With her love for community service, Katie Clendenning inspires students


Edward Park

BIG SMILES. Service learning coordinator Katie Clendenning laughs as she talks with Nash McKeague, a sophomore, to answer questions regarding his community service experience in her classroom April 14. She has a calendly page where students can schedule meetings with her easily. “The conversation was very helpful,” Nash said, “and I was able to clarify some things that I needed to know.”

Edward Park, Reporter

Another day starts for service learning coordinator Katie Clendenning, and she enters her room and sits in her chair. She waits to welcome students who seek help in community service.

“I think, for me, being able to do service that matters to me is what keeps me wanting to do service,” she said as she described her thoughts about community service. “And what matters to us is different per person.”  

Coming to Lab at the start of the 2021-22 year, Ms. Clendenning has stayed connected with students using her strong passion for service learning and her lovable personality, igniting a love for community service for her students.

After discovering her interest in community service in college as a student at Indiana Wesleyan University, she worked for service organizations like the Chicago Cares, and worked as Lab’s service learning coordinator since last school year.

Since then Ms. Clendenning has talked with students to help them find a direction in the service learning course.

“One of my favorite parts of the job is being able to talk with students who aren’t sure where they want to do their service, and helping them to see other opportunities and other options that might better align with their skills,” she said. 

While it is true that a generational gap exists between her and her students, Ms. Clendenning makes sure to keep a positive attitude toward her students to become an adult who stays closer to students.

“And so while there’s that gap, I think it’s just an opportunity for me to listen and learn and I appreciate it,” she said. “I’m a big fan of always taking in new information.”

She also shared her experience talking with current senior peer leaders who had to go through a unique experience of service learning through the pandemic.

“That type of service has been super interesting to me and just reminds me of how I want to operate in this school and in this community,” she said.

She also added that such conversations are key not only for her relationship with her students but for her personal experience as a service learning coordinator.

“Being able to have those conversations helps me learn about my students, but also learn about the world,” Ms. Clendenning said.

Bryce Light, who will be a peer leader next year, appreciates the support he received from Ms. Clendenning.

“When I contacted her when I felt troubled about my community service experience. She talked with me and gave me clear instructions on every step I needed to take,” he said. “It helped me finish my service hours before most of my friends.”

Members of her advisory also appreciate the experience Ms. Clendenning provides for them.

Leyton Mueller said, “I still remember the first day of Lab and when I went to advisory. Ms. Clendenning and Ms. Scott, the other adviser, are always very positive and optimistic.”

Leyton also showed appreciation to the help Ms. Clendenning gave for his community service experience.

“Yeah, she made it really easy. We got to start really early in the year. So I knew what I had to do, and I had no problems at all,” he said.

Ms. Clendenning feels happiness and pleasure through her experience as a service learning coordinator at Lab. With her own distinct characteristics, she makes the school a warm and welcoming space both for herself and her students. 

“I think it’s just an opportunity for me to listen and learn and I appreciate it,” Ms Clendenning said. “Mutual benefit. That’s how it should go.”