As the United States continues to deal with a particularly rough hurricane season, more than 100 fourth and fifth graders arrived at Colonial Elementary School (CES) an hour early to make a difference in the lives of children just like them. The event was the kickoff meeting for the school's community service club CES Cares.
"I'm here because the first meeting was hurricane relief," said a fourth grader named Blake. "I knew there were hurricanes, and I wanted to help."
Sending supplies to Houston
The initial project for the community service club paired Colonial Elementary School with a school in Houston. The CES students focused their efforts on encouraging people to donate spare change that will be used to purchase supplies for classrooms that were damaged in the storms. The children had a choice of making posters, writing speeches or folding the donation boxes.
"The kids are super into it. They love delivering the speeches and running around putting the posters up." said CES teacher Ashley Trier, who brought the project to the CES Cares team and has been working with the teacher in Texas. "It's volunteer. It's not something that they have to do, but they enjoy it."
In addition to being able to choose an activity that fit their strengths, some students looked at the big picture to see where they could do the most good.
"It looked like there were a lot of people making speeches and posters. I wanted to help make the boxes so that there were enough for everybody," said a fifth grader named Katie. "It makes me feel good to help."
CES Cares provides opportunities all year long
CES Cares meets monthly and offers different service projects throughout the year. In the past they've collected money, clothing and books among other things to benefit different charities. In 2016, the club went to Target to buy presents for other children in the District whose families had fallen on hard times. This effort was fifth grader Kayla's favorite project from last year.
"You get to join your community and help out," she said. "You get to meet more friends and to donate, and then after that you feel really good about yourself, because you know you're doing the right thing."
CES Cares is open to all students in the school -- as well as any of the teachers who would like to help. The sponsors, CES teachers Ken Grimes and Michele Yavorsky, rotate the mornings throughout the year to make sure that students who have other activities like band or floor hockey can still make a difference through the club.
"I think it's amazing to see how these kids want to give back to their community and how, just from the bottom of their hearts, they want to help others," said Ms. Yavorsky. "That's what they get out of it, and it's inspiring to watch them give."
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