plan to collect school supplies for students in need. She said, “Educational disparities were something we talked about a lot in the program, and we hope that by collecting these donations we can make a difference.”