Empathy: Moving From the Head to the Heart

What if every child and adult at Voyager Academy Elementary were to perform a 15 minute act of service each day? What could we change?

Photo of Leslie
1 1

Written by

Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

After sending 2 staff members to the Ashoka Summit, we began to think and discuss that we could "talk the talk" about building empathy in children, but were we really "walking the walk". However, when we read the article about New Belgium's Kim Jordan, we were truly inspired. She shared in the article about service being mandatory at her high school for 20 minutes each day. We decided that adopting this model will help us make empathy a habit of mind and move from our heads to our hearts.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)



Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • North Carolina

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • North Carolina

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]


Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

As our society becomes more self-absorbed and focused on material gains, our goal is to start small by building empathy and service in each and every elementary student and staff member at Voyager Elementary. By focusing on others & our community, and not ourselves, we'll begin to create social entrepreneurs. We want our students to see a problem and develop a solution. We know this small step will begin to change hearts and minds.

By developing empathy and social entrepreneurship in our children, we are investing in our best resource for future changemaking in our community and beyond! 

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • No, not explicitly

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Education

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Start-Up (a pilot that has just started operating)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

This spring after discussing with our staff about our 15 minutes of service initiative, the First Grade teachers and students during their study and project about recycling and conservation were inspired to develop their own recycling program for Voyager Elem. They brainstormed ideas and ways that they could do recycling at our school. Next, they wrote persuasive letters to the administration (me) asking if they could run a recycling program. Of course, I said "Yes"!! Next, they developed a plan for picking up the recycling weekly from the classrooms and offices and put their plan into action!

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Just our small initiative by our first grade students and staff for school recycling, has motivated the other grade level teams to find their own service project for next year.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • less than $1k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

At this time, our project can be sustained and maintained with a small budget. However, if this grows the way we expect it to grow, we would love to have the resources to fund projects and ideas that our elementary students develop and are interested in pursuing.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

After working on the Empathy Initiative steering committee and talking with other leaders, many of our schools are doing great works of service. I believe our difficulty and perhaps other schools is that often we aren't very good at sharing with others the good work we do each day.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

Our children will care about the world around them, embrace and value diversity, and inspire curiosity beyond the school day. We will teach self-control, social participation, and human development where children learn by doing and finding success in what they do. They will experience our social curriculum in a meaningful way by finding a question to explore, a real-world problem to solve, or a challenge to create something innovative and exciting.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email

Attachments (1)


Students also had a "recycling center" in the gym for parents to culminate the end of the project.

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Doug Gould

Great innovation by making service to others a way of life! Best of luck.