Sharing the light: Students learn life skills while volunteering

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE – Learning to help others without expecting anything in return is an important lesson Principal Vicki Wilson hopes the students at Monroe Elementary School have learned from recent experience.

By participating in Share the Light community outreach projects this fall, school officials say, first- through fifth-graders reinforced life skills lessons like caring for others, perseverance and resourcefulness while discovering the personal rewards of helping others in their community.

Monroe has 377 students in the five grades; its 50 kindergarteners will begin volunteering as first-graders.

The fall community outreach projects challenged students to complete community service hours; explain their contribution using a poster with drawings or photos; and give a short oral report to their class. Students identified at least three life skills they reinforced while working on the project.

First- and second-grade students were asked to complete two hours of service; third-graders, three hours; and fourth-graders, four hours. Fifth-graders logged at least two hours each.

Students were encouraged to ask parents and teachers for suggestions. The volunteer hours could be devoted to a neighbor or community group.

The life skills the school emphasizes include caring, common sense, cooperation, courage, curiosity and effort. Flexibility, friendship, initiative, integrity and organization skills also are on the list, along with patience, perseverance, pride, problem solving resourcefulness, responsibility and a sense of humor.

Student volunteer projects were varied and inspiring, officials say.

First-grader Stella Moline said she learned about caring, effort and pride as she and her younger sister sorted through their toys to make a donation to the Salvation Army.

Fourth-grader Joscelyn Stempien worked at a soup kitchen, while third-grader Abbie Roberts and her fifth-grade brother, Aaron Roberts, used money earned doing chores to buy Toys for Tots donations.

Thomas Kirby, a third-grader, sent a letter to his neighbors and collected clothes for the Salvation Army. He also worked with the Gleaners Food Bank, bagging 70 pounds of bulk cereal for individual family distribution. He found himself learning valuable lessons in effort, planning and perseverance during his volunteer hours.

Fifth-grader Mary Tims donated food to an animal shelter and visited seniors at a nursing home.

The Salvation Army benefited from many of the children’s efforts. Jordan Tarrence and her parents were bell ringers, raising $46 in three hours. Second-graders Noah Ochoa and Nicholas Miello also were bell ringers, working at the corner of Fort and Eureka.

“I was there for a long time,” Nick said in his report, “but I liked it.”

Second-grader Emma Engquist brought hot chocolate to bell ringers, and donated money she earned to buy toys for the charity’s holiday donation drive.

Fourth-grader Drew Cousino made bean soup and corn muffins to distribute at Blessed Hope Soup kitchen in Lincoln Park. He also gave away some of his own stuffed animals to children at the soup kitchen. In addition he raked leaves for some neighbors who were working long hours and didn’t have time to do it.

Second-grader Jude Urban collected nonperishable food from neighbors to donate to the Salvation Army. He also visited nursing home residents and played bingo with them.