This year our school introduced a new school service program.  The School Board, along with other dedicated parent volunteers, spent a year forming this program, and each grade partnered with a local service agency with whom they worked throughout the year.  So many good things happened this first year that I wanted to make sure the whole parish knows about them!

Kindergarten & Pre-K:  Wellbrooke

Kindergarten and Pre-K visited Wellbrooke at different times of the year to deliver crafts for Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, as well as to sing Christmas carols.  In the classroom, the teachers taught children about the aging process so that they understood more about the needs of the elderly.  They remembered the residents of Wellbrooke every day during prayer intentions, and they dedicated decades of the rosary to the residents and staff of Wellbrooke.  They also introduced a Christmas service project by collecting over 100 puzzles and delivering them to the residents.

1st Grade:  St. Joseph County Soil & Water Conservation District

First graders learned about care for the environment as an important part of service.  The District’s Education Coordinator came into the classroom several times to talk about soil and composting, and waste vs recycling. She taught the students how to set up and maintain a compost with red wiggler worms in the classroom.  Then in culmination, they joined her for a day at the Mishawaka Reservoir, where they examined the outdoor environment for signs of decomposing matter and also signs of a healthy environment, including microinvertebrate life in the river.

2nd Grade:  LOGAN Center

This year, second graders went to LOGAN in December and performed Christmas songs for the clients.  A LOGAN representative come into the classroom in October to enlighten them on what LOGAN provides for the community. In March, second grade ran the LOGAN Nose-On for the entire school; they were able to sell noses and raise over $500!  The kids have learned so much about intellectual and developmental disabilities through their interactions with LOGAN!

3rd Grade:  Women’s Care Center

Third grade was introduced to the Women’s Care Center with a personal tour and participating in the story/sing-along hour.  The children saw the room where they perform ultrasounds, the rooms where they meet with the new moms, the “store” where moms can purchase items for their new babies using coupons, the large meeting/activity center where they hold classes and activities for the babies and their family, as well as the chapel.  They held a class book drive that expanded to an all school book drive during our Advent season.  They created “gift tags”  in our classrooms for our parish members that contributed to the Crib Drive, and finally they held a “diaper drive” and prayed the rosary to present as a spiritual bouquet at our “Farewell” meeting in the classroom with WCC representatives.

4th Grade:  Healthwin

Fourth grade visited Healthwin twice this year.  In January they made crafts, played games and visited with the residents.  In May they had a picnic lunch, played outdoor games and read to the residents.  In our classroom, they prayed for Healthwin residents and made crafts each month to brighten their doors and walls. The children learned a lot from the residents and enjoyed getting to know them.

5th Grade:  Hannah & Friends

Fifth grade visited Hannah and Friends once in the fall and once in the spring. They had lunch with the clients and played games with them. They also went to their gym and played basketball, tennis, pool, etc.  At Christmas, they made ornaments and cards and sent them.  In addition, they collected new and gently used books and dropped them off at the office for the clients.

Middle School:

In middle school, students start choosing their own service activities.  The 7th graders perform 12 hours of service, which includes service to the parish at different parish events. The 8th graders perform 24 hours.  This year, middle schoolers performed service at many of the partner agencies listed above, plus other local agencies, including Reins of Life, Center for the Homeless, Unity Gardens, Northwest Indiana Food Bank and Ronald McDonald House.  This culminates in the 8th Grade Service Immersion, where 8th graders spend the year learning about Catholic Social Teaching before heading to Indianapolis for a three-day service experience in the spring.

Several teachers commented on how much their students enjoyed this service, and how they have all sorts of ideas to do more next year!  As a Catholic school, we have a responsibility not only to educate our children.  We are called to form them in the image of Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve.  We strive to make sure that service (like any aspect of our faith) is integrated into the rest of the curriculum, not just a “nice” thing that we add on the side.  Please join me in thanking our students and teachers for their wonderful work over this past year, and pray that these service experiences have a lasting impact on our students, as well as those they serve.