Andover Celebrates Annual Non Sibi Weekend

Digging up weeds and spreading layers of compost in the hot morning sun, participants of Non Sibi Weekend’s Campus Garden program worked to beautify Andover’s garden. Produce from the garden is donated to the Merrimack Valley Food Bank in Lowell, Mass.

During this year’s Non Sibi Weekend, some students chose to work at the campus garden, preparing its soil for planting. For Maddie Zerbey ’18, who had no previous farming or gardening experience, the event offered a chance to learn more about the vegetable cultivation process, as well as to give back to the Andover community.

Zerbey said, “Gardening is a lot harder than it looks! But it was really nice to be able to give back to the school, because our motto is Non Sibi, but I feel like we don’t always act it out in our own lives. To have a day set out of our school year to just give back to the community or the communities around us was really rewarding.”

“I chose Campus Garden because I wanted to stay on campus, and I was interested to see where the garden was, because I really didn’t know that we had one,” said Zerbey.

Each class’s programs focused on a central theme. Juniors focused on the needs of families, Lowers on the environment, Uppers on health and hunger, and Seniors on housing and homelessness. The themes were initially introduced as a part of the reformed Non Sibi Weekend model in 2014, when Non Sibi Weekend was moved to April, and students’ choices were limited to programs that met their class theme.

Monique Cueto-Potts, Director of Community Engagement, said, “We picked those themes because they directly correlate with the programming that we offered throughout the year as well. For example, if a student goes to the Boys & Girls Club during Non Sibi Weekend, there’s a chance to work with the Boys & Girls Club throughout the year.”

This year’s Non Sibi Weekend featured a wide variety of programs, including clearing bushes at an animal preserve and visiting the Boston office of Jumpstart, an organization that recruits and trains college students to teach preschoolers in low-income neighborhoods.

Eliot Min ’19 traveled with his group to the Boston headquarters of Room to Grow, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of impoverished babies. While there, Min sorted children’s clothes by age before they could be distributed to underprivileged families. 

“It was really fun working together with everyone to see how quickly we could sort out all the clothes. The woman [from Room to Grow] was really nice and she explained why it was such a good cause, so we could use that as motivation. It was really fun,” said Min.

Min didn’t know what Non Sibi Weekend was before the sign-up emails were sent out, but he quickly caught on to the significance of the programming.

“I didn’t really understand what the concept of Non Sibi was. When I realized it meant ‘not for self,’ I realized that we would be doing community service. I really took that to heart and tried to make the most out of it,” said Min.

Nicholas Rauen ’16 chose the Faces of Homelessness program, in which students were given presentations by former homeless people.

“The entire idea was sort of to humanize the homeless, because the homeless have a large issue with being looked over as if they’re not human,” said Rauen. “We talked with someone who was very prominent with the entire problem, and then we talked to people who had been homeless, had been dealing with this issue. It was very interesting, because it’s not really a perspective you get at Andover, so that was very nice.”

Cueto-Potts hopes that current students will continue to follow the message of Non Sibi Weekend and participate in community engagement programs throughout their lives.

“I think it’s important because it extends our learning beyond the walls of the classroom, and really gives our entire community an opportunity not just to learn about issues that are affecting people in society, but how organizations and people are working to address those issues that are affecting people,” said Cueto-Potts.

Although Non Sibi Weekend is the one day a year every student is involved with a community engagement program, Cueto-Potts wants to stress the fact that the weekend is just a small part of a larger, year-long opportunity for working in and around the Andover community.

Cueto-Potts said, “[This] needs to be more than one day, and it is more than one day. We have about 400 students engaged in programs on a weekly basis every single term, so… it’s part of the larger mission of our office that includes programming six days a week, every week of the school year.”

“We’re really fortunate to have the budget and the staff and the support that we do have. I think it’s just important to highlight that it’s not just one day, it’s just part of something bigger,” continued Cueto-Potts.