Eighth Graders Answer Call to Service and Learn How to Help Others

D-Term, named in honor of former head of Middle School Linda Douglass, is an experiential and interdisciplinary service learning project that each eighth grader participates in. The project teaches students the importance of serving others throughout the Central Texas community.

Initially introduced by former Middle School Dean Brooke Laws, the project is initiated by faculty and staff during both the fall and winter terms. Middle School Chaplain Rev. Ed Thompson invites representatives from a variety of local non-profits to campus. Those representatives speak to students during Chapel, educating the audience about the impact of their organizations and its mission. Later in the year, usually in December, St. Stephen's students spend three days volunteering and researching a specific topic at a variety of these non-profits.

Middle School English instructor Miriam Murtuza leads D-Term, and says the areas of focus are aligned with the acronym “PEACE,” which stands for poverty, environment, animals, children and elders. For example, under the umbrella topic of poverty, students dive into learning about refugees and homelessness.

For the second year in a row, the “animals” group volunteered at the Animal Farm Sanctuary in Paige, Texas, which provides rescue, rehabilitation and forever homes to farmed animals. The “children’s” group volunteered at the El Buen Samaritano food pantry, which works in partnership with the Central Texas Food Bank to ensure Central Texans have access to healthy and nutritious food for themselves and their families. Many of their clients live below the federal poverty line or live in a food desert with little access to quality and healthy food options.

After completing their volunteer hours, students are assigned to deliver a presentation and slide show about their experience to their peers in Chapel. In her D-Term presentation, Nadine Benson ’28 said she enjoyed volunteering at El Buen, where she packed and stacked food bags for up to 300 people. 

“I’m so grateful for this experience and I hope to find a way to go back and do more volunteer work for El Buen,” said Benson.

Dasher Halloran ’28 shared his biggest takeaway with the crowd, and offered up a challenge to others.

“Overall this experience showed us just how lucky we are and what we can do to help our community and how important this service was we were able to do,” said Halloran. “I hope this offering will inspire you to go out beyond The Hill and help us achieve social justice in our world today through simple acts of service.”

Click here to learn more about Middle School service learning, and read more here about service learning in the Upper School this year.

At St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, community service and service learning are an essential aspect of education. Our service program encourages students to think beyond their own needs, to develop a passion for service and to inspire one another. We pursue service as a way of life and recognize the world’s challenges as opportunities for commitment to change, improvement and growth. As a school community, service is our way of applying what we teach and learn in the classroom to make a positive difference in our world.
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213