Foote School in New Haven makes a mark in the community

NEW HAVEN >> When the Foote School, tucked away in a lush part of the city near Yale University on Loomis Place, celebrated its centennial last year, generations of families from the private school’s community came to celebrate. Riding that high on community, leaders at the school suspended classes Thursday for an all-hands-on-deck “Service Day” emphasizing multiple community service projects benefiting the local and global community.

“Service learning has for a long time, in some form or another, been a component of the Foote experience,” said Andy Bromage, the school’s director of communications.

Although assigning mixed groups of 480 students and staff to community service projects around its campus and at over a dozen off-campus locations required planning, Bromage said the school’s existing partnerships with nonprofits, such as St. Ann’s Soup Kitchen in Hamden, provided a variety of volunteer opportunities.

One group of students began their day offering landscaping help at Edgerton Park near to the Foote School campus.

Krish Agarwal, a fourth grader, helped to move large branches scattered around the park to a pile for removal.

“It’s a pretty big park and it’s helping other people. We’re using our time to help our people and help the community,” Krish said.

A few yards away, four third graders used rakes as tall as them to clear the park of leaves and twigs.

Clara d’Amuri, one of those students, said she was surprised to be having fun with her friends raking leaves. Ada Goren added that clearing the park would enable flowers to get more water and grow.

Jenny Byers, the vice president of Edgerton Park’s board of directors and a former student and teacher at Foote School, said the project was helpful because they only employ one groundskeeper for the entire park.

“Public spaces in urban environments are so important for everybody,” Byers said. “It goes back to Frederick Law Olmsted in Central Park, a great mixing of people.”

Back on Foote School’s campus, eight students from grades three to eight refinished donated furniture so it would be ready for refugee families housed by the Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services. Most of the students said they had experience using sandpaper and paint through summertime experiences at the nearby Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop.

Third graders Molly Romero and Marlena Maleska huddled around a stool, each scrubbing a half with sandpaper. It was their second project of the day after painting a child’s desk bright blue. Besides them, Antonio Giraldez-Greco, a fourth grader, said he cares about the work IRIS does, as his parents are immigrants from Italy and Spain.

“I’d be scared, because I’d probably be coming here from a war,” he said.

Molly and Marlena said working on the same project as older students, such as eighth graders Nick Wilkinson and Sam Mason, was a good experience.

“We get to know other people better,” Molly said.

At CitySeed on Grand Avenue, students decorated reusable tote bags and baked bread for a Boys and Girls Club of America program meant to empower young girls.

Oona Yaffe, a sixth grader, said she was happy to participate because she believes in feminist causes and likes to cook.

Heather Zetterberg, a math specialist at the school, told the students of her own experiences volunteering with food insecure children, with one boy refusing a salad because he didn’t recognize the vegetables.

Although many of the programs focused on providing material goods for the needy, like sewing dresses for Girls in Haiti or knitting hats for chemotherapy patients, a large group of students spent their lunch hour performing songs for residents of Tower One.

“It’s very nice,” said Tower One resident Bernice Abrams. “They’re a joy.”