Last week, Santa Barbara Middle School joined President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and millions of other Americans for a National Day of Service. Fanning out across Santa Barbara, SBMS students, teachers and staff took time off from classroom learning for all sorts of community-wide giving.
“We quickly learn that we have such great lives,” seventh-grade student Kristin Trent said, “and this is our way to give a little back and help out.”
An added bonus to this day, as seventh-grade student Jackson Stormo pointed out, “This service work is a lot of fun, too!”
The two students were part of a group that painted the children’s playroom at the Transition House Family Homeless Shelter with the help of Venable Painting. The bright colors went on smoothly so that, as sixth-grader Gus Gonzalez reported, “The kids here can be yellow and happy!”
The students didn’t just provide meaningful service, but learned about the organizations they were helping.
“We learned that this room will be used by children whose parents are at work; so this is like day care,” said Katie Buckley, an eager seventh-grade student. “If they didn’t have a way to keep their kids safe, they couldn’t go to work.”
Caroline DeLoreto, SBMS Health and Life Skills teacher, coordinated this day of service. She stepped into the students’ shoes and developed a list of service opportunities that spoke to middle school students’ interests. Caring for animals, empathy for the homeless and elderly, and a need to take care of our environment were among the organizations DeLoreto selected.
At our local beaches, other groups of students partnered with Heal the Ocean and the Save the Mermaids ocean education organization in a beach clean-up. At the animal shelter DAWG, students cleaned cages and did pet laundry, plus enjoyed playing with the puppies looking for new homes. The latter group also heard a talk from the Wildlife Care Network about the importance of human beings’ relationships with animals.
Thanks to Fabulous Florals, students delivered flower arrangements to Alexander Gardens Assisted Living Center before performing a medley of songs to entertain residents. And together with Backyard Bounty, a final group of students picked hundreds of tangerines that were donated to our local food banks.
School leaders say the day of service is part of an ongoing commitment by the school to make sure that students recognize that they are integral to the larger community.
“Santa Barbara Middle School has always partnered with community organizations in our effort to deliver authentic and real education,” said Sue Carmody, director of community outreach for SBMS, “and what’s more real than service work in our own community?”
— Jim Buckley is a Santa Barbara Middle School parent.