Member Profile- Noble and Greenough

Monday, July 27, 2015

When queried on their mission, Nobles students reliably respond “to be leaders for the public good.” This automatic yet honest response demonstrates just how serious Nobles is about their commitment to creating a culture where the expectation for every member of the community - students, faculty, staff and, increasingly, alumni and parents - is to make meaningful contributions to the world around them; in their neighborhood and city, across the country and around the world.

The most significant challenge in achieving this mission is the creation of substantive opportunities for broad involvement on institutional, group and individual levels. At its core, Nobles believes that developing multiple partnerships throughout a variety of  areas of the institution is the only way to achieve their mission. Over the last 25 years Nobles has built myriad programs based on the principle of identifying, developing and sustaining partnerships with like-minded organizations locally, nationally and globally.  Today those partnerships number well over one hundred.

Institutional commitment from the beginning
As early as the beginning of the twentieth century the institutional commitment for service and acts for the common good has been evident. James Storrow, class of 1881,  was a long champion of the creation of the Charles River Basin.  In the early 1900’s Storrow was a vocal advocate for the implementation of a public green space and park along the Charles River for all Boston citizens.  In his arguments in favor of such a plan, he drew on his Nobles background and desire to complete a project that while controversial, he believed to be for the benefit of all.  Further along in the century, Head of School Eliot Putnam (1943-1971) is often remembered for encouraging small acts of kindness and giving that would improve others’ lives.

However, two fundamental shifts occurred in the late 1980’s that truly institutionalized Nobles’ commitment to serving and partnering outside the school walls.

The first shift was to mandate an 80-hour community service graduation requirement in 1988.  While this change was not initially embraced by the everyone, Noble’s long-time institutional dedication to service to others permitted the community to give it a try.  Quickly, it became clear that substantial service from each student allowed both the educational goals of the students to be achieved and the impact of service felt.

The second shift occurred in 1990 when Nobles established a partnership with the University of Massachusetts - Boston to establish the Upward Bound program intending to help low income first generation high school students in Greater Boston reach college. The partnership utilizes the Nobles campus and facilities as well as delivers a six-week summer academic program complemented by a bimonthly Saturday school throughout the year delivered by Nobles faculty and young graduates and mimics the academic year program.

Upward Bound experienced such success that in 2007 Achieve at Noble & Greenough was founded to serve low-income first generation middle school students from Boston Public Schools. Again, Nobles faculty, graduates and students are fully engaged in all aspects of Achieve. Together, these programs serve close to 150 young men and women to put them on the path to college as well as the embody Nobles’ institutional commitment to developing long lasting sustainable partnerships serving the broader community.

Building service partnerships from the backyard to across the nation to around the globe
As the culture of service has evolved at Nobles it has become increasingly important to broaden the reach of that service to local, national and even international organizations long affiliated with the school.

Local partnerships have been cultivated throughout the town of Dedham. Students and faculty volunteer regularly at Community Servings, an organization providing nutritional meals to individuals and families living with critical and chronic illnesses. They partner with the Dedham Postal Service to host the Stamp Out Hunger Drive and they participate yearly in the Big Sibling Program at the local elementary school.  While different in nature, these partnerships all provide goods, services, and critically needed funds to ongoing local partners while also involving hundreds of Nobles students in the work each year.

Student groups such as athletic teams or drama ensembles also find partners for shorter term projects ranging from hosting soccer clinics for low income students to working with local rape crisis centers to providing sled hockey for the handicapped. By building these partnerships into “non-service” programs the lessons of finding meaningful service partnerships in all aspects of life are reinforced.

Making partnerships out of global experiences
While Nobles students have been part of student exchange programs for decades, the last fifteen years have shown an increased commitment to develop a broad array of partnerships with schools and non-governmental organizations across the country and around the world. Each year close to 150 Nobles students and 30+ faculty venture out to immerse themselves in service and academic/cultural exchange. These programs took the initiative to step away from the traditional tourist travel experiences and worked hard to establish long-term, sustainable relationships with their hosts and partner organizations.  The faculty leaders of the trips ensure that the kids are immersed in the culture and learning first hand through experiences and relationships.  In addition, Nobles hosts many of their partners students in a reciprocal program, again making sure that all of the participants’ experiences are authentic and real.

The breadth of these partnerships is vast. Nobles has developed long standing service partnerships with NGOs in New Orleans, South Africa, Romania, Guatemala, India and Cambodia and school partnerships in Japan, China, Spain and France. By making the commitment to developing programs that are mutually beneficial these programs have been able to run and exist for as many as 25 years.  In addition, Nobles also provides more than $100,000 worth of financial aid to make these immersion experiences affordable for the entire Nobles student body. You can read more about these programs here.

Doubling down on the commitment - the development of EXCEL
As these partnerships have grown and the approach has proved efficacious, the Noble & Greenough Board of Trustees took an important step forward to underscore their commitment to such ventures.  The most recent strategic plan affirmed Nobles’ commitment to the partnership-based approach and value of experiential learning through the creation of a Center for Experiential and Community Engaged Learning (EXCEL).  That commitment was articulated not only through the strategic plan but also by a designation of $12million raised in the current capital campaign to create an endowment to support the future of all current programs as well as an additional $6million for an endowment intended for the Achieve program. This commitment from the Board makes clear that this approach is critical to the fulfillment of the Nobles mission.

Through all of these long term, mutually beneficial partnerships Nobles believes that every graduate will understand the positive impact they can have by contributing to their community in a meaningful way. They will know that finding the right organization to partner with or even work for will make their lives more meaningful and fulfilling - and embody the Nobles mission of developing “leaders for the public good”.

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