Eighth graders engage Kindergartners in service

A grant from BEF’s Youth Philanthropy Program (YPP) helped Bexley Middle School students to expand the impact of a day of community service by engaging Kindergartners and partnering with Ronald McDonald House.

In 2016, eighth graders in BMS’s “Make a Difference” club spent a school-wide service-learning day teaching French and Spanish to Kindergartners at Cassingham. Club advisor and foreign language teacher Alison Nakasako found the project worthwhile, but wondered if there was a way to deepen the impact by engaging the younger children in service as well.

Bexley Middle School sets aside two school days for community service and learning. So this year, Nakasako and her students came up with a plan to conduct one day of service at Ronald McDonald House, learning about the needs of families who come to stay there when their children are being treated for serious illness, and making cookies and treats for residents. Then, on a second day, the eighth graders would share what they had learned with Bexley Kindergarteners and help the younger children make blankets as gifts for the families.

To cover costs of the project, Nakasako and her students reached out to the BEF to inquire about grant funding through the Youth Philanthropy Program, a BEF program that engages Bexley High School students in grant-making. The program was established in 2011 to recognize BEF’s longtime Executive Director Charlene Morgan and provide a mechanism for students to learn and engage in the philanthropy. The students distribute income available from the Charlene Morgan Emerging Leaders Fund endowment as well as BEF Board designated dollars in the form of grants. Over the past five years, YPP grant makers have awarded $19,429 to support a wide range of teacher and student initiated projects as well as extra-curricular activities and clubs.

This spring, YPP awarded a grant of $500 to the Make a Difference Club to cover the cost of the blanket materials.

The eighth graders really enjoyed the project, said Nakasako. Some said their time at Ronald McDonald House, where they made 20 dozen cookies in under an hour, was the best field trip they’d ever taken. “And they loved going to work with the Kindergartners,” she said, adding that some of the students really seemed to blossom in the role of teachers.

“I think you see sides of kids that you don’t necessarily see in the classroom,” she said. “I know this will be something they will remember.”