Serving the Backbone to Our Society

How Gryph Giving has changed and been adapted for this year


Photo: Infographic by Upper School Director of Student Life Ms. Emmy McClain

This infographic shows where students will be serving on the day of Gryph Giving. Students will be going out to serve and give back to their community on Feb. 5, 2020.

“The whole upper school, like 300 kids, faculty, all that are going to be in the community somewhere, which is kind of a neat impact to make all at once,” Upper School Director of Student Life Ms. Emmy McClain said.

Gryph Giving is continuing this year, and on Feb. 5, 2020, the entire Upper School will be going out into the community to serve. This year, however, is different, and now junior Abby Grace Dodson has taken this experience into her own life and is excited she was asked to do so at the beginning of the year. 

“One of the reasons why I said yes was because I just want everyone to know that service isn’t just getting the service hours for graduation,” Dodson said. “It’s actually putting your heart and your mind into it.”

She has worked hard to come up with a way to make sure Gryph Giving remains impactful for students and hopes students are able to see the impact they are making. 

“I just want everybody to go into it with an open mind and really look at the impact they’re making on the Memphis community because this is a very cool thing that most schools don’t get to do,” Dodson said, “and it’s really cool that we’re embedding it in our curriculum and we’re putting a servant heart in out students.”

The purpose of Gryph Giving remains the same, but how it will be happening is changing this year and will not be impeding on academic time. Instead, each student will be going to a session from 1:20 to 3:15 when they have a study hall at the end of the day. 

“I feel like we’ve made it a little more simple,” Ms. McClain said, “but I feel like it’s going to deepen the meaning a little bit because kids are going to have a longer time to reflect on the learning before they do the service, instead of doing it the night before. And it minimizes the stress on student schedules.”

For the sessions, students from the DEI [Diversity Equity and Inclusion] task force that was started at the beginning of the semester, have created many tasks to help people get ready for the mindset of doing community service. There are three main topics that will be covered during these sessions based on where each student will be going for their community service day. 

“There’s faith and religion, environmental sustainability, and youth and education,” freshman Mayyadah Alzaben said. “And basically what we’re trying to do is advocate for issues and bring more awareness to them and also trying to figure out how it is involved in our community and what can we do to help out the issues or resolve them.”

Alzaben is one of the many DEI task force members who have been working on preparations for the sessions that will be happening during the week of Gryph Giving. Junior Kirsten Thomas has also been working to help with these sessions and is excited to see what students will be able to get from them.

“When you hear DEI, people don’t think environmental sustainability,” Thomas said. “They think probably race or gender, the more prevalent topics. But I’m excited to get people’s perspective on different aspects of diversity that aren’t highlighted or always in front or mainstream.”

During the sessions of youth and education, there will be speakers and people talking about learning the differences between public and private schools and how available resources can affect environments. Environmental sustainability sessions will be explaining why it’s important to keep the Earth clean for the future of the planet and how we as a school have the privilege to recycle and do community service for those less privileged. Faith and religion sessions will educate people on different religions and how to continue to respect others who may not hold the same beliefs, especially when helping the greater community. 

“When I think of DEI, the connotation of DEI for me is thinking of race issues, gender issues, sexual orientation issues,” Thomas said. “Those are super hard issues, they’re very close to people’s hearts. So I think that keeping the same respect that you would with those scenarios, you should do that with the same scenarios that you don’t necessarily see that much or that you don’t necessarily know are there.”

While Thomas is excited to see how people react to the experience of learning from the DEI sessions, she is grateful that the school is showing how the Memphis community can come together to make an impact. She encourages others to see how impactful they can be too.

“Sometimes you’re just doing something just to do it because you have to do it,” Thomas said. “I think it’s important for people not to look at it that way, and to be like I’m here. I get to give back to whether it’s your community or a community that definitely influences your everyday life because at the end of the day, poor communities are the backbone to a lot of societies. So I think it’s just important that you take in the experience of service.”

Ms. McClain agrees with Thomas and hopes that all students see how much they will be able to learn and grow from the experience of Gryph Giving.

“I’m hoping students will see how much this will help them grow not only as an individual over time,” Ms. McClain said. “They may hate the place they go serve this year. They may find that it’s a line of work they never knew they would enjoy, and even if we just catch five students out of 300, that’s five more kids that are willing to give back to their community in some sort of way.”