Freshmen Travel Around Orange County Helping the Community


Photo Courtesy of Sage Hill School

Freshmen clean out invasive plants at the Newport Beach Back Bay Ecological Preserve.

Isabella Palacio

Service learning is one of several unique opportunities that Sage Hill offers its students. Throughout the four-year service learning experience, students have the ability to expand their knowledge, develop their skills and learn how to positively impact the communities around them. Sophomores are partnered with fourth grade students to mentor, while upperclassmen work on independent or collaborative projects. Freshmen participate in a much more structured service learning experience. On each service learning day, students participate in rotations and visit various locations across Orange County. 

This year, freshmen tour the Heroes Hall museum to hear from a veteran, learn about Orange County’s land history  and visit the Skyview School for children experiencing homelessness, the Orange County Superior Court in Westminster,  OC Rescue Mission and Back Bay. Each rotation offers an enriching experience for students to explore community needs and collaborate with their peers to develop and work toward feasible solutions. 

Organizing over 100 freshmen is not an easy task, and the service learning program could not operate without the faculty advisors who dedicate their time to create programs. Tanya Lerch, math teacher and assistant director of the Sage Center for Service Learning and Outreach oversees all service learning programs at Sage Hill.“Orange County is a huge geographic entity, with a variety of diverse communities and community needs,” she said. “The goal of ninth grade service learning is to get our students off campus, out all around Orange County, working with, learning from and interacting with many different organizations and individuals.” Because the rotations include locations ranging from Westminster to San Juan Capistrano, students gain a more broadened understanding of Orange County outside of the Sage Hill community. “I love trying out new things because a lot of these rotations are new to me,” said freshman Diana Wu. “I think service learning is such a good opportunity for students to interact with the world around them.” 

Besides the benefit of exploring the diversity of Orange County, the freshman experience prepares students for the rest of service learning in subsequent years. “The best part about working with underclassmen is seeing them discover what they enjoy and how they want to use the knowledge and skills they are developing in class to serve the community,” history teacher Frank Gonzales said. By providing freshmen with opportunities to explore the community, Sage Hill provides them with a greater chance to develop a passion.“I gained so much knowledge of the things that I never had the opportunity to touch on,” said freshman Aurora Li. 

At Sage Hill, students  are empowered to become changemakers within their communities. Service learning is one of many opportunities that provides students with a skill set to tackle their future at Sage Hill and beyond.