On April 21st, young people across the globe participated in Global Youth Service Day. Here in Duluth, True North AmeriCorps members worked in coordination with their schools and after-school programs to set up 12 service projects for kids across Duluth. More importantly, they got the students themselves to take leadership of the projects.
The process began much earlier than April 21st. In February, True North AmeriCorps members spent a day in training, learning about the process of service learning–how to incorporate learning into service, how to raise funds and organize community members, and how to engage kids in the leadership of the projects. Then the AmeriCorps members went back to their schools and after-school programs and started the conversation with the students: “What do you wish was different in our community? What do you wish you could make better? What makes you sad and what gives you hope?”
Students picked up it up from there, identifying all sorts of issues that affect them and those they love. Here is a sampling of just three of the inspiring projects that took place. Students at the Little Y program at Harbor Highlands Community Center wanted to restore a sense of pride in their community, which was being eroded by the trash collecting around the neighborhoods. Students arranged multiple afternoons of trash pick-up. With the help of their AmeriCorps member Josh Yang, students put on a community barbecue intended to overcome the boundaries that keep people from socializing together. Over fifty people attended!
At Laura MacArthur Elementary, two students lost their mother to cancer. Students
in the Key Zone after-school program decided they’d like to learn more about the disease that had impacted their friends, and see what they could do to help people with cancer. They invited Dr. Ross Perko, a pediatric oncologist, to come and teach them about the disease. Nurses from St. Luke’s Hospital helped students come up with ideas for items that would help comfort cancer patients. Students made and decorated “Brave Boxes”, then filled them with items such as lip balm, ginger tea, catheter pillows, and notes of encouragement. The two-month project culminated with a visit to St. Luke’s Hospital, where students were received by hospital staff and Mayor Emily Larson, and then delivered their Brave Boxes to patients receiving treatment. Thank you to Lindsey Bushnell, Cheryl Odegaard (True North AmeriCorps members) and the whole Key Zone staff for helping inspiring project happen.
Students at Lester Park Elementary’s Key Zone program learned that the Blue Bird population was struggling due to loss of habitat around their neighborhood. They decided to take action. With the help of AmeriCorps members Taylor Birkelo, Shannon Matthews, and other Key Zone staff, students raised enough money to purchase supplies for 40 birdhouses! They worked with Lester Park Golf Course to map out a Bluebird trail for installing the houses. Golf Course employees have already reported Bluebirds nesting in the houses!
True North AmeriCorps members at Valley Youth Center, Neighborhood Youth Services, Girl Power!, and Eagle’s Nest also worked with students to put on service projects. In total, over 3,000 Duluthians will benefit from the projects, over $9,000 was raised through the projects, and over 400 kids participated in the projects.