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Making the world a better place, one service project at a time

Student leaders collect food for Valley Outreach

While much of the world has spent the past year staying apart, a group of students at Oak-Land Middle School have been working hard to bring it back together. Members of the school’s National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) are doing all they can think of to care for the individuals most impacted by COVID-19.

“It’s been a super difficult year for everyone,” said eighth grader Ella Begnaud, who serves as vice-president of NJHS. “But we can make such a difference.”

Begnaud and her peers on the NJHS leadership team are committed to community service. Every year NJHS students conduct hundreds of hours of community service projects. In a typical year, students might spend a good portion of that time volunteering in the community. But with so many of the in-person volunteer options limited this year, they’ve had to get creative. And while COVID might have limited some opportunities, it certainly provided many others ways for the students to help.

This year the NJHS students recognized that people have lost jobs and are struggling financially as a result of the pandemic. They understood that some of the most vulnerable individuals have been isolated and completely alone. They had even heard of people who had to surrender their pets because they just couldn’t care for them anymore. So the students took it upon themselves to organize a food drive for Valley Outreach, collect hygiene kits for a local women’s shelter, create hand-made dog toys for the Humane Society, send letters to senior citizens at two local nursing homes, pack meals at Feed My Starving Children, and even collect special gifts and notes for their teachers and staff at Oak-Land.

“It’s been inspiring to me as an advisor to see how hard they work,” said Julie Coe, a school counselor and NJHS advisor. “They’ve really stepped up from the get-go. They come up with the ideas and they take them and run.”

Even during distance learning the group stayed active. They meet twice a week via Zoom to brainstorm ideas and coordinate service activities. They started the drive to collect coffee cards for teachers while on Zoom. They also organized the effort to make dog toys and send letters to senior citizens all while meeting virtually from home.

“COVID affected us, but we’re still able to do things to help the community - even over a screen,” said eighth grader Brock Rueber, the NJHS treasurer. “It feels good that you did something to help the community. One small act can change a life.”


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