By Karen L. Hornfeck

On a recent day, second graders at Greensboro’s Our Lady of Grace School (OLG) had various supplies spread out around their classroom as they began to assemble “care bags” for homeless women who will rely on the YWCA’s Women’s Shelter this winter. Parents donated supplies like water bottles, peanut butter and tissues and students decorated bags hold all the items. Each month through April, the students will prepare over 100 bags to be given out at the shelter.

From pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, OLG incorporates some type of service learning into each grade’s curriculum.   Second grade teacher Celia McMullen sees it as a very important part of her lessons. “Serving others helps my students understand that, even at 8 years old, they can make a difference in their world – one person at a time,” she says. “As they start to think about who they are and the decisions that will define them, we want them to be caring, kind, thoughtful people in their community.”

Service learning allows students of all ages to become active learners as students engage in hands-on activities. Older students at OLG may serve on-site at an organization as part of their service hours. Fourth grader, Zachary Gonzalez, has helped prepare and serve meals at the women’s shelter along with his parents. His mother, Melanie Gonzalez, says getting to know the residents at the shelter has made a big impact on her son. When we first started volunteering, Zachary was nervous about meeting the women who use the shelter,” she explains. But after the first visit, he realized that they were just like us and they just needed a little extra help right now.”  Gonzalez says now, when she is out grocery shopping with her son, he will often point out items that he thinks they should buy for the shelter.  “He understands that we are blessed and that we need to have compassion for others who have hit hard times,” she says.

Understanding what it means to be a part of a community is a big reason for encouraging service learning.  Students get to know others in their community and see that they truly can make a difference in the world around them.   During the course of a school year, OLG students visit a local nursing home as classes at least twice a year and take part in an average of 4 service opportunities as a school.  Middle school students are required to also complete 15 hours of individual service with their faith community or a local nonprofitorganization.  “We see our students begin to understand that being a responsible Christian means more than just worshiping once a week,” says McMullen.  “Our students begin to see that they can be the hands of God to those in need,” says Mc Mullen.  “It is one of the most important lessons we teach here at OLG.”

To learn more about Our Lady of Grace School, go to  OLG is located at 201 S. Chapman St in Greensboro.   Monthly tours are available for prospective students with the next tour scheduled for TOMORROW, Dec. 9th at 9:30 a.m.

Sponsored by Our Lady of Grace School