Santa Fe Preparatory School, established in 1961, is an independent, non-profit, coeducational, college-preparatory day school with 300 students in grades seven through twelve. Its Teen Action Program (TAP) is, along with academics, arts, and athletics, one of the four focal points of the school’s curriculum. As a student-structured and directed program, it strives to spark commitments to service that extend beyond the classroom walls while involving every person at the school—students, faculty, administrators, support staff, parents, and board members.
Since TAP’s inception in the fall of 1988, Santa Fe Prep students have contributed 120,000 hours of service to the Santa Fe community. Every Thursday, students spend two hours working on specific projects at 40 local non-profit agencies and schools. Teachers and parents participate by leading each group, providing the necessary transportation and assisting with required work.
TAP’s goal is to promote leadership, social responsibility, citizenship, and personal growth by providing authentic and needed community-based experiences. It begins in the seventh grade when students spend the year researching specific societal issues such as homelessness, food, production, ecology, etc., and then work with local agencies that address them.
In eighth through tenth grades, students choose specific agencies or schools in the community and work with them throughout the year. Projects include building low-cost homes for Habitat for Humanity, preparing meals for the homeless and indigent at St. Elizabeth’s Shelter, teaching and tutoring students in area elementary schools, serving on Teen Court at the Santa Fe District Courthouse, cleaning and repairing homes of infirm elderly citizens for Open Hands, and organizing and participating in the annual Terry Fox Run that has raised more than $185,000 for local medically-indigent cancer patients.
High school juniors and seniors have more intensive programs. The juniors spend half a year assessing data, visiting neighborhoods, conducting surveys and interviewing agencies and experts to learn as much as possible about the geographic and demographic makeup of their community. Then, they form small groups that each plan a service project with an agency or school to address a specific problem or issue. Seniors, building on the awareness and experience gained their junior year, develop a self-designed and directed project requiring at least 45 hours of service.
The joint student/teacher TAP Steering Committee also plans and coordinates two full-day community-wide service projects each year. A growing relationship with Americorps has been invaluable in enhancing this part of the program. One of last year’s projects focused on food. During the day, student volunteers reclaimed a stretch of the Santa Fe River with the help of Santa Fe River coordinators, harvested crops at the Community Farm, stocked a warehouse at the Food Depot, and prepared and served meals at Kitchen Angels and the Salvation Army.
Each of the students gains an enriched sense of identity and understanding through participation and problem solving across cultures, generations, economic levels and environmental concerns. Their participation profoundly influences the overall effectiveness of many organizations and schools within Santa Fe, as well as developing a true sense of belonging to the community and a responsibility for its health and productivity.