From Passion to Action: Behind the Scenes of LCAPs

Mira Ponnambalam ’26 in Features | April 12, 2024

          Before graduating, every Lawrentian must complete a set of community service requirements, which include  one Lawrenceville Community Action Project, otherwise known as an LCAP. Of course, completing an LCAP is more than just a requirement to fulfill—it offers a fulfilling opportunity for students to give back to the local community. LCAPs  meet on a weekly basis and allow students to develop relationships with members of the wider community through engaging in a broad range of service opportunities. Initially called “Circle-Crescent requirements,” LCAPs first began under Lawrenceville’s first Director of Community Service,  Joanne Adams, and were only open to III and IV Formers. 

          Elizabeth Ferguson, the current Director of Community Service, coordinates both Lawrenceville students and external programs in order to make LCAPs possible. Ferguson stated  that her role is “to help students connect with non-profit organizations in Mercer County,” to facilitate LCAPs. Over time, Ferguson has become adept at anticipating and solving problems. Ferguson noted that “there are a lot of moving parts and minutiae at times because students or organizations might have conflicts. It requires a lot of flexibility.” She remarked that “you can make the best plans, [and] it doesn’t always work out, but that’s life.” Ferguson credited her coworkers Paula Spencer, the new Assistant Director of Community Service, who helps with logistics as well as faculty members Melissa Verhey, Michael Friedman, and Josefina Ayllón-Ayllón who each assist in coordinating specific programs as she noted “I also have a great team.”

          On the other end of the communication process are the various non-profit organizations in Mercer County. Many of these establishments have kept long-lasting relationships with Lawrenceville. “Occasionally we have new organizations that say, ‘We have this need, would you be interested?’ I love turning the needs of our community into LCAPs,” stated Ferguson. Students, of course, also play a big role in LCAPs, which often extends beyond simply participating in the project as many ideas for LCAPs come directly from students. “I hope students know that they’re always welcome to come talk to me about any idea they have. I love turning students’ passions into LCAPs,” mentioned Ferguson. After a student comes to Ferguson with an idea,  she works with them  to determine the best way to make it happen. First, they must figure out what age group would be best for the activity. Then, Ferguson reaches out to possible community partners. 

          All the work that goes into making each LCAP a reality is certainly worth it. “My favorite part is being present when the students are engaging with their buddies. I always crack up when our students playing with Legos are having as much fun as the little kids…both the Lawrenceville students and community buddies are so happy seeing each other and catching up after a week away from each other,” Ferguson described. 

          Although many students sign up for LCAPs specifically to fulfill their graduation requirement, they often fall in love with community service while completing their LCAP. Some students participate in project after project—knowing that they’ve long since fulfilled their requirement—because they enjoy it so much. One such student, Sarah Fernandes ’26, is on her fourth LCAP. “My first LCAP was my first experience with tutoring, and I found that I really enjoyed it. I liked getting to know people that I wouldn’t typically meet at Lawrenceville, getting to help [others] out, and being useful. It was honestly just a really fun time,” Fernandes explained. LCAPs are just as important for Lawrenceville students as they are for the outside community. “LCAPs give Lawrenceville students a chance to focus on others. I think there’s some freedom in that—really just being present with someone else,” noted Ferguson. 
For many students, LCAPs provide an opportunity to get off campus. They are also an avenue for new experiences and a source of valuable memories. “There was this kid struggling to focus on his math homework, and when he got it he just seemed so genuinely excited, almost jumping up and down. It was really sweet,” Fernandes recalled. Memories like these and the positive impact on the wider community, distinguish LCAPs as an invaluable part of the Lawrenceville experience.