Kate Bappe -- The Essence of Community Service


Along with the necessary 110 academic credits, passing MCAS grades, and attending the school for at least one full semester, students at MERHS must complete 40 hours of community service in order to graduate.

This “requirement” to help the community has been eased for students who experienced high school during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For the Class of 2024, 30 hours are expected, for the seniors, it’s only 20 hours, and for the underclassmen, the hours are back to 40. 

These hours were added to the graduation requirement to promote the importance of service to one’s community and urge students to explore the sense of pride and joy that comes from merely helping others.

Though I certainly agree with the importance of this requirement and wholeheartedly believe that helping others will have a lasting impact on students, this necessity has been turned into a box to check off for many; a requirement instead of a genuine act of kindness.

While it is essential to recognize and value the service of everyone who graduates, there are few who represent the true essence of service and deserve to be honored.

Whether this is achieved through exceeding the expected hours with various unique tasks or staying committed to one organization, there are some students who naturally have the power to love and give.

Kate Bappe, a junior at MERHS, is one of these students who humbly proves that she is a community service all-star. 

Since the third grade, arguably before she even knew that community service was a requirement, Kate has spent her weekends helping at the Gloucester-based Cape Ann Animal Aid. 

With her family, she helped out every Saturday, which has since changed to every other Sunday morning.  When I say morning, I mean her shift starts at 8:30 a.m.  For those who may think this is easy, I must remind you all that, as high school students, we need a lot of sleep, and we have only two days a week when we can wake up past 6:30 a.m., Sunday being one of them. Spending this time going to the shelter instead of sleeping in truly reveals Kate’s motivation to help and care for the animals. 

When I joined her on a frigid Sunday morning in late January, I marveled as she navigated the various rooms of the shelter as though it was her home.  She knew all who worked and lived there, and they all seemed to know and love her as well. 

Typically, Kate is tasked with numerous jobs to help the many dogs and cats of the shelter.  She washes all toys, towels, and beds, she cleans the building, including the messy pens of the not yet potty-trained animals, she gives them baths, she helps the staff give the medicine needed to specific animals, and most importantly she gives the animals the care and attention they have missed out on and deserve.

On the day I visited, she was specifically helping the puppies.  Together we brought these adorable babies outside while their pens were being cleaned, a task she often does as well. Kate held every single one of the puppies as if they were her own.

She showed me the ways of picking up the fragile puppies by putting a timid white-fur rescue in my arms. It put a smile on my face for the rest of the day, and arguably the rest of the week. 

While there, I was not only surprised at Kate’s natural skills in aiding the animals but also her vivid memory.

She told me stories about “Big Sally,” a diabetic cat, and Cole and Pumus, two fuzzy black shepherds who had the same special dynamic as human siblings. 

One story that stood out especially was about a hound dog named Estrella.  Kate reminisced about the endless hugs Estrella would give her and the times when they would sit together on a rock outside the shelter, simply enjoying each other's company.  Clearly, Kate is not just supporting the organization but rather supporting each and every life that is and was a part of it. 

Kate clearly connects with every animal proving that for her community service is not just a numerical requirement or a box to be checked, but something she truly loves.  Representing this excellence in service, Kate and her family received the “Mike Fonzo Phenomenal Volunteer Award” in 2019.

Beyond the physical Cape Ann Animal Aid building in Gloucester, Kate continues to care for the animals by bringing them to other locations, such as the beach and fostering them in her home to broaden their horizons and prevent them from feeling trapped inside their pens. 

In fact, one of the dogs that Kate and her family brought home was what she called a “foster failure.”  While you may think this means the dog bites or is not a good fit, it actually means the opposite.  They “failed” because the dog was too good of a fit, and they decided to keep her instead of bringing her back to the shelter. 

Through her dedication, Kate has revealed the true essence of community service, which is actually to forget about the term as a whole.  She does not do this to get her required hours, in fact, she told me she often forgets to even log these hours; she simply does it out of the kindness of her heart.

Kate undoubtedly deserves to be appreciated for providing her absolute attention and love to the animals of the Cape Ann Animal Aid and for acting as a reminder of the significance of giving. 

Rather than viewing service as a box to check off, she finds true happiness in her commitment.  I hope that Kate’s selflessness will inspire others to also dedicate their time or resources to helping the world around us, rejecting the idea that service is a requirement and instead viewing it as a sincere act that leaves a lasting impact on all.


kate, kate bappe, community service, gloucester