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Ravens Reflect

Alumni Reflect on Service Learning

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We asked our alumni to reflect on meaningful service-learning experiences they had at Ravenscroft. Here’s what three Ravens from three different decades had to say.

“Bake sales, raffles, cake walks” — and a foundation for future service

In this 1983 Corvus yearbook photo, Carrie Deener Alspaugh ’83, second from left, poses with a smiling Capital Towers resident and fellow Damsels Mary Catherine Bunn Johnson ’83, Gina Norman Likins ’86, Stephanie Hines ’86 and Sharon Mahoney ’86.

As a member of Damsels, Ravenscroft’s all-female service club, I remember bake sales, raffles and cake walks to raise money for our various initiatives. Over the years, the Damsels adopted families in need at Christmas, visited children at the Cerebral Palsy Center and made paper Easter bunnies for teachers. What I remember most is going to nursing homes to visit the elderly residents. We’d sing songs and serve refreshments. It meant a lot to them. I remember the woman in that yearbook photo — she looks so happy to be there with us.

I enjoyed being president of Damsels in my senior year. Later on, I served as president of my sorority. I participated in the National Charity League with all three of my daughters. As a physician, I’ve gone on mission trips to countries such as Nicaragua, Rwanda and Guatemala — places where I can partner with local agencies to use my skills to help the people they serve. Today, I’m a partner in an all-female dermatology practice. It’s interesting to me that so much of my service has been with other women. I guess those early experiences with my fellow Damsels shaped me in lots of important ways. They certainly provided a foundation for service to seem like a normal part of my life.

After I came back from Guatemala, I helped a family of Afghan immigrants who suddenly found themselves in need. The father had had a brain aneurysm and couldn’t work. I helped him apply for disability and found low-cost dental and health care for his children. As the months unfolded, I realized it was a blessing that I had, simply by having grown up and worked in the area, the knowledge and contacts to help this family.

We often think we don’t have anything to offer, but I was able to use my skills and connections to advocate for a family in my community. I’ve heard the saying “To whom much is given, much is expected.” That makes sense to me. Would I have said it myself in high school? Probably not. But even then, I could tell that my efforts made a difference in someone’s life.

Carrie Deener Alspaugh ’83


At top, members of the Damsels manage a bake sale on campus (1982); center, a student gives blood during the National Honor Society’s Red Cross Blood Drive (1982); bottom, Damsel Stephanie Hines ’86, at left, serves refreshments at Capital Towers (1983).

“A framework for the coming decades”

Even as a sixth-grader, David Jones ’04 (left) relished conservation-focused service projects such as this one (right) documented in the 1998 Corvus, showing Middle School students William McBride ’02 and Tyler Beardsley ’02 prepare a transport for an injured hawk.

Hip waders? Check! Rubber gloves? Check! Clothes I can get dirty? Check!

I loved gearing up for Adopt-A-Stream with science teacher Mimi Lieberman in Middle School. About once a month, this fearless woman loaded a minibus of wild, treasure-seeking kiddos for the three-minute drive to a nearby creek.

We did important work like checking pH levels in the creek and recording volunteer hours, but I mostly remember the thrill of exploration. We never knew what we’d find. Plastic bags, bottles and loose trash were always abundant, but on every trip we uncovered some unexpected surprise waiting for us, half-buried in debris or creek bank.

The mangled metal of a full shopping cart caught us off guard. Who put that there?

A catfish carcass? Yes, it stunk, and yes, the boys chased the girls around with the bloated fish.

How in the world did a manhole cover wash down such a small creek? Those chunks of metal weigh a few hundred pounds!

The fun of each adventure still resonates with me, and so does the disappointment of seeing all our hard work seemingly undone time after time. We’d work for hours to clean up our part of the creek, only to see it scattered with trash again upon our return.

That experience had a quiet impact on me, teaching me early on about responsibility, service and conservation. I still look for daily opportunities to pick up trash in our neighborhood, around a parking lot or by the office.

I think the biggest lesson I learned centered on servant leadership. Leaders get their hands dirty, and they do it over and over again. Working with friends and mentors in those formidable years set a framework for the coming decades when the need to suit up and clean up still calls.

Thanks, Mrs. Lieberman, and I’m sorry again about the catfish.

David Jones ’04


At top, students volunteer their labor for Habitat for Humanity (1998); center, sixth-graders bring holiday cheer to the babies at WakeMed Hospital (1998); bottom, Ravens visit with an athlete on campus for the Special Olympics games (1998).

“Just do what I can”

Ann Barnett ’12 (left) participated in numerous community service initiatives, including organizing the Key Club’s blood drive (right, from the 2012 Corvus) even though she wasn’t yet old enough to donate blood herself.

As I splashed into the pool in the A.E. Finley Activity Center in 2009, to my left was a soon-to-be collegiate swimmer and to my right was a friend who held numerous Ravenscroft swimming records. They both powered off the starting blocks and began furiously windmilling their arms forward in precise motions. Meanwhile, my faded goggles had already filled with water, and I was wondering if my borrowed Speedo really fit that well after all. I settled into a slow breaststroke, and eventually my friend lapped me and paused to ask how I was doing. Discouraged, I responded that maybe the swim-a-thon was a bad idea and I should stick to land sports. She reminded me that I’d already gone door-to-door requesting per-lap pledges, so I might as well do my best. “Just do what you can,” she said. Her advice motivated me to swim without stopping for the whole hour, even if it meant continuing at my snail’s pace. I have no idea how much money our group ended up collecting for Duke Children’s Hospital, but the idea of contributing what I can stuck with me.

Similarly, in 2010, when the Key Club needed a student leader to promote and organize the Red Cross blood drive, I felt a little inadequate to step up, especially as I didn’t even meet the criteria to give blood. The Key Club advisor and Upper School librarian, Elise Thrash, encouraged me to try, and I quickly learned that my detail-oriented organization and ability to talk to even a brick wall would serve me well in this situation. I collaborated with friends to recruit blood donors, schedule their appointments and organize volunteers to run the check-in and renourishment stations. Even if I couldn’t give blood, the blood drive offered me a chance to “just do what I can.”

Involvement in community service at Ravenscroft showed me over and over again that it’s not about meeting the service-hour requirement or making yourself look good. I learned that community service is a willingness to share your time and talents to help someone besides yourself. It’s just doing what you can, where you can and when you can.

Ann Barnett ’12

Service learning remains a priority for students in all three divisions at Ravenscroft! Learn how Lower School students use their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to support a Middle School service trip to Costa Rica in One World.

At top, students wrap gifts for the annual Angel Tree drive (2012); center, Key Club members help out at a local hospital (2012); bottom, a Lower School student collects items for the division’s diaper drive (2012).