The Vito Marcantonio School in East Harlem, New York
This week’s School Spotlight is highlighting one school in East Harlem, New York, where students and staff, with the help of a City Year corp member, are serious about their commitment to and practice of “whole student” philosophy of learning and living. In fact, to them, it’s just “Common Sense.” To read the original GOOD.is article in its entirety, click here.
In the recent past, the 330 students of the Vito Marcantionio School decided to participate in the Penny Harvest program — a service learning project run by City Year and the nonprofit Common Cents. City Year corp member Meg Malone was somewhat surprised at the tenacity and desire of these children. Of her students Malone says, “I often tell people that just because my students have a higher risk of dropping out of school, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a desire to be active citizens and make a difference in their community.”
In an effort to create more interest in the Penny Harvest program, some students took it upon themselves to hop on the campaign trail and get their peers more involved. Songs were created and sung over the P.A. system to help generate more awareness about the program; and when one fifth grader decided there were not enough signs providing information on Penny Harvest, she created one she thought would get the job done of getting the information out.
Their enthusiasm for gathering funds to help others in need was quite astounding, especially given that a great many of the students are from a low-income background. This just further proves the students have incredible social awareness by recognizing that others around them are in need of help. It also shows their capacity for becoming even more outstanding humanitarians and civic stewards.
After all of the funds for the program had been collected at the months end, a committee of students was needed to help with the allocating of funds. According to the article, “A team of fourth- through eighth-grade students was selected to be the voice of the student body. Throughout the year, they’ll learn more about various community issues and (with the vision of the student population in mind), they’ll choose an organization to donate the money.” Although this is a large and tedious project these students are taking on, they are up for the challenge.
This Penny Harvest project has brought about some teachable moments for staff and kids, alike. It has prompted them to look at the good others are doing in the country (and world). They are becoming more interested in what civic engagement means and how it enriches the community. They are seeing a change, and realizing, they are heroes for their community.
The biggest lesson they are learning: Students plus “Common Cents” equals great community. Making a change and helping others become more interested in the desire to partake in change need not be laborious, grueling or demanding. Most times it is the smallest ideas that produce impressive results. Have a similar story of teachable moments and making civic engagement fun? We love learning about the good growing in our country, so use the box below to share some of your stories.