For the past ten years, First Serve has been an annual day of service, held during the second Sunday in September, led by First Congregational Church of Hudson in partnership with the Islamic Society of Akron and Kent, Temple Beth Shalom of Hudson and supported by many other faith communities in Hudson and the Akron area.
At the onset of the pandemic, First Serve met with North Hill community partners and key community organizations to better understand their needs under these new circumstances. Once we had a clear understanding of the necessary adjustments, First Serve restructured its delivery model from a single day of service to a continuing summer of service incorporating all of the Summit County Health Department pandemic guidelines such as no groups larger than 10, providing PPE, concentrating on outdoor projects, and creating as many “do at home” projects as possible to ensure a feeling of safety for our volunteers and NH community members.
The North Hill Community is located north of downtown Akron. The neighborhood developed rapidly in the 1910s and 1920s, and became Akron’s preeminent immigrant neighborhood, home to a large Italian and Polish population. Today, it is once again Akron’s preeminent immigrant neighborhood, now home to a thriving and growing community of newcomers from Bhutan, Burma, and Nepal, according to Jason Segedy, Notes from the Underground. Projects are located at the Patterson Community Center, Sammis Park, Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority, neighborhoods parks, non-profit organizations, business and residential properties.
Not enough can be said, not enough can be published on the exceptional job Sue Wimer and the volunteers of First Congregational Church of Hudson are doing on North Hill. On Sunday, September 13, the First Serve army invaded Ward 2 ONCE AGAIN and started tackling project after project at four locations. No doubt, First Serve has become the model organization that unites people by providing opportunities for people of different backgrounds – cultural, economic, ethic, and religious – to come together and work side-by-side as a way to get to know one another bridging that gap. Wow! Thank you First Serve! You are welcome anytime on the streets of Akron!
Here are a Few of the 2021 Completed Projects
This year, the pandemic brought many changes to the traditional First Serve by expanding the program from a day of service to year-round opportunities serving the North Hill community of Akron. This past winter, First Serve partnered with Hudson PTO, Hudson City Schools, and three Akron Public Schools – North High, Findley CLC and Harris-Jackson CLC.
North High School Teacher Grant Program
First Serve developed a Teacher Grant Program to support classroom initiatives at North High School. Funding for these grants came from the generous offerings collected during First Congregational Church of Hudson’s Christmas Eve service. First Serve provided funding to nine high school teachers who submitted requests for materials to enhance the learning experience for their students. Highlights of some of these grants include:
- Incentives for special needs students, teacher’s asked for gift cards to local eateries as a way to encourage students to establish and achieve goals in the 4th quarter of the school year.
- Each year, NHS holds its annual Cultural Fair, celebrating the diversity of the student body. Grant monies were used to purchase stage lighting, and reusable banners and decorations.
- Science students will now have the opportunity to use one of the one hundred wireless “mouse” for 3-D modeling using their school-issued laptops.
Right to Read Week
Partnering with Hudson PTO, First Serve introduced the Hudson City School’s annual Right to Read program to the students and staff at Findley CLC and Harris-Jackson CLC. Hudson PTO created a virtual Right to Read week that included four zoom sessions with well-known children’s authors and students from both school districts. Younger students were treated to pre-recorded visits from four authors who read their books and shared their love of reading. Due to the generosity of many in our church and the Hudson community, over 1,200 books were purchased; every Findley and Harris-Jackson student received an autographed copy of one of the nine books by our featured authors. After learning about this collaboration, a Hudson teacher reached out to her neighbor, a Findley teacher, to design a curriculum that would bring individual students from the two school districts together through virtual visits and projects. It is the hope that more teachers from the two districts will join in this project next fall, further connecting these two communities of students in an effort to form relationships.
Day of Service 2021
On September 11, 2021, over 450 volunteers gathered to complete 50 projects at North High School, Akron Co-Op Farms, Patterson Park, Elizabeth Park and Trinity UCC.
The morning kicked-off at North High School’s back parking lot with a meaningful Sending Service and moment of silence, led by multi-faith leaders from First Congregational Church of Hudson, The Islamic Society of Akron & Kent, and Temple Beth Shalom. Afterwards, teams of volunteers went to their project sites updating and refreshing classrooms, hallways, and restrooms. They also updated the teacher’s lounge, washed windows, wrote notes of support to teachers, painted murals, built wood structures, framed photos, and cleaned display cases. Neighborhood children joined volunteer families at the soccer skill clinic held on the school’s front lawn. Everyone gathered under the school’s shade trees for a picnic lunch, meeting one another and sharing experiences of their day. In addition to the work completed at NHS, volunteers weeded and gardened at Elizabeth Park and Patterson Park, worked on a hoop house at Akron Coop Farms and at Trinity UCC, distributed free clothing to the members of the community.
The First Serve Dove
This year, the First Serve Dove is honoring the anniversary of 9/11 by transforming it into shades of blue, depicting the artwork of Spencer Finch’s installation, Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning. This piece of art hangs in the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in NYC. The dove will be printed on the back of this year’s t-shirt.
Our 2021 Summer Interns
Thanks to a grant from the Akron Community Foundation, First Serve has hired two students from North High School to join our two Hudson High School Interns who will be all working on the First Serve Team this summer. This is a tremendous blessing as we continue to foster and build relationships between the two schools. Throughout the summer they will be completing projects at North High School, Akron Co-Op Farms, Harris-Jackson CLC, Rooted in Christ Community Church, Patterson Park, North Hill Community House, and Elizabeth Park, as well as preparing projects for the day of service on September 11, 2021.
Pictured From Left to Right: Jeremiah HHS, Saraza NHS, Tania NHS, and Julia HHS
About North High School
North High School is the most diverse high school in Ohio with students representing over 20 countries. Languages spoken at North include English, Nepali, Spanish, Farsi, Karen, Burmese, Swahili, and many more. The demographics of North are approximately the following:
- 38% Asian or Pacific Islander
- 36% Black
- 14% White
- 8% Hispanic
- 4% Multiracial
North High School was originally located at what is now Jennings Middle School. In 1931, the present North High School was built on Gorge Boulevard. The new building housed 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade students and officially became North High School. In 1955, a major addition including an auditorium, cafeteria and gymnasium was completed. Then in 1970, a vocational wing was added; and, in September 1972, North High School became a four-year high school once again. During the fall of 2017-2018 school year, NHS became the first of the Akron Public Schools to model college and career academies, adding many updates to the building.
Meet Kim Sabetta, Principal of North High School
Kim Sabetta has served as campus principal at North High School for four years and has been an Akron Public School employee for 24 years. Mrs. Sabetta is a 1991 graduate of North High School. She earned both a bachelor’s degree in special education and her educational leadership licensure from the University of Akron. Mrs. Sabetta received a master’s degree in special education from Kent State University.
Mrs. Sabetta demonstrates a strong commitment to academic success for all students at North High School. She has led the implementation of North’s college and career academies which enhance the skills necessary to excel in college, career, military, and life. Mrs. Sabetta builds positive relationships with students, staff, and all community members.