Students at St. Patrick School in Carlisle traditionally take on a schoolwide community service project during Catholic Schools Week.
This year, instead of helping just one cause, the school’s student leadership team suggested to the principal that each class or grade come up with their own. That made a lot of sense to Principal Antoinette Oliverio.
“After discussing different service ideas with the Student Lighthouse Team (student leadership), they felt it would be most meaningful for the students to be able to choose a service project that is significant and personal to them,” Oliverio said.
Students and teachers came up with ideas that were age-appropriate and spoke to the students. Among the projects classes took on were collecting donations for local shelters and food pantries, making cards or pictures for health care workers and nursing homes, and creating welcome bags for new students who will attend the school next year.
Calvin Wilber and his four-year-old friends in PreK collected new and gently used children’s books to donate to an area shelter. Calvin, whose mom teaches 7th and 8th grade language arts at the school, knows the value of a good book. He said he is happy to help other kids receive books if they don’t have any.
“It makes me feel bad because they have zero books,” he said. Calvin said his teachers have talked with his class about looking out for others who don’t have as much.
Eighth grader Ella Simmons is one of the school’s student leaders who proposed the idea to Oliverio. On Wednesday of Catholic Schools Week, she was hard at work making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as part of the class project to make 100 lunches for a local homeless shelter. The eighth-grade students and their families donated components – fruit, chips, sandwich items, water and a treat – and the class decorated the bags and formed an assembly line to get the job done.
“I think it’s important that we help our community,” Ella said. “It makes us a little more selfless.”
Ella said the project was both fun and meaningful.
“It’s fun because we all get to work together for a good cause,” she said. “It’s nice that we can all come together to help other people.”
Ella is well aware that some people think young people don’t care much about others. She acknowledged that she and her classmates sometimes get wrapped up in their own concerns and comforts. She said efforts like the Catholic Schools Week project or one earlier in the year when the eighth grade helped with the United Ways Day of Caring are great ways for students to feel connected to the community and something bigger than themselves.
Third graders Daniella Morgan and Ciaran Logan said they were happy their class collected canned chicken for the needy. The students said it is important to help people who don’t have even the basics that many take for granted. Daniella said she thinks about that “a lot.”
“It feels really good,” Daniella said about helping people. She and Ciaran said that helping with this and other service projects they’ve done at school is really a win-win, making them feel good about themselves and giving them the opportunity to help those in need.
Fourth grader Mia Bailey’s class made cards for residents of a local nursing home. Mia said she thinks the project was a good choice because the residents of those kinds of facilities may not have people who are visiting, whether because of COVID or other reasons.
It makes her happy to know that her class’ gesture might help residents know that someone cares about them. “It’s like, ‘Yay! People didn’t forget about me,’” she said.
“It’s important to think about what other people need that don’t have what you have,” she said. “You need to help those people to have a better life.”
Although she said it’s OK to also think about yourself, of course, Mia said it’s important to share your gifts with others.
“You have to give of yourself,” she said.
(Lisa Maddux is the Development Director at St. Patrick School in Carlisle.)
(Photos courtesy of St. Patrick School.)
By Lisa Maddux, Special to the Witness