Readiness for the world beyond high school is at the top of Grandview Heights Schools' priority list.

In addition to academics, we believe our students also will be prepared to succeed in our ever-changing global community due to their involvement in the arts and extracurricular clubs and their dedicated service to the community.

Our district has identified nine learning attributes associated with 21st-century skills: accountability, collaboration, communication, empathy, honesty, perseverance, resourcefulness, respectfulness and safety.

Research has found that these attributes and behaviors are associated with college and career readiness.

Community-service projects are an effective way to integrate all of these skills into one experiential learning activity.

The most obvious attribute affiliated with service to the community is empathy. Through service, our students can learn to see life through the eyes of people with lives dissimilar to their own.

This is a phenomenal opportunity for our students to mold and shape their worldviews. Honing traits such as caring, helpfulness and thoughtfulness will contribute to a larger understanding of humanitarianism and global awareness.

More than half of the families in southern Columbus live in poverty. In an effort to help them, Grandview Heights High School hosted a gift drive in December to collect new, unwrapped presents for children and teens ages 8-18. Gifts included board games, crafts and items involving sports, music or other hobbies, as well as cash donations.

At Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School, the Builders Club organized a schoolwide food drive to help support Boulevard Presbyterian Church's annual campaign.

Students collected canned soup, beans, fruits and vegetables as well as pasta, ramen noodles and peanut butter. The high school's Key Club also supported the church's food drive by collecting nonperishable food items.

At Stevenson Elementary School, students collected food, clothing and hygiene items to make holiday baskets to be distributed to three homeless camps. Accountability, collaboration and communication come naturally through service projects as well.

Students are expected to follow through with time commitments and work with others toward a common goal. In some situations, students must communicate with leadership in order to understand expectations. Other service projects provide a richer learning experience, requiring students to take on the role of leadership, which requires a higher level of communication.

Service also values honesty and the importance of integrity for one's self as well as others.

When a student finds passion for service, grit and determination are summoned to help them to achieve their goals.

Through service, students can take an active role in their community. It allows young people to experience the world outside of the walls of our schools. They can put the academics and learning attributes we develop in the classroom to the test.

Most importantly, they can make a difference.

Andy Culp is superintendent of Grandview Heights Schools.