Miranda Payne is the Coordinator of Community Outreach at Marlborough School, where she’s been helping middle and high-school girls get involved in meaningful community engagement for the past two years. I can attest that girls absolutely adore Miranda (a few have even said they want to be her!), and surmise that it’s because she so effectively helps them turn their ideas into reality. Miranda, who herself graduated from Marlborough, has a seven year-old son who has grown up following his mother and her troops of high-school girls around on countless weekend volunteer projects, such as Big Sunday and One Voice. Who better to turn to to discuss how to get your kids excited about their community service responsibilities?
My discussion with Miranda revolved around her belief that kids should be proactive in finding volunteer projects that connect with their own interests.
What are the trends in volunteer activity that you’re seeing lately? We had several students that were very affected by Davis Guggenheim’s documentary, Waiting for “Superman“, who subsequently wanted to get involved teaching arts and other supplementary activities to schools where those programs had been excised. “The girls decide what skills they want to teach – dance, for instance – and I work with them to design a curriculum that can be introduced, taught and completed in the course of a semester. The girls take on the responsibility of carrying the whole project from start to finish, from pitching their project to undeserved schools in our neighborhood to being sure that their project is sustainable (able to be repeated in another semester).
A second trend we are seeing is girls who are interested in working with soldiers returning from war and/or supporting soldiers still at war. Operation Gratitude is a popular organization for such engagement because it welcomes kids of all ages!
What are some of your favorite events and charities around town? We always send our students to Tree People and City Year, and Friends of the LA River, and have just started to get involved with Operation Mend at UCLA.
Why is it important for kids to volunteer? I think it’s essential for kids to have real-world experiences. Such experiences encourage stretching and hone leadership skills. My job is to push them just the right distance outside of their comfort zone and then help manage everyone’s expectations. For instance, when the girls travel to a soup kitchen, they develop an awareness of what’s positive and negative out there in the world. It’s at times scary, but for the most part, the girls feel empowered by taking on a job and being needed.
We love to ask our subscribers about their lives in LA;
When you have visitors from out of town, where do you go? We head up to Paradise Cove for lunch and a secluded beach visit, or we go to The Getty Center; it’s as good for kids who love to run around as it is for adults wanting their art fix.
What was your last date with your husband? We biked from Hancock Park to LACMA to see a show and have a drink at Stark’s.
What is an adventure you had around town with your son? We love to travel to Koreatown or Silver Lake and explore a new neighborhood and eat in unusual restaurants. But the coolest thing we did last year was to take the Filmore and Western Railway train out to Filmore and cut down a tree for Christmas! They have gorgeous trees, and we could take it home on the train with us, and it was fresher than any tree we’ve ever had!