A van winds through the darkened corners of New York City. It is cold and late, and the streets swell with the city's homeless.
It's not exactly a place where you would think to find a student from Cannon School. And yet there is Nora Munger, a 17-year-old student, handing out bag lunches, toiletries and clothing to the less fortunate.
She's in Baltimore, too, painting a house for Habitat for Humanity; and in Washington, D.C., working at a soup kitchen. And she's in Concord, serving as president of the Service Learning Advisory Council at Cannon, working to spread the message of the importance of service.
Cannon School, located in Concord, requires each student to meet a certain number of service hours before graduation. The Service Learning Advisory Committee - SLAC - helps students meet that need by making projects available.
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Munger was involved with volunteerism before she became part of SLAC. "The first time I organized something, I felt like I was stepping toward making a difference," she said.
A big part of Munger's position with SLAC is not only to volunteer herself but to get classmates involved as well.
She organized a trip to Hands-On Charlotte Day, a signature community service and fundraising event that involves nearly a thousand volunteers aiding 30-40 organizations on a single day.
Munger visited school homerooms bearing tokens with the Hands-On logo, made repeated announcements and eventually signed up a team of helpers to attend.
Munger also helped spearhead the school's annual Project Wrap-in, a holiday-themed event in which students bring items to donate to local charities, then spend the day wrapping the gifts, invite representatives from the charities and present them in a school-wide assembly.
She organized the Student Hunger Drive, which involves a dozen schools in a canned-food-drive competition, and currently is organizing a clothing drive.
Munger has taken away different lessons from each of her endeavors, but the one with the most profound impact was her mission trip to New York, Baltimore and D.C.
"That was definitely the coolest service project I've ever done, because it was so hands-on," she said. "It was a real learning experience, and it was interesting to talk to the homeless because many of them were really normal people, with different reasons for being on the streets. Some of them even talked politics and philosophy."
Munger, who lives in the McConnell neighborhood with her parents, Greta and Dave (she also has a brother, Jim, 19), also plays bassoon with the Davidson College orchestra and participates in her school's Diversity Club. She hopes to continue serving others next year when she heads to Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., as a National Merit Scholar.
"Service learning helps people build a community, and connect with a larger community than a school or a business. Volunteers can learn a great deal about themselves and about the needs of others by doing service, and this learning opportunity is important to many organizations," she said.