We started the process by forming a research committee. Our initial discussions included the principal (whose support and participation were key sources of legitimacy and encouragement), teachers from each of the levels in our school, and a few concerned parents. We began exploring various aspects of volunteerism, spanning the globe to find the perfect project for our school.
In the beginning, we were trying to find a project that would fit the whole school, something that would involve every grade and cover a whole year-or at least a concentrated week plopped somewhere in the school calendar. It wasn't easy. Many committee members had pet projects, and some primary teachers were understandably concerned about the developmental appropriateness of some of the activities. For example, we considered a landmine removal effort that some middle-school students had been supporting, but we felt daunted by the implications of introducing it to very young children as part of a schoolwide project.
We attended a meeting of Youth in Philanthropy (YIP), a group of business and civic leaders who support philanthropic endeavors in schools around the country. While they were very helpful and encouraged children to be active participants, their help tended to be mainly raising money for charitable organizations. We wanted another model for our group.
At the suggestion of the principal, William Greene, we decided to form an afternoon club. I would be an advisor to the club along with Greene; another teacher, Stacey Bailey; and a parent. It seemed less ambitious but more feasible than a whole school project. It did not immediately involve all grades and age levels, and participation would be voluntary and outside the regular curriculum.
There were already many after-school clubs, but we hoped this one would be different. It would be about putting beliefs into action. The advisors defined our goals as follows: