Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Gifts of Sustained Service

Blake students have the opportunity to be recognized if they complete one hundred hours of service and complete some written reflection about their experience.  One of the questions they are asked to write about is what they received through their service.  Reading through their responses, I was struck by the variety of skills, the shifts in perspective, and the deep satisfaction that students found through their sustained service.  These are the gifts of sustained service.  We will use these testimonies in our first Community Service Board meeting of the year to make a case for seeking individual Service Paths and organizing group service opportunities. 

John Augustine (’14) volunteered with Sunshine Gospel Ministries, an organization that serves people living in the Woodlawn neighborhood on Chicago’s South side.  He wrote, “The people I worked alongside included men who had lived very challenging lives, growing up in areas where crime is rampant and danger is an every day thing.  During our work sessions, where we were building out the basement of a somewhat dilapidated building, we heard many life stories from our co-workers.  Their challenges were hard to imagine, coming from my personal background, and I learned a lot about how so many people live day to day…I learned about teamwork, relying on those around you  and being grateful for my many blessings.  I also learned that I can do things that I never thought I would be comfortable doing—such as approaching a homeless person on the street and starting a conversation by sharing my meal.”

Marcus Berg (’14) volunteered at Children’s hospital in Minneapolis playing with patients and siblings.  He wrote, “This experience has been important to me, because of my family situation.  When I was born, my brother was at Children’s with cancer.  When I was young I spent a lot of time at the Children’s hospital.  I remember going to the sibling play area, where I now sometimes volunteer.  Also when I was ten, my cousin Madison was born three months early and spent the first year of her life in the hospital.  Now both of them are alive and healthy.  I am grateful for them to be in my life.  I feel like my volunteering is the best way to give to a hospital that has given you so much.”

Hailey Bork (’14) worked with kids in poverty in Costa Rica.  She wrote, “When I was trying to explain a game to a group of kids in Costa Rica, I was super frustrated because they didn’t speak English and my Spanish is just so-so.  I wanted to understand them and for them to understand me so badly.  I decided to give up on trying to speak the directions to them and just decided to show them.  I taught them how to play kickball, which they were all super good at because all the kids there are obsessed with soccer.  When the kids finally understood what I was trying to tell them, it was such a success for not just me, but them too.  When the game was over, a bunch of little girls came and hugged me and grabbed my hand and jumped on my back and we all walked up to the camp lodge together, happy knowing that although it was inconvenient that we didn’t speak the same language we could still be friends and understand each other…I gave the kids two short weeks of my life that were the most rewarding hours of my life…I received…a greater understanding for the cliché phrase ‘the best things in life are free.’”

Maya Coyle (’15) worked at Second Harvest Heartland and taught at LearningWorks.  She wrote, “I had forgotten how much we change 7th or 8th grade to 10th grade.  Seeing the abundance of creativity and enthusiasm amongst my students opened my eyes and definitely spread to me as well.”

Janice Chung (’15) volunteered at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital.  She wrote, “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 to appreciate the seemingly small things I have in my life even more than I had before:  a healthy family and freedom from illnesses.”

Emily Janes (’14) worked at the food shelves of People Reaching Out to Other People (PROP) and Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners (IOCP).  She wrote, “One time I saw one of my cousin’s friends at PROP on a cold December day, and remembering not to talk to them, I continued restocking the shelves.  That moment made me really take to heart what my trainer said when she told me that anyone could walk in asking for help…It made me think about how easily someone could be in need and not express it in any form outside the food shelf…I have gained perspective outside of my bubble, and I am excited to try to find another service path so I can broaden my perspective on how I can help my community or even the world.”

Margaret Graham (’14) interned with Congressman Keith Ellison’s campaign for re-election and campaigned for “voting no” on the constitutional amendments that were on the ballot in Nov 2012.  She wrote, “I think I learned a lot through doing this.  I had to research and learn about the amendments in order to spread the knowledge.  By educating myself, I was able to explain, with more certainty and clarity, to others why I thought they should vote no…I learned about the value of education and the importance of sharing knowledge with others for the benefit of all because, as citizens who are impacted daily by the government, these issues affect us all.”  Working as an intern, marching in parades, handing out stickers, and chanting campaign slogans was “physically tiring, but it made me feel strong because I was standing up for what I believed in…I loved it!”

Chris Hall (’14) was a ski instructor for Courage Center’s adaptive skiing program at Highland Hills.  He wrote, “The most rewarding experience for me as an instructor was seeing the joy not only on my students’ faces as they experienced the thrill of skiing, but also the joy on their parents’ faces while watching their kids go down the hill.  One of my students was completely nonverbal…One day his mom came to watch him ski and she was taking pictures and having a great time.  There was on her face and she was clearly very proud of her son.  This really touched me and I felt really good about myself knowing that I helped bring joy to both my student and his parent’s life…I gained knowledge about the disabled, but I also learned about myself and my own actions and how good it feels to make a parent proud of their child.”

Darby Herkert (’14) volunteered through Amigos De Las Americas, a service learning abroad program.  She wrote, “A main objective of the Amigos program is to ensure that volunteers are working with the community and developing lasting initiatives, so that the work will continue even after the volunteers have left the community…Amigos has really taught me the meaning of the ‘give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime’ fable—it is better to work together and learn from each other than to go in, give something, and leave (who are we to assume what a community need?).”

Christopher Hofstadter (’14) taught middle school students at LearningWorks.  He wrote, “At this point in my high school career, as a conceited and egotistical junior, I came to appreciate that really my commitment to education and learning for the sake of learning was mediocre at best.  I had been showed up by middle schoolers, and I couldn’t have been happier about it…After class this student walked up to me and thanked me for class and said that I ‘made LearningWorks fun.’  I have never been more moved in my life.”

Meghna Kaul (’14) volunteered at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital.  She wrote, “My job is primarily sitting at the reception desk and telling people directions, answering their questions about the general layout of the hospital, and answering phone calls.  Simple as that may sound, this opportunity gives me a chance to interact with patients and their families, hear their stories—some good and some heart wrenching.  While they seem relieved just to have someone to talk to, I learn from each and every one of them...Grandparents claiming their first newborn grandchild is the cutest thing in the world!...I have seen families come in and they are crying having just gotten the news that their loved one has passed…I don’t think I had ever thought about death and loss of a loved one until I started working here…My communication and people skills have improved tremendously since I started this job because I have to not only listen to people but also make sure I am telling people sensitive information in a clear manner…I think contributing to creating a healthy community is rewarding.”

Jackson Kelner (’14) worked with middle school students through LearningWorks and Bear to Bear tutoring.  He wrote, “Teaching, I felt a sense of importance and fulfillment, especially when I got to see kids’ faces light up in excitement when they finally grasped the concept at study.  So I gave my knowledge, help, and support.  What I received was an understanding of the real impact I was making, if only on a few lives.”

Bryan Kennedy (’14) volunteered at Bridging, Inc.  He wrote, “As I served, I felt a source of genuine happiness after seeing in person the families that I was helping.  I would see the ambitious single mother’s smile and pride glow as she received her furniture as each child of hers would now be able to sleep in their own bed at night instead of curling up on the floor.  I would see appreciation and respect radiate from children when their father showed them the furniture they would be receiving later that day… After seeing these recipients and hearing their heartwarming “thank you,” along with hearing them share goals for the near future with Bridging’s staff, it is incomprehensible when other judge homeless people solely on the fact that they don’t have a house.”

Nina Lillehei (’14) is on Planned Parenthood’s Twin Cities Teen Council.  She wrote, “I love teen council and all that it stands for, because it makes us resources to other teens who maybe don’t feel comfortable talking to their parents or other adult figures about birth control or other issues regarding sexual health…This program has given me more knowledge and confidence than I ever could have thought imaginable.”

Robyn Lipschultz (’16) was a counselor at Opportunity Camp in Mineral Wells, Texas.  She wrote, “The next morning we got to meet the kids and hear some of their stories.  Many were heartbreaking and this weeklong camp gave them the chance to escape their problems.  For example, many children had parents in jail and other kids shared their small homes with many siblings and never knew what they would get to eat.  These stories helped me to understand the problems facing our country.  Attending Blake I do not experience the hardships of living in a poor community…These children inspired me to put my life in perspective…I have also learned to stay positive…Even in bad situations these kids remained positive and kept a hopeful outlook on life.”

Fawaz Mohiuddin (’14) worked with middle school students through LearningWorks and Bear to Bear tutoring.  He wrote, “There is no way to form relationships with the students at LearningWorks without listening to their accomplishments, struggles, and goals in life.  By interacting with these students I’ve gotten better at socializing with my peers; I’m now more patient, understanding, and willing to hear people out.”  “I realized that, as a teacher, I needed to be the one showing passion and excitement with the students.  I became more proactive… I soon learned that if I took the first step that the students would quickly respond in kind and be more willing to be tutored…Even though it is a cliché I truly think that I’ve become a better person through my community service.”

Mariah Riggi (’14) worked to ICA food shelf in Minnetonka.  She wrote, “Whenever I came home from a shift I would feel really accomplished and happy, because I could see all the work I had done and knew that I helped give food to families in need…I received a new perspective, valuable insights about how life is for people who are struggling, and new friendships with the volunteers that I have been fortunate enough to work with.  Working at the food shelf makes me feel lucky for what I have.”

Hirsh Shekhar (’14) volunteered at a youth summer camp offered by the Hindu Society of Minnesota and hosted at his local temple, the Hindu Mandir of Minnesota.  He wrote, “Taking care of the kids in my group was rewarding and we had lots of fun, but my co-­‐counselor and I had the added responsibility of keeping our group together and helping our campers in whatever capacity they needed us. Experiences like comforting a camper who had scraped his knee while playing while my co-counselor ran to grab bandages helped me become a more responsible young adult and gain a heightened appreciation for the parents and responsible adults who routinely take care of children in their care. On the whole, the experiences in the camp helped me become more responsible.”
Emma Smith (’16) was a counselor at Opportunity Camp in Mineral Wells, Texas.  She wrote, “The kids also taught me to accept others.  When I first came to Opportunity Camp I was a little bit wary because I knew that it was extremely Christian…However, I watched as kids who were Christian and kids who weren’t Christian were accepting and kind about each other’s opinions and listened nicely and respectfully as their leaders taught them their opinions…Although …I don’t agree with everything that my leader said, she taught me so much about basic values, right and wrong, and she gave me many things to think about, religious and otherwise.”

Simrun Uppal (’14) worked at the food shelf at Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners and at a science camp.  She wrote, “I look forward every week to Wednesday night when I get to go to a food shelf surrounded by positive and energetic people and do simple chores such as restocking shelves, helping people bag groceries, or walking around with those who need help picking out the things they need for their families…We go through school every day complaining about assignments, lack of sleep, social problems, etc., but at the food shelf no one does that…My time at the food shelf has been so eye opening to me, not only the power I possess to help people but to help myself by surrounding myself with positive energy and being gracious for the small gestures others do for you.”  At the science camp “I learned that it is not easy being in charge of five six year old girls and trying to make paper clips float in water, make towers out of marshmallows and pasta, and other fun little tricks using house hold items.  I was even harder to try and explain why things worked the way they did—giving me an insight to how hard it is to be a teacher.  It felt almost impossible to get the little girls to listen and not play with the materials and try to teach them about the science behind the experiments.  But at the same time we had such a good time that I intend to volunteer again.”

Maddy Watchmaker (’14) taught middle school students through LearningWorks.  She wrote, “I received feeling part of a great community of people at LearningWorks.  I received the feeling of accomplishment when the kids I had worked so hard to teach…stood on the stage at LW graduation with giant smiles on their faces, knowing I helped them get to where they are.  I received meeting and creating relationships with the entire crazy mass of 6th and 7th graders, as well as my fellow teachers, and LW staff.  I received the feeling of doing good everyday after I left LW because I knew I was making a difference in these kids’ lives, even if only for a couple hours.”

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Birthday Party at Amplatz Children's Hospital

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

Service Path Recognition Recipients

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."
Bryan Kennedy worked for Habitat for Humanity and Bridging, Inc.  He wrote of his experience with Habitat for Humanity, "I was given the satisfaction of knowing that instead of spending my spring break in a far-flung place, I was able to make a difference for dozens of people within our own community.  I also was able to expand my view of the Twin Cities as I volunteered in the heart of Minneapolis, Brooklyn Park, and St. Paul among others.  The time also served as bonding time for my dad and me, and as a time to meet other volunteers from within the community.  The experience as a whole really opened my eyes on some of the issues that the Twin Cities faces.  I witnessed first hand how good-hearted people struggle to make ends meet.  I also saw how some try to take advantage of such programs that seek to help people.  Seeing how difficult some people lives are has made me thankful for everything that I have."

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

NYLC Presentation

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. 

Upper School Volunteer Fair

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.

April Birthday Party for Elders

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.

Class Service and Movie Nights

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.