Giving Back to the Community Over Summer

Rachel Breitweser ’03

July 10, 2017

From coordinating a yoga retreat that empowers women to refurbishing furniture to help tackle housing instability, students of the summer Capstone Psychology class are making a difference in the community.

The Capstone courses for seniors are a culmination and synthesis of the values taught at Punahou through the “SEEDS” curriculum, which incorporates themes of Social responsibility, Economics, the Environment, empowering Deeds of service and Sustainable solutions. The courses challenge seniors to design sustainable solutions to address real-world issues while drawing on their own passions and skills.

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The Capstone Psychology class explores the SEEDS themes through the lens of psychology. “Students gain a better understanding of different aspects of positive psychology and what contributes to a meaningful life,” explained Psychosocial Education Department Head Sarah Slater who teaches one of two sections of the class with Psychosocial/Social Studies faculty member Brendan Maloney.

Students have been covering topics such as mental health, happiness, success, morality, social influence and gratitude. They have also been participating in community service at organizations including St. Clement’s School, Central Union Church Adult Day Care and Therapeutic Horsemanship of Hawai‘i.

“Oftentimes students come into our class with an understanding of these psychology themes – happiness, morality, gratitude – as individual experiences, but Capstone Psych challenges them to adjust that perspective and see these themes as a way of connecting with their community,” Maloney explained.

For their final project, students have taken on a range of issues. Ethan is working on a website to bring attention to the problem of ocean pollution. Rachael, an artist, is spiffing up furniture from Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore with a fresh coat of paint and donating it back to the store. Skyler has been volunteering on a farm and is creating a video to educate others about how food influences health. Jae Yun is making a PSA to inspire Hawai‘i’s youth to register to vote and participate in politics.

Zoe planned a yoga retreat. “I wanted to inspire women to be the best they can be,” she shared. “Yoga has been a grounding activity that’s helped me be one with my body, and I want to share that.” The retreat, which took place on a Sunday at Ho‘omaluhia Botanical Garden in Kāne‘ohe, included yoga classes, meditation and journaling activities.

“I hope students walk away from this class with a sense of social responsibility,” shared Slater. Based on their enthusiasm for their projects thus far, students are heading down that path.

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