Eighth-graders Siobhan O'Shea, Gordon Dailey, Clark Burnham, Franki Coyle, Ciara Murphy, Natalie Rollo, Larissa Milanowski, Isabelle Yau-Weeks and Paige Anderson helped lead the Lenten mission at St. Theresa School. Sarah Guthrie is the service learning coordinator at the school.
Year by year, St. Theresa students learn to serve
At St. Theresa School in Oakland, we are awakened to the need for compassion and social justice. We have been given the tools, education and the opportunities to help those in need. As Catholics, it is important to learn about injustices that happen around the globe, even if we are just children. This is what sets St. Theresa apart from many other schools.
At St. Theresa School we grow up knowing that we can help change the world. Our service learning program gives us the chance to reach out in our community at home, and to those in need everywhere. Starting our service program from such a young age plants the seeds of valuing the dignity and worth of everyone.
We are given the chance to make a difference in our world, starting in kindergarten with class service projects. Every grade level focuses on a specific issue. Kindergarten students act as "Apostles of the Sea," by helping to support seafarers in the Port of Oakland. First grade demonstrates "Hospitality" by writing thank you notes, notes of condolences for those who lost loved ones or congratulations to parishioners who have newborn children. Second grade learns about being "Stewards of the Earth", focusing on the three R's: reduce, reuse and recycle. In third grade, we focus on "Care for the Elderly." The Catholic Social Teaching, "Option for the Poor and Vulnerable," takes place in fourth grade with our famous Mac and Cheese collection for St. David's Food pantry. (Last count was more than 14,000 collected boxes of mac and cheese.) By sixth grade we are ready to do individual service in our parish and broader community. All middle school students donate service hours each year and fill out reflection forms that capture our thoughts and the ways we served.
Every year, we have a schoolwide Lenten project. Projects vary from year to year, focusing on global issues. In the past, we have contributed to schools in the Philippines by filling a 52-foot cargo container with educational supplies. We've helped end malaria by raising funds to purchase mosquito nets to send to India and Africa. We built a library and created day camp opportunities for children in Khula Village, Africa. And last year, we hosted a refugee family from Iraq, helping to settle them in the U.S.
This year, we focused on one of our Catholic Social Justice teachings, "The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers." We studied the issue of child labor and how we as children, can work to end it. As an older student, I had the opportunity to take a leadership role in this year's program, Save a Child Give a Future. Leaders have weekly meetings, give morning assembly speeches about the yearly Lenten mission, create ideas, participate in skits, games, fundraising, and provide lots of education about our mission for the school and parish.
Around the globe, about 300 million children are forced to do labor that is inhumane and unjust. In poor countries, children are often considered as an "expendable resource." This is shocking and completely wrong. It goes against everything we believe.
When I was working on this project, I realized that the small things we do here, can help contribute to big changes in far away places. We made bracelets and baked goods to help raise money to give to an organization dedicated to ending child labor in Nicaragua. This was empowering, and I felt that together with my schoolmates, we could make a difference for children in other countries. Our service program at St. Theresa has truly changed the way I look at myself, the world, and my place in it.
(Ciara Murphy is a 2017 graduate of St. Theresa School in Oakland.)
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