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Compassionate Communities Awards Program

Teaching Compassion in the Classroom through School-Wide Humane Education

With the goal of inspiring a generation of compassionate changemakers and enhancing positive school community engagement, HEART's Compassionate Communities Awards support and recognize excellence in student-led projects that create a school-wide community of compassion, stewardship, and respect. HEART launched the program in partnership with the NYC Mayor’s Office and Department of Education.

In recognition of one of the key struggles that has particularly impacted many communities in recent years, “Food Justice for All" is the theme for this year's program, which is returning to New York City and Chicago. We are highlighting topics like healthy eating choices, sustainable farming, urban gardening, and low-cost farmers’ markets via lessons, activities, school-wide learning opportunities, and connections to potential community partners for service actions. 

Inspiring Respect, Empathy & Social Action

When the program first launched for the 2017-18 school year, more than 14,000 students from 21 elementary schools in Bronx District 8 participated in HEART programming and developed service projects to inspire respect, empathy, and social action. In the Spring term of 2019, we successfully expanded the Compassionate Communities Award program to Long Island's Nassau County, engaging 6,000 students at 11 elementary schools.  During the 2019-2020 school year, in partnership with Eric Adams -- then Brooklyn Borough President and now NYC Mayor -- the program was implemented at fifteen Brooklyn elementary schools in Districts 15 and 16, collectively serving approximately 10,000 students. In the 2021-22 school year, we introduced the program in Queens elementary school district 30 in partnership with the Queens Borough President’s Office, reaching 4,000+ students.  We piloted the program in Chicago in partnership with the Factory Farming Awareness Coalition during the 2022-23 school year, reaching 1,500+ students.

We structured our program around the concept of community because we believe that life-long compassionate engagement can be most powerfully awakened in individual students when it is expressed in all aspects of the community that guides and sustains them. Each participating school is asked to develop and implement lessons, activities, and service projects within their school community that reflect upon the meaningful connections between the needs of the people in their neighborhoods, and those of the animals with whom we also share the world: our companions, farm animals, and our wild animal neighbors.

Throughout the year, HEART staff members provide a menu of theme-based curricular materials, activities, and projects that participating schools can use to create new programs or expand any of their existing programs that promote respect for all, animal welfare, and environmental sustainability. At the end of the year, students from each school submit a multi-media presentation highlighting their Compassionate Communities activities and accomplishments of the year. Cash awards to schools fund projects of the school's choice that support the goals of the Compassionate Communities program and address meaningful needs within both the school and the wider community.  

Learn more about about the Compassionate Communities program:

Food Justice Heroes: Youth Leaders Planting the Seeds of Justice and Healing
By Jeannie Russell Students in Queens NYC School District 30 who participated in HEART’s Compassionate Communities Food Justice for All[...]
Expanding Avenues for Collaboration in an Interconnected World
By Jeannie Russell We live our lives always together, never apart, in a world of connections.  The air, the water,[...]
Staff at Queens, NYC School Discuss How They Encouraged Plant-Based Eating
By Mickey Kudia P.S. 151 was a recent participant in HEART’s Compassionate Communities Awards (CCA) Program in Queens elementary school[...]
Honoring Resilience and Compassion in Brooklyn School Communities
By Jeannie Russell In March of 2020, the children of New York joined the rest of the world in a[...]
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