Wednesday, June 13, 2012
For their senior program Jen Burdick and Grace Nolan planned a one year birthday party for the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital. The party ended up including 300 people including patients, families, and staff. The girls' lacrosse team players helped run the stations. It was a big undertaking and success both rewarding for the kids who attended the party and the planners as well!
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Congratulations to the following students who have completed at least one-hundred hours of service since June 1, 2011 and reflected upon their work! Included are excerpts from their written reflections.
Class of 2015
Janice Chung worked with hospice and cancer patience at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital. She wrote, "At Park Nicollet, I try to provide a comfortable environment for the patients and a build a human relationship where the hospital environment tends to be sterile. With many of the patients feeling unwell and the nurses' patience occasionally running thin, I find that just a smile and the willingness to help out makes all of the difference.... When I volunteer, I give my time, effort, and energy. But I found that I have received something much more important in the process: happiness. I was able to discover the joy in helping others and seeing them smile, in particular, the patients. Through my interaction with the patients, I came appreciate the seemingly small things I have in my life even more than I had before: a healthy family, and being free from illnesses. I am grateful for the opportunity I have to volunteer at Methodist."
Zahara Kathawalla worked at Opportunity Camp in Texas and a special project she did with senior citizens. About her project she wrote, " For our project we decided on educating senior citizens to use technology, but mostly Internet pages. We created user guides, made videos, learned about Internet safety, learned how to teach the seniors in a way that best benefited them, and taught them every Saturday at the Library. We taught them Facebook, Skype, email, weather/map quest, and more. Since our generations are moving at such a fast pace in terms of technology, the seniors have not had a chance to catch up and there are no opportunities to learn. This was a nice way to teach them!"
Maddy Norgard worked with kids from North Minneapolis who are part of a group called Confident Kids and helped establish a thrift store in Upsala, a small town in Northern Minnesota. She wrote, " All of the community service I have done this year has really changed me, and taught me a lot about myself. For example, I really learned how much I loved kids. I learned how much I have been blessed with, when it’s so easy to forget with the constant competition of who has the best stuff. I am grateful for all of the time I have been able to devote to helping others, and for how much they helped me in turn. I wouldn’t be half the person I am today if it weren’t for the strength I saw in the people I worked with this year."
Class of 2014
John Augustine worked for the Special Olympics Spring Games as well as Outlaw Ranch, Project Colorado, and Second Harvest Heartland. He wrote, "Through these service opportunities, I have been able to address a variety of needs within the Twin Cities and elsewhere. Personally, the most important thing that I have learned is about the multitude of ways to give back, to go along with the multitude of needs. I also learned that service is not limited to sweeping floors, sorting food, or boxing clothes. Although these tasks are definitely important, my time working with Special Olympics Minnesota taught me so much more. Learning how to interact with and be around special needs kids and adults, along with seeing their triumphant joy even in the midst of hardship is an experience I will never forget."
Quinn Coyle worked at Second Harvest Heartland, a food bank based in the Twin Cities, and at other organizations that serve the hungry and work to address the issue of hunger. He wrote, " I still gained more than I gave. I learned how to be a productive and responsible worker who is part of a team. This will greatly benefit me in the future in any profession that I decide to pursue. I also gained the immense satisfaction of going to sleep at night knowing that I helped be part of a positive impact on the community. It is far more satisfying to reflect back on a day that included four hours of service than it is to look back on a day with four hours of time spent playing video games. Lastly, I was able to immerse myself in the daily realities of many people who suffer from hunger, and by volunteering for IOCP and Meals on Wheels (who are Second Harvest Heartland partners), I was able to help distribute the same food that I helped pack. The clients of these agencies are incredibly thankful and optimistic... I do not regret a single minute of my service over the past year, and with everything that I learned and gained, I am already looking forward to expanding my contributions to the community this next year."
Anna Ehrlich worked at Opportunity Camp in Mineral Wells, Texas, for the third summer in a row! She wrote, "I have learned so much from my service with Opportunity Camp. I honestly believe that I learn more about myself every year than I ever thought possible. I never realized how anyone would look up to me and trust me until I really connected with a few of the girls in my cabin. Last year, I learned what it means to be a role model, as well as a trustworthy friend. On a different note, Opportunity Camp has, in a way, guided my hopes for the future. I realized how strongly I feel about the education for kids, as well as their safety and care. I know that after I graduate, I want do something that will continue to give back to the community, specifically regarding children... Camp is for the kids; I just happen to be fortunate enough to be along for the ride."
Meghna Kaul worked as a volunteer at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital. She wrote, "My job is all about first impressions: smiling, being friendly, telling them directions clearly and with confidence to show that we care and that they get to where they need to go. Something as simple as 'have a good day' can make their day a little brighter, especially for those who have been there for a while. It is all about creating a comfortable environment so patients don’t feel overwhelmed or anxious... I’ll admit, I started this job just so I could add the 'volunteering experience' to my college applications, but now it’s become so much more than that. I discovered that I truly care about the happiness and well-being of other people, and I’m glad to help any way I can."
Paul Morris worked for Second Harvest Heartland and Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners. He wrote, " This experience transformed me because it allowed me to meet people I never would have and to help people at the same time. I met various people through their churches, which came to help at Second Harvest Heartland, and also just everyday people who wanted to give back to the community that had helped them. Some people came from as far as Florida and were there to help out by doing their part. The workers at Second Harvest Heartland and IOCP were also very nice people who besides working at these places would also give back to the community in various ways, which I thought was a great thing and very inspiring at the same time.
Maddy Watchmaker was a grade level leader on the CSB. She went on a service trip to Peru last summer and worked at Jabbok Family Service's summer COOL Youth Program. She wrote, "I learned and received so much from my time at Jabbok, and it truly transformed me. My first few days at the Jabbok were difficult because I was adjusting to kids that live an entirely different lifestyle than myself. I felt extremely awkward being one of the only white people there, and I was embarrassed to show my iPhone, and tell them I lived in Edina. Instead, I said that I lived 'near South Minneapolis'. I didn’t want to seem like a stuck up rich kid, and even pretended that I went to public school, in fear of what the name 'Blake' would entail. The other volunteers who were graduates of this program were slow to include me and I desperately tried to find things we had in common. At first is seemed that the differences between us were so prominent, but as the summer progressed, I realized these kids were not so different than me. At first, all I could think about was our difference in race and how uncomfortable I was. Towards the end of the summer, I was no longer embarrassed about where I was from, and learned to embrace my background no matter the company I am in."
Michael Webber worked as a Play Team Leader at the Minnesota Children's Museum. He wrote, "My time spent volunteering at the Museum has been extremely rewarding, and I’ve gotten leadership experience as well as experience dealing with kids.... It can be a lot of work trying to get kids to talk openly with you about what they’re doing, but when you come across a child who’s willing to play with you for a while and who talks with you freely, willing to both learn from you and teach you something about themselves, you leave the Museum with a great memory, knowing that you’ve made their day better and helped them learn something new. It’s a wonderful feeling. I leave every day knowing I’ve made a difference for someone and helped foster his or her love for learning. I’ve also been able to develop leadership skills being a Play Team Leader for a year. I’ve had to make schedules, lead group discussions and activities, and help new volunteers learn the ropes. I’ve also had to talk extensively with adults at the Museum, usually those involved in organizing the Play Team, and have learned how to interact with them as well. I was a finalist for Volunteer of the Year last year, and was invited to speak in front of the CEO of the Museum and a board of sponsors about my experience volunteering. This was a very rewarding experience, as I was able to put my thoughts and feelings into words and have a conversation with very important people about how the Museum operates. Going into my first week as a volunteer, I never imagined I would get so much out of my time at the Museum, and it taught me much more than simply interacting with kids. I’ve gained valuable knowledge I can use when entering the workforce or other positions of leadership, all while having incredible fun playing with kids."
Class of 2013
Stacie Bellairs was class leader on the CSB and participated in a variety of service work. Many of her hours she spent at Jones Harrison, a residence for elderly people. She wrote, "Taking time out of your life, just once a week, to realize something greater than yourself is what I’ve concluded to be a necessity of the human spirit. No matter how many tests I had to study for on Sunday, I always found it calming to spend a few hours in the morning helping the elderly at Jones Harrison or packing meals at FMSC. I spent many Sunday mornings at Jones Harrison helping the elderly residents down the elevator and into their chapel for a church service. I didn’t expect such a simple gesture to be rewarded with such kindness from the residents and chaplain. I soon joined the family at Jones Harrison and my time with the residents became one of the best times of the week. My service this past year has given me the peace of mind that so many of us search for."
Skylar Bork went on a service trip to Costa Rica through Rustic Pathways. He wrote, " The life experiences that I shared with Javier and the 24 other children at 'Campamento de Sonrisa,' as we called it, are ones that I will never forget. I now believe that the only true form of happiness. Playing football, “sharks and minnows” or talking with Javier about his family are all examples of experiences I shared with him that made me see the value of such a friendship. It is amazing that even a small child like Javier is able to suppress such a large social dichotomy between the two of us, so that we could relate.Looking back from the beginning to the end of the trip, I am now a completely changed person from the boy I was, to the man I am now. The roots of such a change were initiated, and events set into motion, when I met Javier on the first day and said 'Hola, que es tu nombre?'"
Hayley Evans worked on Planned Parenthood's Teen Council, advocating comprehensive sex education, healthy relationships, and personal health. She wrote, " I learned to make the most out of every situation I am presented with. We stood on the street corner participating in a Burma Shave (where we stand on corners petitioning for people to get out and vote, or where we pass out safe sex kits on the corner of Hennepin). I had not worn the warmest outfit. My hands and gone numb and my butt cheeks were shivering up and down; yet, it was at that moment, that another member made up a chant. Her simple song had lifted my cold spirits and reminded me the purpose of my coldness, and why I was risking my warmth for this amazing cause. Teen Council has taught me to be a better listener. Since joining Teen Council I have been exposed to some of the brightest and most interesting kids of the Twin Cities. The Council has taught me to be accepting and to always listen with an open mind. I love when people approach me to talk about personal problems because they know that as a member of the Council I will not judge, only listen and help."
Kelsey Hayes did an art supply drive in her neighborhood for Free Arts Minnesota which led to other work with this organization that brings the healing powers of art into the lives of abused, homeless, and at-risk children and their families. She wrote, "Through my experiences with Free Arts, I’ve learned that all art is beautiful and expressing yourself is a very powerful healer. I’ve applied these ideas to my life this year when I was sick. I took Advanced Ceramics first semester, which is when I first came down with mono. Because I missed a lot of class, I had to stay after school a lot to work on my pieces. I allowed myself to get lost for hours in the process of creation and let it heal me from the stress of being very sick during the most important year of high school to get good grades. I have Free Arts to thank because I now more fully embrace my creative side. I can’t wait to continue work with them in the future."
Alex Herkert went to Matagalpa, Nicaragua, with a program called Amigos de las Americas. The goals of the program are to promote community development, engage local youth and encourage multicultural and international understanding. He wrote, " I hope that the community felt as I did that I was there to work with them, not to work at them. I was there to learn Spanish, to experience the culture of another country, and to make new friends; not just to say I had done service. However much I hope I was able to work with the community for positive change, it definitely changed me even more. From the time I arrived I was shocked at the absolute poverty of the community and yet how little of a difference this made in relationships. It was encouraging to see so many people working towards improving their own community, and in the end many of the local youth were interested in joining the Amigos program as well."
Max Makovetsky taught for the Inner City Tennis program and worked for Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. He wrote, ""Teaching tennis to 100 kids of various economic backgrounds gave be an appreciation for what I have and the difference a few kind words of encouragement can do for a struggling child. Working at Children's helped me to see that joy and happiness can be brought into the life of a truly sick child through the simplest acts of kindess. "
Kalpit Modi worked at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital. He wrote, "Volunteering as an aide at the Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital has given me the opportunity to serve members of my community in their times of need. By doing so, I realized that my voice and my actions are valued beyond the boundaries of my school and home, which in turn has given me a greater sense of place in a city-wide community. In terms of transformation, by volunteering, I have started becoming more open with and for others, and have started to transform from a quiet, shy individual to a more outgoing and outspoken person"
Emily Moore worked at People Serving People and went on a service trip to Sierra Leone.
Dharani Persaud was a part of Blake's Justice League and worked for her family's organzation in India called Kindness, Health, Education, and Laughter (KHEL) which runs a school for impoverished children. She wrote, " Quite often I feel anger and sadness when witnessing poverty and social injustice. When visiting our school in India, it is so wonderful to see all the smiling faces of the students, but some are poor and/or have significant issues either health-wise or family wise. I remember one girl breaking down to my grandmother because she was scared to ask for more money to buy schoolbooks, but she had to because her father had died recently and her family was struggling to find an income. The sight of this poor girl crying filled me with sorrow and reinforced all the reasons I had to do service work in the first place – I want to help people create better lives for themselves. Another moment that stood out was at the night of Stand Up, Speak Out. Technically there were many moments, listening to all these teenagers sharing their stories of bullying of being bullied. I again felt the same sense of motivation strengthening my resolve to keep working at social justice issues so that other children do not have to experience what these teenagers went through... I feel it is my duty to help out those who are in need. I have so many supplies at my fingertips that it would be selfish for me to not help out to some degree...I do not expect to change the world completely, but knowing that I have influenced someone even the tiniest bit brings me a great amount of satisfaction."
Class of 2012
Erin Morris was a leader for the CSB and the Free the Children Club, and she worked as a Play Team Leader at the Minnesota Children's Museum. She wrote, " I hope to continue my work with helping children everywhere as I go forward in life. Through my time volunteering, I learned a lot about the world in general, including the misfortunes and obstacles that children face everyday around the world, but I also learned about myself. I found that every person can make a difference, you just have to take initiative and that most people want to help you when you are trying to make the world a better place."
Vasiliki Papanikolopoulos worked at LearningWorks, the Pierides Museum in Cyprus, and the Festival of Nations. She wrote, " Helping others reach a new potential and realize their ability to have an impact is very important to me. Every day at Blake, I am fortunate enough to be pushed to be my best self. So, through service I have the incredible opportunity to give to other students that same drive to learn and be their best selves. In my second year at Learning Works, I had an amazing time teaching students math skills that they can apply to any aspect of their lives. The highlight of my Saturdays is watching them come to understand how important math is—they listen attentively as my team teacher and I give examples of math in every day situations. I know our point has come across when the expressions on their faces show disbelief and wonder at the importance of the subject they are learning."
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Grade level leaders of the Community Service Board, Katie Lindahl, Emily Longley, Marcus Berg, Asad Ramatullah, Alexandra Jordan, Erin Morris, Maddy Watchmaker, and Rachel Sit, joined Scott Flemming, Nan Peterson, and Lisa Sackreiter in presenting at the NYLC's National Service Learning Conference. The group spoke about Blake's service program and the ways that it fosters Paths to Peace. Pictured with the Blake contingent are Tsutomu Ben Takagi and Ineko Tsuchida of the Shinnyo-en Foundation, a supporter of Blake's service program and the hosts of the presentation.
On Wednesday, May 2, the Upper School Community Service Board hosted a Volunteer Fair. Fourteen community partners shared information about their organizations and opportunities for summer and on-going service. Organizations represented include Jabbok, The Minnesota Children's Museum, Courage Center, Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners, Free Arts Minnesota, Bridging, Inc., West Suburban Teen Clinic, Planned Parenthood, Light of Hope, LearningWorks, ARC, Second Harvest, and Copperfield Hill.
Storytelling was the theme of the April birthday party for friends from Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly. Upper School students chatted over lunch and birthday cake with elders about the stories each remembers and loves, stories of their lives. As entertainment, ninth graders in Ms. Sackreiter's World Literature class shared folktales from Haiti.
On consecutive Friday evenings in April, members the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2013 gathered to eat pizza, watch a movie, and tie blankets that were donated to Jabbok Family Services and Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners. The events strengthened community at Blake as well as supporting people in need. Sophomore leaders Marcus Berg and Maddy Watchmaker led the event for their classmates and Junior leader Stacie Bellairs led the event for her classmates.