**Update: The 2018 Pixel Service Challenge has now ended. Look out for the next challenge come winter of 2019!
The Student Life department at OHS is currently hosting the 2018 Pixel Service Challenge, which aims to have all 800 OHS-ers contribute towards 2,018 total hours of community service work before the end of the year.
Through this program, OHS hopes to heighten awareness about community issues and projects, encourage pixels to make use of their creativity and resources to participate in these projects, and share stories of students who are already involved in these projects and even spearheading their own. Pixels who are up for the challenge can jump right in by engaging in community projects, logging their hours, and recording their reflections in this form.
“We’re looking at ways through which students make real and impactful change in our local and global communities,” said Ms. Momary, Director of Student Life, and the Pixel Service Challenge is a great way to make change happen.
“It’s interesting to see what solutions OHS students – who are creative, resourceful, and super smart – might do to solve problems in the community, or support aid or raise awareness for these issues,” says Momary.
For example, Ethan Wacker, a junior at the OHS, participates in numerous efforts including raising money at the Oahu Heart & Stroke Walk, giving food to No Kids Hungry and books to Hawaii Literacy and volunteering at the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival’s Keiki in the Kitchen.
In addition, Wacker, a series regular on the Disney Channel Show Bizaardvark, organized a Make A Wish experience for a brain cancer survivor, and he will also work at Walt Disney World’s Children of Fallen Heroes Snowball Express event on December 8.
Another OHS freshman, Brooks Barry, is the Co-Founder and Vice President of Wonderland BookSavers—the only official charity in the United States that is completely run by children. The organization collects and donates books and everyday commodities to children all over the country and the world. They also host reading and service events in the local community.
This is the first year that OHS has a way for students like Wacker and Barry to share and log their service, and OHSers are taking to the challenge.
“There are so many students who are already involved, but because of our online school setting we might not know about that like we would in a B&M school,” explained Ms. Momary.
“It’s interesting when students share their community service because we have students from all over the world,” Ms. Momary added. “It also allows students to build relationships and develop partnerships within their own community. I think that’s an important aspect in addition to the general, overall benefits that service itself can give.”
Both Barry and Wacker share the sentiment that service is highly rewarding not just to the community, but also to each individual.
“We’ve seen pictures of those who’ve received our books, and it really motivates us because we see their faces and…they’re just so happy. Also, [the projects] really opened my eyes because not very many people realize the conditions of [the less fortunate children],” says Barry.
When reflecting on his work, Wacker says, “I think I have become a better person. And I learned that small things done add up to big things for others.”
The Pixel Service Challenge is a great platform for those already involved in community work, but it is also an equally helpful opportunity for those who want to get started. The Student Life team is in the process of building a Community Service page on the Gateway, which will include suggestions for both online and in-person projects and will allow families to also submit ideas.
“That will be a wonderful resource for people who are looking to participate in various service initiatives but aren’t quite sure where to start,” Ms. Momary excitedly explained.
Indeed, knowing how and where to start can be quite a hurdle for most people. “To be honest, I did not know what I could do that might help someone else and have something to do with me as a person. It’s actually quite a challenge to figure out what to do and even harder to get started, ” Wacker admitted. “But I think it is important to identify something you actually care about, then participate in initiatives related to those. Do something you are passionate about and it will be successful. Don’t be focused on results – be focused on the process!”
Barry’s own story is a testimony to Wacker’s principles in practice. Wonderland BookSavers started out as a book club trying to do a bit more for the community. “When we read Old Yeller, we raised money and donated dog food to a local animal shelter,” Barry recalls.
They didn’t take their project to the next level until the group of kids found out that their local library would shred out of date books and sold the shreds for one cent. “We were horrified because we love books so much!” says Barry.
Not wanting the books to go to waste, the club donated them to schoolchildren in different countries – from all around the USA to Nigeria and Kenya; from Ecuador and Peru to Syrian refugee camps in Jordan. People started donating their own books and other items to Wonderland BookSavers, too. Soon, the charity started to donate everyday items as well, such as shoes, school supplies, and clothes.
“So far we’ve donated over 200,000 books. If we started out with that goal in mind, we would have gotten so discouraged. You just have to take it step by step and set your own pace. You can always do your own thing and you don’t have to be part of a huge charity to make a difference,” Barry advised.
Every student at the OHS is extremely passionate about at least one thing, and has the opportunity to engage in various types of service projects associated with that passion.
“We’re hoping that, as a collective, all 800 of our students can contribute hours towards 2,018 total hours for the new year. We’re really excited in hoping that students who are already involved in service projects would contribute their hours; that’ll help us get a lot of hours real fast,” shared Ms. Momary.