Though service day is a school-wide initiative this year, it has not been held in recent years. While the spirit of the day is still kept alive in the actions of goodwill performed by Choate students last Friday, many thematic and logistical changes have taken place.
The first full day of service was originally called “Community Day,” and was first started by Choate headmaster Seymour St. John in 1950. In those days, the goal of the day was not to create a global, or even national impact, but to help Choate’s campus itself. That same year, New England was hit by the Great Appalachian Storm of November 1950 that disabled power throughout the campus. Choate’s facilities crews had been working hours to clean up the mess, and the boys realized that they needed a break. So, the Choate boys were then sent out in a massive effort to clean up the school: leaf raking and brush removal were among the tasks in which the community participated together.
In the years following, an annual community day, soon renamed Project Day, was implemented for one day every fall term. During these days, students would once again participate in efforts to clean up or better the school’s campus. Following in St. John’s footsteps, Choate’s next headmaster Charles Dey continued the tradition. When Hurricane Gloria hit New England in 1976, leaving over 727,000 Connecticut residents without power, another day was centered around campus cleanup. In the years following when there was no storm to cleanup for, the community day was expanded into the greater town of Wallingford. Students helped to rake leaves for town residents. This day of action continued for 12 years and soon incorporated student council members from the two local public schools in the area. All students worked to rake the leaves of the historic locations around Wallingford, including the library and the cemetery. In 1988, the projects extended to help the senior citizens in the Wallingford community. Though these projects were relatively successful, the Project Day was shut down in 1996. The plans for the day never included a plan that accounted for bad weather such as rain or snow, and there were two occasions when the event was cancelled due to inadequate weather. Because of these repeated cancellations, the school felt as if Project Day was not a dependable way to ensure students performed community service. When the day was cancelled, the community service requirement was implemented instead.