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Heritage Academy students help others through Community Service Learning class

 

At Heritage Academy in Longmeadow, it is important for the students in grades K-8 to participate in values-based learning. In all grades, the students perform Gemillut Hassadim (acts of loving kindness), and perform the acts of the mitzvah (good deed) of Tzedakah (giving to charity).

This year, the curriculum for students in grades 6-8 includes Community Service Learning class or CSL.

Heritage Academy teacher Amy Kimball, center, and some of her students prepare to distribute gifts to families they adopted for the holidays.

The students, along with their teacher Amy Kimball, plan, implement, and participate in community service programs. From creating their own projects to participating in established charitable programs, CSL is actively engaged in helping the community. They have planned fun activities for younger students at the Springfield JCC. From running games to crafts, drama, dance and fitness fun, the students are enjoying this program and learning life-long skills like how to plan, manage, and lead.

CSL students work together both in and out of school. Each student will act as the leader/captain of a project during the year. So far, the group has raised funds and walked in the Baystate Health Foundation’s Rays of Hope. Aylee Weiss, the Rays of Hope Team Heritage Academy captain, helped get all of the middle school students to participate. Friends and family joined Team Heritage Academy and 28 team members walked for Rays of Hope. They hosted a very successful bake sale and received donations helping the team raise more than $1,370 in its first year.

Children enjoying their holiday gifts.

Looking to help others in the community, the students search and research local agencies and causes, and decide where they can help and make a positive difference. Running local collections for the Open Pantry, making and serving food at a soup kitchen, participating in the Rachel’s Table Arts fest for hunger awareness this spring, and learning about other local non-profit charities are in this year’s plan.

Students in grades 2-6 visit Glenmeadow residents each month to bridge the generations through activities, projects, and performances. The students love to invite their Glenmeadow friends to school performances and events. The highlight is “Grandparents’ Day” where the Glenmeadow residents are the guests of honor. This year, the CSL students will participate in a multigenerational program with JGS and Glenmeadow. The CSL students will help pack Passover food with JFS for senior homebound adults right before Passover.

This winter, CSL will continue to focus on local residents in need. A drive is underway to collect adult socks and hotel and trial sized toiletries to be distributed to local residents in need.

A new pair of socks with a small bottle of shampoo, soap, toothbrush, and toothpaste can be an essential gift and service to the guests of the soup kitchen and the Springfield Rescue Mission. This drive runs until Jan. 22.

Helping children in need is also a focus for this group – they want to give back, and make children smile. By collecting donations of new clothes, small appliances, toys, gift cards, books for children of all ages, and more, they have helped sponsor low income families from the Springfield Housing Authority for an Adopt a Family (AAF) holiday drive. The students sorted, wrapped and delivered gifts in person to the families. Heritage families, teachers, college students, and other annual AAF volunteers packed up a convoy of 12 vehicles along with donuts and treats for all. As the families began to arrive, they were shocked and thrilled to see the abundance of gifts.

“I came in wearing slippers, I am leaving in boots,” said one young boy.

This little boy was excited to receive a new Star Wars Lego set from the Heritage CSL students.

A mother hugged teacher Amy Kimball, and said, “Thank you to your whole group. I haven’t been able to give anything to my children for the holidays for six years.” Another mom and her family walked around the room and thanked everyone with big smiles on their faces. A little girl who just became a big sister was thrilled when she opened her new baby doll. She had to diaper and feed the baby right away.

Providing winter hats, gloves and scarves for everyone in addition to giving an extra 20 sets for the “Walking School Bus” was possible only because of community support. Delivering in person fostered a chance for the students and volunteers a chance to meet and interact with the families. When the CSL class was back at school and able to reflect on the project, the consensus was how special it was, and they all hoped to participate again.

Being part of the Community Service Learning Class teaches the students that they are part of the larger community and that they can make a positive difference.

Contact Amy Kimball for more details at akimball@heritageacademy.org.

CAP: Heritage CSL students Hannah and Sarah chatting with a grateful mother and admiring her newborn baby.

 

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