The season of gratitude and giving is upon us, and our students are leading the charge! Schools across the Green Dot network have worked with their community and local organizations to host events that encourage their peers and neighbors to give and foster a spirit of generosity.
As we educate students and inspire them to use their minds to create change, we aim to also encourage them to use their hearts. At our schools we encourage students to create opportunities to invest in their communities and see the difference they are capable of creating.
“It’s important that we not only prepare students academically, but help them understand the joy they can bring to others through giving,” said Jocquell Rodgers, Green Dot’s Director of Community Engagement in Tennessee. “We want to make giving back one of the many vital lessons students learn as we prepare them for college, leadership, and life.”
Giving Drives Across the Country
At Excel Public Charter School in Washington, students responded to a need they know exists in their community. Understanding that the most requested clothing item at most shelters is socks, students worked together to gather sock donations for the Salvation Army, and to gather food donations for the local food bank.
Through this experience students were able to better understand the good work being done in their neighborhoods and how they can be a part of it. “I donated because many people don’t have gifts or a way to celebrate during the holidays and I wanted them to have something, even if it is a small gesture this season,” said Tia Frederick, eighth grader at Excel.
Similarly, students at Ánimo Mae Jemison Charter Middle School hosted a giving drive for food and hygiene products to support those in need within their community, while students at Ánimo South Los Angeles Charter High School (ASLA) continued their annual giving drive. Since 2007, ASLA has partnered with Personal Involvement Center to collect toys, clothes, and school supplies for students in need. "The teenage years are often those where students are developing and figuring out who they are,” said William Heuisler, history teacher at ASLA. “I’ve found that if you motivate students to think outside themselves and think about others first, it goes a long way.”
This month the ASLA Panther Student Government class eagerly gathered the donated gifts. “This experience has been so heart warming for me,” recalled junior Nikya Bryant. “The holidays are more about giving than receiving. That kind of joy lasts longer.”
Wrapping the collected toys was both humbling and joyous for Magaly Santos, also a junior.“I know there are students who don’t have as much as we do, so just imagining how happy they will be getting things they want or need feels amazing.”
Supporting Local Nursing Homes
Students at all five schools in Tennessee raised money through their second annual “Change for Change” drive to create care packages for patients at a local nursing home, as well as residents of a nearby Alzheimer’s facility. The class from each school with the largest donation total got to deliver the care packages and spend time with the recipients.
For Genise Miller, a seventh grade student in the winning class at Kirby Middle School, the experience taught her that giving isn’t just about money, because she was able to create genuine relationships and impact the lives of others. During their visit to the nursing home, Miller connected with a woman named Helen.
“I'm coming back to the nursing home next week, because it’s Ms. Helen’s birthday,” said Miller.
When Taliefero Russel, ninth grader from the winning Advisory class at Bluff City High School, thought about his opportunity to visit the nursing home, he reflected on what he had to give. That morning, he carefully packed his hair clippers into his backpack and headed off to school.
At the nursing home Taliefero offered residents haircuts. “This was a great experience, I’m happy they trusted me to cut their hair,” reflected Taliefero.
During Wooddale Middle School’s visit to Dorothy’s Place, a local nursing home, Deb Dawson, whose mother and father reside at the home, took notice of the students’ efforts. “Knowing that these students took the time to show they care about us, the center, and our families really means a lot to me,” said Dawson.
Continuing a Culture of Giving
Service is ingrained in the culture of many of our schools. So much so that there are many annual traditions that students, staff, and parents participate in. In addition to “Change for Change” and ASLA’s giving drive, every year Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo Charter High School participates in the Oscar De La Hoya Annual Turkey Drive where students, staff, and professional boxers give out over 700 turkeys each year. The 20th Annual Turkey Giveaway was sponsored by the Oscar De La Hoya Foundation. Through this partnership with Green Dot, students and staff now have a standing opportunity to give back to the East Los Angeles community and help local families celebrate the holidays.
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For many of our students these philanthropic opportunities often serve as their first experience with community service and giving. Through these experiences, we hope to continue building relationships with the communities we serve, and to inspire students to become agents of change.