(L-R) Juniors Leah Mautner and Madeline Arenth coordinated multiple clothing drives for the Bloom Closet project last year. Photo: Leah Mautner

The arrival of the new year typically brings numerous changes, with one major change this year being the Community Engagement program, formerly known as the Service Leader program. Led by Zeena Lattouf, Associate Director of the Isdell Center for Global Leadership, the program “promotes deep understanding of the dignity and worth of all people, while developing awareness and practices of environmental stewardship,” according to the Pace Academy website. The program relies on eight executive community engagement leaders who are in charge of one to two individual projects, and 22 community engagement leaders overseeing 10 community engagement projects.

This year, the projects range from the long-time partners, such as the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Habitat for Humanity, to recent additions such as Pace Pals (working with Cumberland Academy students) and Peoplestown Academy. Juniors Madeline Arenth and Leah Mautner are leaders for the Bloom Closet, a new project this year. “We started last year by doing school-wide clothing drives, but we wanted to do something more,” said Arenth. “We decided to turn it into a community engagement project so we could hold more events and get the Pace community more involved.”

Community engagement leaders will not only be in charge of promoting their own project, but they also have to involve all three divisions: the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools. “I think it is really important that the young kids are exposed to community engagement projects and learn ways to help their community,” said senior Melanie Crawford, executive leader of Agape. “I started helping out at Agape when I was young, so I hope to inspire other kids to get involved at a young age as well.”

The Community Engagement program is designed to inspire students to give back to their community and allow them to develop into stronger leaders. One major event planned this year is the return of the Covenant House Sleep-Out. The purpose of the sleep-out is to increase awareness of Atlanta’s homeless people as well as raise money for the cause. “The sleep-out was an incredible experience,” said junior Veronica Sandoval, who is a community engagement leader for Trinity Night Shelter. “I now understand how important shelters like the Covenant House are to homeless people.”