"Tell me," I ask the one nearest me, "what exactly is a Service Prefect?"
She looks at me steadily and smiles. "Excellent question," she replies. "I asked myself that exact same thing at the end of last year when Mrs Peterson invited me to do the job."
And then she tells me what she has decided. About the working out of the school's Christian foundation in acts of service and mercy. About the scheme to provide dresses to young women in third world countries: not crappy, this will do for them, second hand, charity dresses but nice new ones to boost self respect and give an edge in job interviews. She tells me about the scheme to supply feminine hygiene products to girls who can't afford them. She tells me about the warm new pyjamas for the poor kids, and the planting of native trees, and the garbage clean ups and, closer to hand, the coaching and the mentoring within the school. Most impressively she recounts the scheme she has cooked up with her mates, whereby every student in the school is challenged to do 24 hours of community service in the course of the year, and how this has been made into an inter house competition, and how girls are enjoying the challenge of outdoing one another in service to others. "24 hours," she laughs. "It sounds a lot at first but I've already done 40 and it's only May."
It's not the first time I have heard something like this. At the end of last year I spoke with girls from Craighead in Timaru and they told me of a quite similar scheme they had developed themselves, whereby students were encouraged to serve their local community. They had researched the local caring organisations, figured out the ones who could use the help of some enthusiastic teenagers and set up the necessary networks. At St. Paul's Collegiate in Hamilton they have a scheme called Over The Fence. Knowing they are a privileged school sited in one of Hamilton's most challenged and challenging neighbourhoods students actively seek ways to aid the local community. Some help out in local primary schools. A group of them take their ukuleles to a local rest home, not to sing but to instruct. They teach people with dementia how to play the ukulele, knowing that the mental and physical dexterity required is powerfully therapeutic, as is the act of hearing and making music. They have researched the music familiar the people they teach, set the old tunes for the uke and figured out chord sequences.
Millennials. It's common enough to hear my generation bag them for not having and doing the things we had and did. Me? I find them breathtaking.