On Thursday, November 13th, Allendale Columbia Middle School hosted its first service fair showcasing five service organizations from the greater Rochester area. Representatives from Foodlink, RAPA (Rochester Association of Performing Arts), the Center for Environmental Initiatives, Rochester Greenovation and GRASP (Greece Residents Assisting Stray Pets) spoke to students about their organization’s outreach in Monroe County.
Each organization brought in evidence of their work, from Dexter, a stray Basset/Daschund mix who had been fostered by GRASP to an upcycled fork crafted into an octopus necklace by an artist at Rochester Greenovation. Kimie Romeo, who works with the Center for Environmental Initiatives, spoke eloquently to students about their role as stewards of the Great Lakes, our world’s largest source of potable water. RAPA Director, Allan Cuseo, talked about how theater can change people’s lives and Jared Longmore outlined the Foodlink’s recent grassroots outreach in urban neighborhoods.
Students then broke out into advisory groups to discuss the potential of service learning. They thought that service learning at the middle school level would inspire awareness, compassion and gratitude in students. They expressed interest in becoming more aware of who they could help in their community.
They also talked about how they could convert their personal hobbies and passions into service work. A student interested in sharks expressed interest in working with organizations that aimed to protect coral reefs. Another student passionate about swimming thought she might offer a water safety course to youth who don’t have the opportunity to swim very often.
Students were eager to tackle a wide variety of difficult issues with their potential service. Some worried about saving rain forests or helping victims of natural disaster. Some were interested in working with people with health issues or special needs. Others were preoccupied by world violence, illiteracy or access to vaccines.
At the end of the session, each student set a personal service goal. Some goals were small, others very ambitious. “I would like to get a better understanding of the needs in my community,” said one student. “I would like to be out there helping,” wrote another.