Students Who Serve Others

Danika Leaver
Brookings-Harbor High School, Brookings, OR

Danika Leaver is a senior at Brookings-Harbor High School and has demonstrated an amazing ability to serve her school and community, to donate time to the American Red Cross, and encourage other classmates to serve others at the same time.  Danika has been coordinating the school blood drives for the last two years. Her duties are to recruit donors, coordinate donation times, set up and clean up the gym, communicate with administration and the office of absences missed by donors, collect permission slips, answer questions, troubleshoot problems arising in the gym on the day of the drive, coordinate student volunteers and make sure they are on task and doing their job, be a liaison between the school and the Red Cross, and reserve the gym and inform physical education teachers.  For the month leading up to the blood drive she can spend 5 hours a week or more just trying to do all these things. The day of, she is in the gym for at least 8 hours that day. She then starts gearing up for the next one.

Danika has worked at the blood drives since her freshman year.  At the end of October, Brookings-Harbor had their latest blood drive. Their goal for the school was 43 units. They were able to collect 54 units. For every unit collected, it has the potential to save 3 lives.  This means that 162 people could get blood collected at our blood drive.  Brookings-Harbor, with a population of 475 students has continually outperformed the much larger (1,500+ students) in the valley.  This is due to the great organization and the recruitment efforts of Danika.  When she graduates, she will train a new volunteer and the school plans to continue to outperform the large valley schools in southern Oregon.

On top of all of the work that Danika donates to the American Red Cross, she also serves at the local food bank, Operation Christmas Child Donations, assisted in raising funds for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, and has served as a class officer.​

The Peter R. Marsh Foundation recognizes that students who selflessly and quietly serve others within their communities are some of our most valuable citizens. We have established the Silent Servant Award to honor them. For more information contact us at:

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Student Silent Servants

Students Who Serve – Kayla Dearman

Kayla Dearman is an Air Force JROTC Cadet at Southern Wayne HS in Dudley, NC. She joined this program for the fellowship and the opportunity to serve her local community. She has been involved in numerous service projects throughout the years. Given the many challenges throughout this past year, it has been difficult to serve the community in any organized manner given personal contact restrictions.

However, this didn’t stop Kayla from providing a needed boost to her local community this past holiday season. She went to her Principal concerned about the need to help struggling families in the surrounding area and laid out her plan to provide food packages and gifts to those in need. She organized a crew of helpers, went out to local businesses, and managed to collect enough food and toys to assemble a dozen food boxes for the holidays, and presents for more than 40 local children.

Kayla organized a drive though pickup area and notified the families in need. All the families picked up enough food and presents to ensure they had one of the best holiday celebrations in recent memory. Kayla did all of this without help from the school staff.

Throughout her school career, she has been involved in helping others and improving the lives of the citizens of her community. Just this past year alone, she participated in 3 local parades (Veteran’s Day Parade, Christmas Parade, and the Black History Unity Parade). Kayla led 4 school campus cleanup and beautification projects, a Memorial Day flags on graves posting at the Mt. Olive Cemetery and participated in a flag raising over Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

In nearby Mt. Olive, Kayla created a dinner for the elderly held at the American Legion building, where she cooked a meal for more than 20 senior citizens. She also spearheaded 5 fund-raisers that raised enough money to ensure 27 students could go on a field trip without incurring any costs of their own. This is just a look at one year’s worth of projects. Kayla has been doing this for 4 years straight and never once brought attention to herself or her accomplishments. Kayla Dearman is an exceptional young lady!

The Peter R. Marsh Foundation recognizes that students who selflessly and quietly serve others within their communities are some of the most valuable citizens. Therefore, we have established the Silent Servant Award to honor them.

To nominate a student or for more information contact us at:

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Students Who Serve – Gina Uribe

For four years Gianna Uribe has served West HS in Tracy, CA with unconditional devotion, effort, and passion. She has exemplified a selfless attitude and as president of the Student Body has worked countless long hours in giving her classmates and colleagues an enjoyable high school experience. Gina’s dedication to her school, her community and her town is demonstrated by her countless community service hours.

Just this year alone, Gina was a big contributor to the can food drive, she oversees all aspects of West High School’s community service which includes campus clean-up days, clothes drive, as well as numerous other events. Gianna truly exemplifies extraordinary skills by her actions.

Giana works many, many hours behind the scenes and is not the type that looks for recognition. Students and teachers say she is a true joy to be around and leads by example. In her position as Student Body President, Gina’s dedication and service to her school has been unmatched.

Gina is constantly making birthday posters for the staff as well as decorating their offices to keep the spirits up. During this very difficult school year Gina has helped rally the spirits of her fellow students, and her positive attitude has inspired others. The Peter R. Marsh Foundation is proud to recognize Gina Uribe with our Silent Servant award.

For more information contact us at:

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The Silent Servant Award

The new home of my work improving culture is the Peter R. Marsh Foundation, a non-profit,  here in Washington State, where I’ve assumed the role of Program Director. My mission at the Foundation is to promote and support Social Emotional Learning, SEL, in high school students.

Through our Silent Servant Award, we recognize and reward students across America who unselfishly provide empathetic service to their schools and communities. We offer resources and support for schools choosing to make improving their school culture a priority.

In the face of the endless cycle of selfishness and dysfunction playing out in our daily news, it is incredibly inspiring to read about the selfless service students are giving all across America.  Our Foundation has recognized students from New York to California, and Hawaii to the US Virgin Islands. In this space I will begin sharing some of their stories. Maybe they will inspire you too.

Neel Jain
Westview High School, Beaverton, OR

Neel Jain created PDX Concierge, a free grocery delivery service during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. PDX Concierge launched in mid-April after Neel Jain went grocery shopping for his grandmother, whose age and asthma make her vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. “I just realized there are a lot of other people who may not have family and need help,” said Jain.

So far, his team of volunteers has made hundreds of deliveries in the metro Portland and Vancouver, WA area. Clients fill out a form online with their grocery list and volunteers will go buy the groceries and deliver them. Volunteers maintain social distancing guidelines and wear gloves and face masks while they shop. Clients then reimburse volunteers for the cost of the groceries, which are dropped off in front of their homes.

It’s a free service, so tips or donations are used for gas money, maintaining the website and helping pay for groceries for clients who need extra financial assistance. “It’s a great feeling to help out in this hard time,” Jain said. “Kids have a lot of time on their hands with schools being closed. It’s good to be able to put that to use.”

Over the past few years, the Peter R. Marsh Foundation has awarded American high school students the Silent Servant Award. The type of service our Silent Servants perform in their communities is endless.  From helping communities to meet the COVID challenge, serving the homeless, being a mentor, bringing meals to the elderly, or helping prisoners find hope.  Our Award recipients have devoted countless hours over multiple years serving others.  Even more inspiring, they do so without expecting anything in return.  Please visit our website and read more about our Silent Servant Award recipients inspiring stories.

You can find out more at:

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Thanksgiving Thoughts

Gratitude has become a daily intentional practice for me. I’m first and foremost grateful for my family and friends. I’m also extremely thankful for a lifetime spent in schools with colleagues who’ve taught me so much and made such a difference in my life. So, I’d like to share a few simple thoughts and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

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For over 30 years I have been helping teachers use technology in their classrooms. I believe in the power of Social Media to connect and communicate. Every day, I interact with colleagues, school leaders, teachers, and students I taught. Some, over 30 years ago and now many miles away.

Here’s what I’m hearing: Teachers feel more overwhelmed and frustrated than I’ve ever seen. Many teachers feel scared, lonely, and more than a little lost. Many miss the familiarity, security, and comfort of their classrooms. Because so many make sure their classrooms are warm and inviting places for all. But mostly… teachers miss their students!

So, I’ve been listening closely to what I’m hearing from educators right now and thinking about how we can best support each other during these difficult days. I’d like to share 3 things I hope we can keep in mind:

1. We Must Acknowledge What Fear Does to the Brain

My research for, The Chemistry of Culture, has convinced me that fear and anxiety often “slam the door” to our brain’s pre-frontal cortex. The area we depend on for problem-solving and critical thinking. Forcing so many teachers into distance learning overnight, often without training or support, has created the most challenging cultural dilemma we have faced. Now, more than at any time in my career, we must put Maslow before Bloom, and focus on Relationships before Rigor.

2. We Must Maslow Before We Bloom

We must put relationships first. Before we expect teachers to meet the needs of their students, school leaders must be willing to do the same for teachers. We must all actively listen, acknowledge, empathize, and most importantly: Trust in trust.

On top of that are the very real fears of this virus. I know outstanding teachers who have underlying health concerns who are being forced into classrooms where they do not feel safe. Some have told me they feel they must choose between the career they love and their health and family. That is a terrible place. And it is real.

3. We Must Celebrate and Affirm

All of us… school leaders, teachers, parents and students are doing the best that we can, the best that we know how to do. We must begin with that assumption and clearly communicate that we know how hard everyone is trying and working. We must be patient as we release control. If we want them to try new things, this will be the hard part: We must give them permission to fail. The only failure is not to try.

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New Partnership with Literal App

I’m proud to announce a new partnership with the Literal App in support of the Silent Servant Award given by the The Peter R. Foundation to high school students across America. Literal recognizes that our foundation… “works tirelessly to support high schools in their efforts to embed emotional/social intelligence in all their students”.

Literal recognizes our foundations’ effort to increase empathy by encouraging and rewarding student selfless community service are an effective strategy in reducing high school dropout rates.

They also recognize that reading is on the decline, and the decline has been increasing rapidly. Research shows clearly that poor reading skills are a major reason students drop out of high school.

Research reveals student brains are no longer wired for Black and White text. Teachers now face a new generation of readers who have been wired by social media to consume 150 characters and 90 second clips. 

Literal uniquely and, literally… puts books in a familiar and friendly group messaging format, and takes advantage of the same brain chemistry at work in social media apps. Forgive me, but it’s literally this simple: When reading becomes more engaging, students read more.

You can read more about our Literal App partnership here…

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We Must Maslow Before We Bloom

Sometimes, the hardest thing for us to see is right in front of us. So I’ll start with a blinding flash of the obvious… In both our personal and professional lives, relationships are everything!

The desire to connect with others is written into our DNA. Neuroscience confirms that effective relationships are based on trust. And our brains are hard-wired by millions of years of evolution with a need to trust and be trusted. Nowhere is this more important to remember than in the classroom. Honestly, these have been hard lessons for me to learn.

For 35 years I’ve been a tireless advocate for teachers using technology in the classroom. But if the COVID crisis has proved anything, it is that teaching with technology can only get you so far. The truth is computers can never do any of the most important things teachers do for students. And the more we move learning online, the more our relationships will be essential to both the learning and the emotional well-being of our students.

At the same time, as I listen to educators around the country and world, here’s what I’m hearing: Teachers feel more overwhelmed, more fearful and frustrated than I’ve seen in the past 50 years. Teachers say they’re working harder than ever trying to immediately “adjust” to on line teaching while still exploring a jungle of new platforms, apps, and sometimes flawed technology.

I know elementary teachers who are still feeling the pain of not being able to say “goodbye” to their students last March. I know high school teachers who’ve taught in the same classroom for years, who now have no idea what “school” will look like when students return, or even if they will return.

For our teachers, school leaders must put relationships first. Before we expect teachers to meet the needs of their students, school leaders must be willing to do the same for teachers. We must actively listen, acknowledge, empathize, and most importantly: Trust in trust. Now, more than at any time in my career, we must put Maslow before Bloom, and focus on Relationships before Rigor.

In my book, The Chemistry of Culture, I wrote that… “If your culture is broken, you can’t fix anything else.” Trust is the foundation for relationships and relationships are the foundation of culture. How is your culture? And how do you know?  For more information contact me at:

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Exercise Empathy

Even before the current COVID crisis, psychologists reported that empathy is declining in our culture, and most dramatically in the young. At the same time, research in the fields of neuroscience and social psychology is clearly showing that, while competition is innate to humans, so is empathy. In my book, The Chemistry of Culture, I point out neuroscience has revealed that our desire and ability to trust and help each other has been hard-wired into our brains by human evolution.

By better understanding the brain chemistry of culture, we can improve our ability to collaborate and to empower each other. Neuroscientists like Harvard’s Paul Zak are showing how culture changes the chemicals in our brain. Scientists are learning how the brain’s chemistry creates the chemical foundation for our outward behaviors. And as they better understand the brain chemistry behind our relationships, they are learning how our culture creates a cocktail of drugs in our brains and, like a delicate dance, the chemistry of our brain both governs, and is governed by, our culture.

What we’ve learned from this neuroscience research is good news: We are indeed capable of creating a better, more humane, and empathic culture than we currently have. These lessons are cause for hope. Because empathy impacts far more than our personal relationships, it shapes the way we see and experience the world around us and how we interact with others who share our space. But we’ve learned that do so, we must be intentional in our actions.

Prior to the current COVID crisis concern about the decline of empathy and other social-emotional skills, were already growing among educators. Given the unprecedented and sudden shift to virtual learning from traditional face-to-face learning that teachers were forced to make… it is now more important than ever for us to understand the practical applications of exercising empathy in our student’s daily lives, and how we can recognize and reward their empathy in our classrooms and schools.

That is one reason I’m so excited to have joined the Peter R. Marsh Foundation as Program Director. Our Silent Servant Student Award Program offers schools a free Action Plan they can use to reward and recognize students who exercise empathy through Service Learning. It’s a fast, free and effective way that schools can be intentional about improving empathy in all their students.

For more information contact me at: or here through

The Culture Cycle

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It’s Time for a Change

It’s time for a change… but this is a personal, not a political post. After 15 years as Senior Advisor to the International Center for Leadership in Education, ICLE, and over 20 years of commitment to increasing the three R’s of Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships in schools, I left ICLE earlier this year.

I have always believed that Relationships, ICLE’s third “R”, is not the only the most important, it is absolutely essential. As my friend, Ray McNulty first said, “Relationships make the Relevance possible”. And It’s only when those first two R’s are firmly established that we even have a shot at Rigor for all students.

I learned these lessons from my own life, and I write about them in my new book, The Chemistry of Culture, and in my Blog here at I’m at a point in my life that I only want to spend time on what is most important to me. And I want to focus on Relationships as the foundation for creating effective culture.

My new home for this work will be the Peter R. Marsh Foundation, a non-profit, 501 (c)(3) here in Washington State, where I have assumed the role of Program Director. Our mission at the Peter R, Marsh Foundation is to promote and support Social Emotional Learning, SEL, in high school students. It feels so good to be back in the non-profit world.

Through our Silent Servant Award, we will recognize and financially reward students across America who unselfishly provide voluntary service in their communities. We will offer resources and support for schools choosing to make Relationships, and their school culture, a priority.

In my new position, I will continue to write, speak, and develop resources to help support schools and communities in building better relationships, stronger social emotional learning, and a more positive, effective culture. The Peter R Marsh Foundation is passionate about Servant Leadership and Service Learning. Our goal is to inspire today’s youth to greater empathy by making service to others a priority in their lives.

As a result of the pandemic and growing racial unrest, I believe our Foundation’s vision and mission has never been more important or needed. I have been writing and speaking for some time about the growing body of brain research showing the damage being done to our students’ social-emotional skills by their increasing use of technology.

If you want a better culture through improved relationships, increased empathy and service learning, you must be intentional in how you work on it. I am grateful to be part of offering a simple step on the path forward. It’s time for a change.


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Schooling in the COVID Crisis

Book Pic 1 Not a day goes by that I don’t hear from educators across the country who are struggling with the current COVID-19 crisis. Teachers and school leaders are being forced to do new things. Immediately. Like move their classes on-line while learning to use Zoom for the first time. I will confess that I do miss being there with you, on the front lines. But, I would like to share some thoughts for you to consider.

First, I believe in technology. For over 25 years I’ve been a technology advocate, helping educators use more technology in their classrooms, helping them find their own path to Blended Learning. But… the most important things being done in our classrooms can never be done by a computer.

It’s important to remember: What is most often happening now… is not Blended Learning. In most cases it is some combination of home schooling, distance learning, or online schooling. As educators are forced to adopt new methods too rapidly, without training or support, lots of words are being misused and methods poorly implemented.

There are philosophies and research guiding Blended Learning instructional delivery, with theories and pedagogies that are enacted in intentional ways. So, we need to guard against miss-using language that we already have in our schools with students, parents, and political leaders. Some politicians will use this crisis to call for us to adopt practices that are simply not good for students.

Across America, many schools have been pitted against each other in a competition to prove who can transition from face to face learning to virtual school the fastest!  In reality, some school districts are just trying to do something to avoid the perception that they’re doing nothing. At the same time, normal school operations, budgeting, maintenance, staffing, all continue.

In many places, schools won’t re-open this year! Let that sink in. I’ve been in education 48 years and never experienced anything like this before. It is also a time that will shape us – and the very nature of schooling – far into the future. What we’re doing right now is something completely different. Schooling and its purposes can change dramatically when a society is in shock and crisis. What we’re doing today is teaching and learning in COVID-19.

K-12 schools, colleges, and universities have been shut down. Teachers and professors have had to reimagine what their teaching looks like from a distance and what is even possible for students to learn and do in their own homes.

Educators are working from home. Many are also parents and/or caretakers for sick and elderly family members, and they’re not only still trying to work, but also manage their own children’s school assignments and their families’ needs.

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Most troubling, students have been cut off from physical social interaction with friends teachers, and coaches. This is not business as usual and it is unethical to act as if it could be. No one should expect the “COVID-19 Schooling” happening now to be anything close to usual.

Let me be clear: It is impossible to “transform” face-to-face teaching and learning into COVID-19 teaching and learning overnight. And even if that was possible, doing so will have a serious downside for children.

In my recent book, The Chemistry of Culture, I survey the research documenting the dramatic decline of social/emotional skills like empathy among today’s young people. Many neuroscientists, psychologists, and sociologists it a crisis. The COVID crisis will only accelerate that decline. What happens to a culture when it loses empathy?

But there is an upside to this crisis. We have a great opportunity to slow the testing rat race. By taking away tests (most state mandates are already lifted), and thinking differently about grading, maybe we can determine how to help our students, and each other, during this life-altering moment.

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Whenever we do return to whatever our “new normal” will be, what will our schools look like? How will we move forward with what we’ve learned from this crisis? Will we be able to find a new and better balance between technology and teacher?  These are some of the questions I explored in, The Chemistry of Culture. It’s now more important than ever to find the answers. 

Given that it’s highly unlikely the future of education will contain less technology. How will we find the right balance for our children and our culture? Remember, the most important things being done in our classrooms, particularly for our most at risk students…  can never be done by a computer.

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