Saturday, December 13, 2003

Service projects teach compassion

By Nancy Young
Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] Amanda Kramer (right) and other members of the Mission Commission at St. James of the Valley School sell candy-grams during lunch period.
(Gary Landers photo)
WYOMING - Some two dozen students at St. James of the Valley School are on a mission.

More specifically, a Mission Commission.

The service organization, started by three teachers this fall, offers students in grades 6-8 opportunities to give back to the school and the community - opportunities that match their own interests, from animals to the elderly to the environment.

"We are trying to raise awareness of service opportunities that are available in the community and provide an avenue for students to feel the satisfaction of giving to others," says Principal Melissa Mathis.

"This dynamic group enables a larger-scale student involvement than the traditional student council structure favored by most schools would allow,'' she says.

Mission Commission students and the three faculty moderators, Jill Lange, Sarah Mallot and Peggy Murphy, meet on a weekly basis during lunch and monthly during recess.

The students have elected a board of directors and formed committees to facilitate planning.

"We have Outreach, which addresses activities outside of St. James of the Valley parish and school," Mathis says.

"The In-Parish committee covers in-house needs, and we have also formed Environmental, Religious Activities and Holiday Activity committees."

This week, the group sponsored a candy gram sale during the lunch hour to raise funds to buy gifts for needy children from the St. James Church Giving Tree.

Students will embark on a shopping and gift-wrapping session this weekend..

Other Christmas projects under way include:

• Recycling wrapping paper and tissue paper rolls.

• Conducting a coat collection for the needy.

• Hosting a Christmas party at a retirement center.

Eighth-grader Ellie Nightingale, 14, is secretary of the Mission Commission.

"I thought it was a great way for me to interact with people who are less fortunate than me - people who I wouldn't usually come in contact with," Ellie says.

Mission Commission members recently attended a training session at the Hamilton County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Northside to enable them to volunteer there.

"They are helping to clean the facilities and presenting animals to prospective families for adoption," Mathis says.

Margaret Gallick of Wyoming, mother of two St. James students, is thrilled at the example the junior high students are setting for her first- and second-grade children.

"Mission Commission gives our students the opportunity to put the values they are being taught at school into action out in the community," Gallick says.


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