Make the World Better: A Community Comes Together Through Service Learning

  • Gratitude
  • The Aspen Difference
Jennifer Gravlee
packs of hope

In February, walking through the halls of Aspen Academy, you would have seen giant cardboard boxes decorated outside classrooms, overflowing with items identified for our annual community service project. This year’s partner, Packs of Hope, provides backpacks filled with essential clothing items to children and youth who are transitioning into out-of-home or foster care. The organization serves 8 counties in 10 locations, delivering more than 300 packs a month to children ages newborn to 18 years-old.

“I showed up on the day of pick up with my one vehicle thinking there would be 170 filled backpacks with a few extras. I did not expect what I saw! I was brought to tears by the huge pile of donations! It took 2 trips, filling my vehicle to the brim. Again, we were so overwhelmed by the generosity of your school!” - Amanda Beck, Director, Packs of Hope

Service Learning at Aspen Academy

We take service learning seriously at Aspen Academy, including it as an essential part of our leadership curriculum and making a lasting annual impact in our community. Each year, we partner with 24+ nonprofit organizations, donating over $2,500 in funds annually through our Dress Down Dollar days, and dedicating over 7,000 hours of service learning.

This community-wide project relies on support from our incredible Parent Civic Organization, PCO. Our Secretaries of Community Service, Brooke Fore & Jacquii Fabricant were indispensible in gathering volunteers and rallying support for this project. By including our parents, they model for students the difference civic involvement makes in our lives: adding a sense of purpose and pride in caring for others in our community.

packs of hope

Impact During a Pandemic

We received the following letter from Amanda Beck, Director, Packs of Hope, about our contributions to the organization just prior to the statewide “Stay at Home” order.

“Things have been crazy these days. Our building closed on March 20th. We're very grateful to have our space donated and they were so wonderful at making sure our space was clean and safe during this time...we couldn't have more than 5 of us in the building at a time. They did a huge deep cleaning and sanitizing to make sure everything was safe. With the new rules, it made for a crazy season for us. The end of March is when we switch out all our winter clothing for our spring clothing. This usually takes 2 weeks with at least 6 groups helping. That was our first challenge. The next big challenge was not being able to have donation drives. We rely on having at least 2 donation drives each month. Spring is our busy donation time. We had 7 drives planned from mid-March through mid-April. We had to cancel all the drives with the hope of rescheduling. This left us with only what we had in our inventory.

This is where your amazing school comes in...We had just finished sorting through all your donations right before the building shut down. We were so overwhelmed by the number of items that were donated! All of these donations have been helping us to get through the last month. We were able to make 252 complete packs from your donations. There were also so many extra items that we put on our shelves. We are so incredibly grateful for everyone that helped and/or donated to this drive! Your donations have made a HUGE impact on Packs of Hope during these uncertain times! Your donations have allowed us to continue filling packs. We've been able to fill all of the orders sent in by the counties, much of that thanks to your school!

Below is a breakdown of all the items that were donated by Aspen Academy (including items that were used in making the 252 complete packs).

packs of hope
  • Shirts 340
  • Pants/Shorts 252
  • Sweatshirts/Jackets 181
  • Pajamas 253
  • Socks 293
  • Underwear 212
  • Baby Blankets 50
  • Baby Wipe packages 34
  • Diapers boxes 15
  • Toiletries 566
  • Baby Shampoo and Lotion 54
  • Children's Shampoo 49
  • Brush/Comb 49
  • Hair Bows/Ties 7
  • Feminine Products 4
  • Backpacks 12
  • Hats and  Gloves 4
  • Toys and Stuffed Animals 522
  • School Supplies 3
  • Full-Size Blankets 5
  • Books 1,195

We can't thank you enough for organizing everything and all the time and effort you put into the drive. You were so organized and on top of everything! Thank you for making this drive so successful! Thank you also to all the people that helped you with the drive as well! Another thank you to the staff for allowing me to share about Packs of Hope and for being willing to support the drive! Thank you also to each student and family that donated items! All of the donations are making a HUGE impact on so many children! You all have helped to make a difference in their lives, to allow them to feel loved and remembered!”


At a time where uncertainty looms, our community has come together to support others in need. This service focus is something our students undoubtedly will default to in the future and, in doing so, they will make the world better.


About the Author:

Jennifer Gravlee, Aspen Youth Leadership Institute & Aspen Entrepreneurial Institute Coach.

Jennifer was born and raised in Bartlett, Tennessee and graduated from the University of Memphis with a major in Elementary Education. She brings 10 years of teaching experience to Aspen and loves helping children grow and learn. She can best be described as energetic, outgoing, passionate and optimistic.