Anacapa students volunteered at AVON 39 The Walk to End Breast Cancer, as well as numerous other local organizations. (Amy McCoy / Anacapa School photo)

Students at Anacapa School are celebrating the 35th anniversary of Anacapa School by volunteering with at least 35 different community organizations in the Santa Barbara area this school year.

Founded in 1981, Anacapa is unique in the Santa Barbara area. Strategically small to ensure a student to teacher ratio that guarantees individualized attention and located in Santa Barbara’s urban center, Anacapa’s middle and high school students have an exceptional track record not only of community service but also of civic involvement through the school’s guest speaker programs that are designed to introduce students to professionals from a wide variety of fields, offering them practical and real-world insight and learning opportunities.

Of particular note is an annual event at Anacapa called the Synthesis Unit, which spans three jam-packed days and includes speakers and experts on a single topic. This year’s Synthesis Unit, coming up in late January 2016, will take an in depth look at human migration.

Students also engage in the civic life of Santa Barbara through internships in partnership with different downtown organizations such as the Santa Barbara Presidio.

Inspired by the challenge of 35 volunteer projects to celebrate 35 years of Anacapa history, the school’s 7th through 12th grade students have already made significant headway in achieving their goal. If they continue at their current pace, they may well pass it by the school’s anniversary celebration in October 2016.

Since September, Anacapa students have volunteered for the following organizations: Avon 39 The Walk to End Breast Cancer, the United Way Day of Caring, East Beach Clean-Up, Storyteller Children’s Center, the Santa Inés  Mission Mills, Milpas Community Association, The Santa Barbara Community Church Farm, Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, Organic Soup Kitchen, American Red Cross, Vitamin Angels, Dream Foundation, Angels Bearing Gifts, Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and Africa Schools of Kenya.

Students have especially enjoyed the act of giving back during this time of year, the season of giving. When making holiday cards for Dream Foundation recently, a senior girl named Megan expressed how good it felt to take a break from all the things high school seniors have to do at this time of year, “I wish I could spend a part of every day at school doing this,” she remarked.

Not shy to initiate conversations with people in the community, students at Anacapa organize many of the school volunteer activities on their own under the guidance of their teachers. Several of the organizations selected reflect the students’ personal interests.

According to Gordon Sichi, founder and headmaster at Anacapa, activities that give students opportunities to meet and work with people outside of the school are a part of the reason that Anacapa students are comfortable talking to teachers and advocating for themselves.

“Anacapa students leave Anacapa prepared to stand up and ask questions. We teach them from middle school up to become comfortable expressing their ideas,” Sichi said. “This helps them tremendously when they leave Anacapa to go to college.”

More volunteer activities are already on the calendar for when Anacapa students return from their winter break. Several students have expressed a desire to volunteer locally during their holiday from school.

The goal of 35 volunteer activities to celebrate 35 years of Anacapa history may be met very soon.

— Hilary Doubleday represents Anacapa School.