This summer I had the pleasure of participating in the Summer Service Learning Program through Notre Dame. I worked at Wellspring Catholic Academy of St. Bernadette’s for their first year as an SSLP site. The campus has been around for a long time in Lakewood, CO as St. Bernadette’s, but recently reopened as Wellspring, a reimagined, expeditionary learning
(EL), catholic academy.



While I can not believe the summer is coming to an end, I could not be more thankful for the team at Wellspring as well as the support of the ND Club of Denver for making my experience possible and meaningful. The biggest impact point for me was my daily interactions with my students. My class consisted of around 10 first to fifth graders and together we read, practiced math, created art, exploded volcanoes, searched for bugs, went on field trips and so much more. As an EL school, Wellspring’s moto is “small classes, big impact, joyful environment”. Every aspect of the school ensures these principles are lived out by the students and staff, but one practice in particular stood out to me. Wellspring lives by a practice called “crew”, and I was able to implement this during the summer. In every class the quote, “we are crew, not passengers” hangs on the wall reminding the students that together they are not simply riding along, but they are a family on a journey together. Crew consists of a good morning circle, prayers, and an initiative or activity. My favorite part of the day was sitting on the carpet in a circle with my students as they said good morning to their crewmates and listened to each other's updates, feelings, and stories. Saying good morning to each student and calling them by name makes sure everyone is seen, heard and empowered before starting anything else for the day. It is also a great time for the kids to get to know about each other's life stories. After this, we would all pray for each other and listen to the intentions offered up in crew, then have time to reflect on those intentions. The kids loved the initiatives which included team bonding, trust exercises, glow stick parties, obstacle courses, reading, sharing and more. The essence of crew is allowing students to bond together and learn how to work as a unit. I felt incredibly blessed to watch as students who went to Wellspring in the past and those who would be starting in the fall join as a family. Many students are going through or have been through struggles with their own families at home, and crew provides these kids a stable, safe, and welcoming family at school for when they need extra support and love. I feel lucky to be part of the crew we formed this summer, and I look forward to hearing about the experiences of future students spending their summers at Wellspring.



What is the ND Summer Service Learning Program? The SSLP is an eight-week summer volunteer experience and service learning course made available at sites across the U.S. and internationally through the ND Center for Social Concerns. The generosity of Notre Dame Club of Denver donor members had made it possible for the Club to fund four SSLP students who work each summer at Catholic schools and non-profit organizations in Denver. SSLP students receive a $3000 tuition grant and a $500 travel stipend. 

Jordan Cleary is a rising Sophomore at the University of Notre Dame and a resident of Walsh Hall. She intends to double major in Business and Psychology. She recently completed a Summer Service Learning Program (SSLP) serving as a summer school teacher at Wellspring Academy of St. Bernadette in Lakewood. 

Principal and Head of School of Wellspring Academy of St. Bernadette, Robbie G. Bernardin Jr graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2009 and served for two years as a teacher through the Notre Dame Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Teaching Fellows Program earning his Masters of Arts in Education in 2011. Prior to leading WellSpring Academy of St. Bernadette, Robbie worked as a middle school math and science teacher, instructional coach, development director, and Assistant Principal at Annunciation Catholic EL School in Denver and an Adjunct Professor of Education at Regis University. 

Asst. Principal and Director of Teaching and Learning of Wellspring Catholic Academy of St. Bernadette, Francisco Castillo-Fierro graduated from Pomona College and earned a Masters in Education and a Masters in Educational Leadership from the ND ACE Teaching Fellowship and Remick Leadership programs. Francisco has taught at all levels of K-12 in Arizona, D.C., abroad in Santiago, Chile (through the ACE Chile program) and in San Jose, CA, serving as a founding team member and helping to launch Christo Rey San Jose Jesuit High School. 

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