Community Service

New class teaches students value of community service
Posted on 09/10/2019
Students Carley Brooks and Makayla Schalk help collect several bags of trash at Bacon Park.

A focus on developing a sense of community at Poplar Bluff Junior High School has led students to seek out ways to contribute to the community at large. 

Last year, each pod within the building’s ‘house system’ adopted a community organization to fundraise for including the Bread Shed, FosterAdopt Connect SEMO, Hearts for Rescue and St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, plus visits were made to area nursing homes.

The student-led efforts were so well-received that a dedicated elective was created this semester called Community Service Learning.

“It fits perfectly with what [Principal Candace Warren] is trying to do with houses—trying to build a community here at school—but also as a town,” social studies teacher Aaron Duncan explained. “The more unity you have in the community, the more energy there is, and the positive influence rubs off.” 

Duncan, and his colleague Lyndsee Moon in the social studies department, approached Warren in the spring with the idea of introducing the elective and, upon receiving approval, the class quickly filled up. The course description reads in part: This experience will allow students not only to become familiar with the community in which they live but will also allow them to see themselves as active, powerful people who can make positive contributions through these efforts. 

The participants are presently practicing their “elevator speeches” to effectively raise awareness as they learn about different societal issues, according to faculty. Guest speakers from the nonprofit sector may soon be invited to discuss their missions. The ultimate goal will be to select charitable causes to get involved with in the community, or to create their own philanthropic campaigns. 

“I feel like a lot of students don’t think they can [make a difference], and we’re showing them that they’re capable of doing something productive,” Moon said. “We’re teaching how you can help make our community a better place no matter what your age is, no matter what is wrong.” 

The house system modeled at PBJHS was originated by the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta to establish a family-like culture by providing students the opportunity to connect with peers across classes and grade levels that they may not otherwise have a chance to interact with.

“In order to give this age group of students a sense of empathy, we’re exposing them to different populations and organizations so they can play an active role in serving others, because we want to develop leaders,” Warren stated. “These students will be the leaders in our community one day, so we might as well start now.” 

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Cutline: Students Carley Brooks (forefront) and Makayla Schalk, now freshmen, help collect several bags of trash on a walk to Bacon Park during the annual PBJHS EdExpo in May.

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