Through service learning projects and a school environment that promotes helping others, students at Hoosick Falls Central School (HFCS) are learning that it’s just as important to give their time and talents back to their community as it is to participate in the classroom. Just before Thanksgiving, students in grades nine to 12 assisted the Hoosick Area Church Association‘s (HACA) Food Pantry as they prepared 200 Thanksgiving meal boxes, enough to feed 600 people a holiday meal.“Part of our mission is to help our students become global citizens who can make a positive difference in the world,” said Patrick Dailey, HFCS’ high school principal. “While technology is a useful tool in the classroom, nothing can replace face-to-face interactions and working together to help our local community.”
While all students are encouraged to find ways to make a positive impact, teachers and staff require those in fifth grade and above to complete service learning projects as part of their curriculum. Students can pick their own volunteer projects which range from tutoring others to painting and cleaning or otherwise serving local organizations.
“It’s part of building a sense of belonging, responsibility, and empowerment,” stated Deborah Mabey, a middle school science teacher and the student council staff advisor at HFCS.
“Hoosick Falls and the surrounding areas have a wonderful history and a great sense of town pride,” she continued. “Getting involved helps our students be more empathic and see that they can make a positive difference. I tell my students there is always someone that can benefit from their talents.”
HACA is an organization formed through a collaboration of the area’s Christian churches. Their Food Pantry supplied 41,200 meals in 2016, including the hundreds of Thanksgiving food boxes it distributes. Hoosick Falls students and staff annually “Fill the Bus” with food donations for the pantry and this year, students in grades nine to12 helped move 6,000 pounds of food to assist in the creation of the Thanksgiving food boxes.
“I can’t tell you how impressed I was with the students who helped us before Thanksgiving,” stated Dianne Hosterman, HACA’s volunteer executive director. “They analyzed the situation and what needed to be done, determined their course of action, and then worked together with little direction from the adults. It was great to see them happy as they realized the uplifting impact their actions would have on many families this Thanksgiving.”
“As community organizations share their needs with us,” said Dailey, “we present the opportunities to the students as challenges. I am always impressed with their quick response. They want to be a part of positive community experiences and fully dedicate themselves to the tasks at hand.”
“We have a great relationship with the school,” added Hosterman. “The kids show they learn more than just reading, writing and arithmetic at HFCS. This group truly worked together as a team, never complaining, never shirking their responsibilities, but taking satisfaction from their part in helping others.”
By doing instead of watching,” added Mabey, “our students are learning the importance of working for something and the value in bringing a smile to the face of someone they just helped.”
“We’re a small community, but Hoosick Falls and its surrounding areas serve as a small-scale version of the world we live in,” said Dailey. “We hope our students can take that feeling that comes from supporting and living in a close-knit community with them, no matter where they find themselves in the future.”