Grade 8 Community Service Learning Experiences:
An integral part of the 8th Graders experience at Pollard Middle School is engagement in a Community Service Learning Project. Students need to select a cause and organization that addresses some need or problem in our community - either right here in Needham, or in neighboring communities. They research the organization and social issue before performing their service, and write a reflection on the experience and their learning when it has been completed.
Some students were interviewed about their experience and report the following:
Audrey Mock, chose to do her service with Birthday Wishes, an organization that arranges and hosts birthday parties for young children living in homeless shelters who may not otherwise have the opportunity to celebrate their birthdays.
A birthday party event happens once a month in a number of different shelters, both in Massachusetts and some other states around the country honoring all those who have their birthdays in the same month. So the joy of these events spreads far and wide!
The children are usually 3-4 years old, and live with their single mothers at the shelter. Audrey has extremely fond memories of her own birthday celebrations with friends at this age, and wanted the same for children who might not otherwise have birthday parties. So she googled "birthday party organizations" and Birthday Wishes came up! What a perfect fit this was for what she wanted to do!
Audrey saw and learned a little of what it is like to live in a homeless shelter She did not know what to expect and described the home as a "regular house" in a neighborhood not all that far from her own. Families have their own rooms and there is a large recreational area for all to use downstairs. This is where the birthday parties are held. There is a security system in place at the front door to check on who is entering the shelter.
Audrey has enjoyed her experience very much. She feels quite natural and comfortable interacting with the moms and their children in the party environment. Volunteers, moms and paid workers all help with the parties. Audrey also loved seeing the children having such a good time at their birthday celebrations.
Preparation to do this involved an orientation, and if the volunteers are under 18, they need to be accompanied by a parent. Both of Audrey's parents have accompanied her and assisted with the birthdays too.
Audrey liked going to a neighborhood different from her own and doing something meaningful and uplifting with small children. She hopes to continue to help with birthdays, beyond completing her hours for the Grade 8 program!!