Summer Service: How Raiders Make the Summer Count

Greta Cunningham ‘23, Communications Apprentice
August 2, 2022

School may be on pause for the summer, but for many Cretin-Derham Hall students, service is not. Between summer service requirements for National Honor Society and organized opportunities like Dorothy Day, service remains essential in the fabric of our school community all year long. 

“What sets apart summer service is the self motivation and individual choice to do it for the right reasons,” said Steven Tachney, CDH English teacher and NHS adviser. “It’s someone deciding there is something that needs to be done and that they have a gift to fulfill that.”

Summer service is inherently more individualized and tailored to the interests of students because they bear the responsibility to seek it out.

“I chose to serve at the Lee Carlson Center this summer because their mission really aligned with a lot of my values,” said NHS member, Anna Caflisch ’23. “It was important for me that I was serving for a place that works for a cause I’m passionate about, and in this case that was accessible mental health services.” 

NHS membership is eligible to juniors with a cumulative GPA of 3.75 or higher and devised around four pillars: scholarship, leadership, service, and character. Students who meet these requirements submit an application in the spring, and if accepted, complete 25 hours of service before the start of the school year and an additional 50 by April of their senior year. 

“We expect student leadership and initiative in finding service opportunities for the summer,” said Tachney. “It allows such a variety of service to take place, which is really positive for our community.”

Over the summer, students learn how to find service that is important to them; from cold calling to submitting an application, they learn the skills to pursue service during the school year. 

“It can be really easy and can be really hard to find hours. Students learn to reach out and that they might have new gifts,” said Tacheny. 

Often, students serve an older or younger generation, such as working with youth camps or nursing homes, but each student’s community, interests, and abilities take them in different directions. 

“I picked to do service at the Special Olympics over the summer because my brother has participated, and I’ve always wanted to volunteer. I loved talking to all the athletes and seeing their excitement before their event and their sense of accomplishment after they finished,” said Natalie Seng ’23, another member of NHS. 

Many NHS students participate in CDH’s tradition of serving breakfast at Dorothy Day. The program, which is available to all students, was started 40 years ago at Cretin High School by Rob Peick, an English teacher, with fellow English teacher Michael Powers and former football coaches Mal Scanlan and Rick Kallok. One team of “cooks” prepares the meal in the early morning, after which, the second group comes in to serve it. CDH continues its bimonthly commitment to Dorothy Day all year. 

“I chose to participate in Dorothy Day service because I wanted to be involved in volunteering over the summer. I always feel like I don’t do enough service in summer, so, when I got an email about Dorothy Day, I took the opportunity. The fact that I would be working with others from CDH made it extra appealing,” said Anabel Fulton ’24, who started serving at Dorothy Day this summer. 

About six to eight students prepare and serve breakfast trays at each session. Situated in an assembly line, students work along a counter that Dorothy Day guests walk through to receive their meal, allowing students to personally greet and converse with each person they serve. At the end of their shift, students walk through the dining hall to clean tables as guests finish their meals. This direct interaction makes serving at Dorothy Day personal for students. 

“When students first come to volunteer at Dorothy Day, they may not know what to expect and may even be a little nervous, but it doesn’t take them long to really engage in what is in front of them. Many of our students are craving opportunities to serve those in need and interact with them. I think, even subconsciously, that they feel the presence of God in the poor. The poor are ambassadors of Christ, and our students are attracted to opportunities that allow them to be with and serve them,” said Joe Miley ’11, “When a student comes to volunteer at Dorothy Day, they usually come back again. Students who continually come back, I have to believe, have experienced some sort of conversion through their service or interaction with the poor, with God.”

Joe Miley ’11, learning specialist and football coach, and English teacher and girls tennis coach, Jesse Cusick ’98, work with our students onsight, while Peick continues to coordinate. 

“Dorothy Day provides students with a charitable opportunity to offer their time and energy towards a goal and hope for the world that we can all share a meal together.  If service is the rent we pay for living, service at Dorothy Day is a down payment,” said Cusick ’98. “Charity and justice are the pillars of Catholic Social Teaching, and Dorothy Day offers students the chance to meet that charitable need.”

Many students’ experiences with volunteering are acts of charity that develop their interest in specific areas of justice work. 

“Our students may be 14 to 18, but I hope that when they’re 28, running a corporation or in leadership, and there's an opportunity to give back to the community, that they’ll remember Dorothy Day,” said Peick. 

That inspiration extends to every service activity students strive in, whether it's helping with the Special Olympics, aiding a mental health center, seeing the complexity of nonprofit work at a CDH event, serving with JROTC Honor Guard, or any of the countless opportunities Raiders pursue. 

“I’m so grateful to be a part of our community’s service,” said Ruby Omann ’25, who has been serving at Dorothy Day for the past year. “Something I’ve taken away from my experience serving is how much of an impact a few people can make in a community just by showing up and helping out.”

We can’t wait to see where our students’ service this summer will lead them this school year.


Subscribe to our e-Newsletters

News Hub