About 100 juniors from Gilbert A. Dater High School fanned out into the community in January to donate their time in a day of service to others — while building skills that will support their futures.
The students, all members of Dater’s new Junior Seminar class, are participating in a project on philanthropy. The class has partnered with Magnified Giving, a nonprofit organization that provides groups of students with $1,000 to donate to a nonprofit of their choice.
The students have been charged with convincing their peers to choose a Cincinnati-area nonprofit to receive the gift. To do so, they had to select one of 10 nonprofits to research, volunteer at, and promote with a video and presentation.
“We wanted students to not only volunteer their time but to also interview workers to get a better understanding of their mission and values,” said Catherine O’Shea, community resource coordinator at Dater. “It’s hard for them to advocate for an organization if they don’t dig into it.”
For many students, the organizations they picked were personal.
Gabriel Bock-Marshall joined 20 fellow students at the Freestore Foodbank to pack Power Packs — packs of kid-friendly food to feed children in need on weekends. The volunteers packed more than 683 Power Packs in two hours.
“I know there are people out there who need this,” said Bock-Marshall. “I know for a fact that there are people who are grateful to receive anything.”
At Crayons to Computers, eight students spent several hours sorting donations. The organization provides free school supplies to teachers from qualifying schools or to teachers who donate their time. Since July 1, 2016, the organization has benefited 150,000 students and relied on more than 8,000 volunteer hours to keep its shelves stocked.
Von Edwards said her peers should vote for Crayons for Computers because it will help other CPS students.
“I think it’s a good organization because we were all elementary school students once. We all benefitted from the program in some way,” Edwards said.
While the service-learning project focuses on philanthropy, the Junior Seminar students also are honing skills that will be critical to their career prospects. Those skills —including research, collaboration, communication, persuasive speaking and use of technology — tie in with My Tomorrow, Cincinnati Public Schools’ districtwide initiative aimed at ensuring that all students graduate from high school ready for careers of their choice.
The project is also doubling as an opportunity for students to explore potential career pathways, said Junior Seminar teacher Jennifer Franzoi.
“There are a lot of things you can get out of volunteering,” she said. “Obviously, it’s good for the community, but there is also a personal component to it. It’s an opportunity for students to explore what they like to do and to consider their place in the world.”
The day was made possible in part by the Mayerson Foundation, which provided grant money for transportation. LaRosa’s Pizza donated lunch.
“I hope the students see the time, treasure and talent that makes our community better,” said Clare Blankemeyer, director of the high school service-learning program for the Mayerson Foundation. “If they can see themselves in each one of those facets, that’s a dream. We are helping kids do meaningful service and ask the hard questions about why it matters.”
After spending the morning at their chosen nonprofits, the students regrouped for lunch and a period of reflection. In addition to reporting out on their experiences, they were asked to consider their own values and the greater purpose of their work.
“Even if it felt small to you, together we were able to make a huge difference today,” Blankemeyer told the students.
Later this year, students will amplify that difference when they select one nonprofit to receive the Magnified Giving grant.