Participation in community service is one of the most effective ways to promote self-esteem and increase confidence in young people. Research supports the correlation between community service and increased resiliency in youth, but all the proof I needed was evidenced through the canned food drive organized by students from our Middle School Cooking Class at MS 598.
The response from the school community was strong, and the drive culminated on December 22nd, when the students delivered a variety of foods to the Caribbean-American Steel Pan Food Pantry located across the street. Our culinary students enthusiastically carried the boxes over, singing Christmas carols as we went. While the food-pantry patrons waited on line to pick up goods for their holiday feasts, the singing lifted spirits from the back of the line to the front: everyone gracefully made way for the students to make their delivery. When we apologized for holding up the line, those on line expressed gratitude and appreciation for all of the additional food items, showing that the total experience resonated deeply with everyone involved.
Because the students’ spirits were so high as they continued to sing on the walk back to school, sharing their experiences with teachers and the principal, I was so deeply moved that I just had to share my reaction. It reinforced my desire to increase our students to experience this kind of altruism. Talk about win-win situation!