The students of Haines 6th Grade Center in Medford were met with applause by board of education members in front of a full crowd at the most recent board meeting.
The students displayed a presentation of the school’s annual volunteer initiative, “Haines Day of Service,” to the board members and a crowd of family and faculty.
Members of the board and Superintendent, Joseph J. Del Rossi were astonished by the amount of creativity and thoughtfulness the students and faculty achieved for this year’s initiative.
“Recognizing that there are people that don’t have the opportunities you have, that you lent a helping hand and tried to make a difference for them, [it’s] the greatest gift that you could give. It’s not the dollar, but the time and effort that you put into these projects, I salute you,” Del Rossi told the students.
Brooke Farrow, the school’s principal, said students worked in groups of about 25 to complete one project. In all, the class completed 10 projects to donate to nonprofits and charitable organizations.
One of the groups made over 700 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to be delivered to homeless outreach programs in Camden and Philadelphia. One group made dog and cat toys out of recycled material for the pets to use when waiting for homes in the Camden County Animal Shelter. Another knitted hats to provide warmth for people living in Mount Holly homeless shelters.
“These are things that I hope the students will keep in their memory for a lifetime, perhaps, and there are things that go beyond what our typical job descriptions have to do with,” said Farrow.
She explained that years ago, when she was researching best practices for character education, she came across a pattern – students needed an authentic experience to participate in service. That’s when they started to implement the concept of “Day of Service,” where if students and faculty really wanted to commit, they would have to dedicate a whole day off from a curriculum style of learning into a more hands-on approach. This allowed students to learn about the organization they were helping.
The initiative took place on Friday, March 29, but certain students were asked to attend the recent board meeting to participate in the presentation. Those few dozen students were selected by faculty because they demonstrated exceptional leadership and character.
“Without the students really saying, ‘hey, I really want to make a difference today,’ we wouldn’t have had the type of day that we did,” said Farrow.
The next Medford BOE meeting will be held on April 29 at 7:30 p.m. at the board of education offices.