There is a certain gratification one gets from “owning” a project from start to finish. The success of a recent student-initiated service learning project gave the sixth-graders at Marymount of Santa Barbara the opportunity to know that satisfaction.
Marymount’s collaboration with Transition House gave students a chance to build confidence and leadership while also making a difference in an area they care about — family homelessness.
Teacher Kate Burris encouraged her students, but it was the sixth-graders who organized themselves, arranged to meet with staff at Transition House, toured the facility and interviewed staff members. The class learned that Transition House is Santa Barbara’s only shelter dedicated to helping homeless families.
After learning about Transition House and its mission, the students decided to focus specifically on improving the Sick Room. Transition House’s Sick Room is where children spend their days when they are not feeling well. Marymount students wanted to make the room a comforting and soothing haven, not just a place to be when the children in the shelter are sick. They envisioned a space that would help homeless kids actually feel and get better.
To raise the money they would need to make the desired Sick Room improvements, the class came up with the idea of blitzing Santa Barbara with lemonade stands. One sunny weekend in March, Marymount sixth-graders were found in parks, on street corners and on playing fields around town selling lemonade and raising every penny they could for Transition House. Their efforts paid off. Together they raised more than $800 selling lemonade. Including gift certificates that some of the students were able to get from local retailers such as JC Penney, more than $1,013 was raised for Transition House.
“We couldn’t believe it, people were so generous,” one boy said. “When they learned what we were trying to do, some people paid $20 for a glass of lemonade! They said it was nice to see kids involved in the community.”
Transition House was so impressed by the success of the project that they decided to make the Marymount-inspired project an annual event. Pointing to a diagram on the wall that read “Lemons + Heart = Aid,” Xochitl Ortiz, coordinator of volunteer services at Transition House, said, ”You have inspired us. On July 21, Transition House will have its first lemonade fundraiser. We are hoping that families will come together in the way you have to do something for others.”
In a torrential April downpour, the sixth-grade students loaded supplies they had purchased with the money they had earned — fresh towels, blankets, food, disposable thermometers, bean bags, stuffed animals, even a large bureau and a colorful rug and more — into cars and made the trip to Transition House.
“Your efforts inspired us not only to fix up the Sick Room, but to maintain it after you leave.” Ortiz told the gathered class. “Having something that is comforting like a nice, fresh blanket is going to make this phase a little easier for the children here.”
Marymount’s commitment to building leadership skills and creativity in its students was demonstrated through the Transition House project.
“The students loved the opportunity to own this project from rough concept to its final and inspiring end,” Burris said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our students who have devoted time and energy from their busy schedules to reach out and help the less fortunate among us.”
“I learned that it feels good to do the right thing,” Sam Fuller, a sixth-grade boy, said to Ortiz shortly before the students loaded into cars and headed back to Marymount. Ortiz responded, “You showed us that there is not an age that someone has to be to make a difference.”
Marymount is an independent coeducational school serving junior kindergarten through eighth grade. Its picturesque, 10-acre campus is securely nestled on the Santa Barbara Riviera. For nearly 75 years, Marymount has prepared young people for academic success in high school and college, while laying the foundation for lifelong character, achievement and love of learning.
— Molly Seguel is director of admissions for Marymount of Santa Barbara.