Even though I have only been working at East High School for a mere 2 months, I feel that I have been able to make some exciting collaborations in the Rochester community thus far! These collaborations currently include The American Red Cross, Citizen U and Mary’s Place Refugee Outreach Center. In addition to these initial collaborations, there are many more that I hope to foster as my year of service progresses.
My collaboration with the American Red Cross was actually associated with a project that East High’s RYY Vista from last year initiated. A goal of the Red Cross is to promote civic engagement and professional development in high school students through the implementation of Red Cross Clubs in area schools. As a member of their school’s Red Cross Club, students are given service learning opportunities that may range from sponsoring a blood drive in their school to doing a neighborhood clean up project. Additionally, members of the club who attain a certain level of academic achievement are able to apply for the Red Cross Next Generation Leaders program which brings students from area high schools together in special seminars that focus on college prep, professional development as well as job readiness. East High’s previous RYY Vista was able to create a Red Cross Club for the school called East Takes Action. So far this year, I have been focusing a great deal on the expansion of this club to insure its sustainability. I have also been able to meet with representatives from the Red Cross to learn more about the Next Generation Leaders program in order to effectively promote it to students.
As I mentioned before, a major goal of the East Takes Action Red Cross Club is to give members the opportunity to engage in meaningful service learning projects. While in theory the same as community service, the service learning model asks students to engage in a process of personal reflection in addition to accomplishing the assigned tasks of a particular project. Having been involved in many service learning experiences while completing my undergraduate degree at Nazareth College, I have been able to see the increased feelings of connection to one’s community that can be fostered through this added focus on learning and reflection. Therefore, in my effort to expand East Takes Action, I spent the first month of my service researching meaningful projects for the club to take part in. One service learning site that had been particularly memorable for me as an undergrad was Mary’s Place Refugee Outreach Center which also happens to be home to another RYY Vista this year which made this collaboration very easy. So far seven East High School students have been to Mary’s Place on two separate occasions to engage in activities such as playing games with the children and even prepare lunch. All the students who have had the pleasure of working with the refugees have reported that they have had absolutely incredible experiences and have learned so many amazing things from the new friends they are making. As the student feedback from volunteering at Mary’s Place has been nothing but positive, I hope to continue to arrange for more visits to this site in the hopes of fostering a closer community/school bond.
Finally, another collaboration I have been working on with one of our other RYY Vista’s is Citizen U. In addition to helping Abbie promote Citizen U to East High School students we have also planned to collaborate on a number of service learning projects for East Takes Action throughout the year. Since both Citizen U and East Takes Action have a strong service learning component associated with them, Abbie and I figured that through a collaboration we would be able to offer more activities to our students as well as provide them with increased networking opportunities with individuals their own age as well as professionals. So far our groups have worked on a neighborhood clean up project together and are very excited to work together again in the future.
One collaboration that I would like to pursue this year is with the North Winton Village Association. This organization works to beautify the neighborhood where East High School is located through engaging in gardening and various neighborhood clean up projects. In the beginning of the year I was in touch with a number of representatives from the North Winton Village Association who expressed that they would like the students of East High School to take more ownership in the appearance of their community and their school by participating in these beautification efforts. Unfortunately, when presenting potential service learning projects to the students at an East Takes Action meeting there was not much enthusiasm directed towards “gardening.” However, I understand how important of a collaboration this could be for both the school and the village of North Winton as a whole and therefore it is something I expect to tackle in the remainder of my year of service.