From Brighton to East Bridgewater, juniors spread out across the greater Boston area on Thursday to put their faith into action at 11 community service sites.
“They need to see things on a local level,” said David Gilpin, Director of Campus Ministry who arranged the trip - a highlight of the school’s celebration of Catholic Schools Week. The benefits to students, he noted, are substantial. “When they come back, they have a different concept of service, and they have grown in their understanding of what it means to do service, what it means to do God’s work.”
The students’ feelings about the experience were shared verbally and on paper when they returned to the school auditorium at the end of the day.
“It’s the best,” said Gilpin. “I like reading the reflections and hearing the kids talk about their positive experiences. It makes it all worthwhile.”
Some of the students thoughts, feelings and insights:
“It made me realize that giving just a little bit of my time goes a long way,” said Bridgette O’Reilly, who worked with senior citizens singing songs, playing games, and sharing conversations at Active Day of Hingham. “I want to go back as soon as possible,” she said. Classmate Maggie Aeschliman also appreciated the experience. “I learned that taking your small, little talents, and your personality with you, can have a huge impact, especially on the elderly. I, along with my group, plan on going back because these people appreciate every little thing. I really loved every second of the day.”
At Cradles to Crayons in Brighton, students helped provide for families in need of food and clothing. Brian Moriarty was tasked with sorting clothes by size, gender and season. “I learned how lucky I am to be able to afford new clothes,” he said. At the Greater Boston Food Bank in Boston, Brian MacSweeney became aware of the enormity of food insecurity for so many people. “It taught me that there are many unfortunate people out there, and it made me realize how much work is required to supply the needy,” he said. Marc-Andy Mexil helped out at the Germantown Neighborhood Center Food Pantry in Quincy. “Anyone can be helped,” he said, “and we should always be willing to lend a helping hand. The experience helped me to realize a little help goes a long way.”
For some people who do have a home - but little or nothing inside - there’s assistance from My Brother’s Keeper in Easton. “I learned how some families don’t even have furniture in their homes,” said Brendan Kelly about his experience. “Some don’t even have beds to sleep on.” Sarah Goslin appreciated the experience too. “We set up beds and brought furniture into houses,” she said. “I learned to be grateful for the little things we have - beds, tables, and cabinets. Our visit made other people’s day because the new items were much needed.”
Other students became teachers for a day. At the Children’s Museum in Easton, Sebastien Joseph taught children topics in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics). “I learned how early STEM can be taught to young kids,” said Joseph. Tracy Nguyen enjoyed the experience there, finding that “science, STEM, can be taught in a fun way without children even knowing it.” At the Clifford Marshall Elementary School in Quincy, Ashley Tran helped second grade students with math and reading problems. “It made me realize how much effort teachers put in to keep students engaged,” she said. “Elementary school students require a lot of patience and positive attitudes.”
For Sloan Brewster, who worked with young children at the Meeting House Montessori School in Braintree, the experience was a positive one. “It showed how much of a difference you can make for someone just by helping them with their school work,” she said. Tamryn Arnold worked with toddlers and pre-school children in the Head Start program run by the Quincy Community Action Program. “It impacted me because I saw all types of people from all over the world, and I was a role model for them,” she said. Tim Downs and Ryan Hanson enjoyed their experience working with special needs children at St. Coletta Day School in Braintree - so much so that they had to be coaxed into leaving a music session before it ended when the day was over. “I knew I helped people in need,” said Downs. “I learned that everyone is equal in God’s eyes.”
Kelsey Akoury worked at the School on Wheels in East Bridgewater, an organization which assists children from K-12 who are living in shelters and transitional apartments. “There are a lot more kids that are homeless than I expected,” she said. “We filled backpacks with supplies for them, and came up with ideas for a travel box.”
For Gilpin, the day’s experiences open the doors to a lifetime of service. “It really goes along with their Social Justice class where they study about being an active participant in service. They’ve read about it in a book, but this day is about putting their faith into action. From there, they’re ready to go out into the world!”