More than 50 people came out to the first Colonial Community Coffee Hour of 2017 to enjoy a presentation by students Making a Difference in Colonial and rub shoulders with Colonial administrators, including the new Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Michael Christian.
Making a Difference Campaign
While community service isn't new to the District, the Making a Difference campaign is. Dr. Christian brought the idea with him, and Colonial is looking forward to using the campaign as umbrella to connect and highlight the initiatives that students, staff, individuals and groups are doing to make our schools, community and world a better place.
To bring awareness to the campaign, the first Colonial Community Coffee Hour brought students to share about the first two groups spotlighted by the campaign: Colonial Elementary's CES Cares and the Plymouth Whitemarsh High School (PWHS) ADL Peer Trainers.
Ken Grimes, a fifth grade teacher at Colonial Elementary School (CES), introduced the first group of students, fifth graders who are in their second year of volunteering with the school's community service club, CES Cares. The students explained that the club meets monthly to run different campaigns to collect physical and monetary donations for various charities. To help the audience understand, each girl highlighted one of their causes.
- Operation Warmth - Morgan Blake
For a couple weeks, we have been collecting for Operation Warmth. CES Cares gathered to make posters and speeches to encourage people to donate. Possible donations would be hats, gloves, scarves, ear muff and other comfy winter clothing. But it all has to be band new with the tag still on it. Everything goes to Cradles to Crayons, an organization that helps people who don't have much. We were able to donate to many kids in our community.
- Angel Tree - Abby Nye
We gathered up money for weeks and weeks, and one day we finally got enough money to go on a shopping trip to Target. We all got teamed up in groups and got a girl or a boy and a wish list. I can only talk from personal experiences, but I love the feeling you get when you help someone in need and do something amazing for that person. Helping for me is like a hug of warmth on a cold winter day.
- The Great Teddy Bear Drive - Hadley Blake
We gathered together to make posters and speeches so the whole school could help gather stuffed animals for kids who were going through hard times and needed something to cuddle with. After about a month, we gathered up all the stuffed animals and gave them to kids who needed them. When I dropped off stuffed animals in the overflowing box, I saw so many stuffed animals that will absolutely make those kids feel better.
- Alex's Lemonade Stand - Riley Rupprecht
We colored bright posters to encourage students to support the cause. Speeches rang over the loudspeakers to tell them the date. Meanwhile, in the boardroom, kids were shooting ads for the stand. Finally, we set up our stand during recess to mix and pour the delicious lemonade in cups and handed them to thirsty students. We raised just over 700 dollars for the cancer research. It put a smile on all our faces to see the progress we made with just one cup at a time.
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Peer Trainers
A group of fifty sophomores, juniors and seniors at PWHS go through a rigorous application process to become ADL Peer Trainers, a group of students who split into teams to visit ninth grade homerooms (known as Bonus Blocks) to teach the freshman about tolerance and respecting differences.
To cover the basics about the program, the Colonial Community Coffee Hour audience watched a video about the group's training process that took place earlier this year. Click here to watch the video.
Then three ADL Peer Trainers, Ava Redding, Ava Rosen and Kendra Tse, all juniors at PWHS, ran the group through one of the activities they've used with the freshmen to open their minds about differences and privilege, called "Here I Stand." The girls posed statements, and the audience members were to move to one side of the room if they agreed and to the other if they disagreed.
Samples of the statements include:
- Anyone can become successful in the United States by working hard.
- My generation is more respectful of differences than my child's generation.
- Everyone should have the right of free speech -- even organized hate groups.
- I feel comfortable when people speak in foreign languages around me, even if I don't understand what they are saying.
- I feel comfortable working in groups where I am the only person of my race.
- I would feel comfortable if I had a gay, lesbian or bisexual child.
After being tasked with committing to agreeing or disagreeing with several different statements, the audience split into small groups and shared their reactions to the activity. Overall, the adults were surprised at how difficult some of the questions were and wondered how peer pressure might influence ninth graders' responses to similar questions. One of the group's sponsors, Spanish Teacher Rich Madel, explained that the role of the ADL Peer Trainers is to begin the conversation and get the ninth graders thinking and talking about these difficult topics with their Bonus Block peers who will travel together through their four years at PWHS. The ADL Peer Trainers added that it was important for the students to commit to agreeing or disagreeing, because if they were offered a middle ground, most students would choose that option for all of the questions.
Smart Snacks and Coffee
In addition to free coffee provided by Starbucks Coffee at the corner of Ridge and Butler in Conshohocken, Colonial's own food services brought samples of breakfast items and did a quiz about the "Smart Snack" program using Kahoots, an online program where people respond to the questions using their phones. The person with the highest score received a week of free Smart Snacks for their child.