Service Learning Starts Early at High Point

40 Gift Bags Delivered to Hillsides Campus by HPA Second Graders

 It’s important to help others feel good. It could make this world better to live in. It made me feel proud—Jiya P., age 8

By Norma Richman

In hopes of making lives better for other children, students in Mrs. Dohlen’s and Mrs. Mattesich’s second grade classes packed items of necessity into hand-decorated pouches. Their Community Engagement Project included learning about the needs of others and developing a sense of empathy for those less fortunate—younger and older; what followed was an appreciation on the part of our children for how lucky they are.

The two classes started off with a reading of Scruffy and the Egg, a story about a family dog who can no longer be taken of care of by his humans and finds himself homeless. He struggles to find food and everyday necessities. The good news is that he eventually finds what he needs: a new family with . . . an egg! The lesson includes discussion about the words foster and adopt and why families might fall on hard times. Videos showcasing the services of Hillsides added to the students’ understanding and gave them a healthy dose of empathy to boot.

Christopher H., 8, explained, “I’ve never done this before so I’m excited. I chose blue duct tape to decorate my pouch, and I brought toothbrushes because my mom’s a dentist. We did this because some people don’t have families, and they could survive if we help.”

The kids generated a complete list of necessary items that could be useful to residents of Hillsides: toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, and lotions. All in all, the classes collected over 170 personal hygiene articles with the help of parents. The ingenious pouches were made from plain zip lock bags wrapped in embellished duct tape—yards and yards of it. Then inspirational hand-colored bookmarks were tucked into each decorated pouch before delivery.

Jiya noted, “It makes me feel happy to know that they’ll be going to people who can’t afford things. That means that it will make their lives more fun. I hope that they feel they can grow up happy like us.”

Pia P., also 8, seconded the motion: “So I feel really special to do this because I like helping other people. We’re special to have Community Service. I think it’s going to make them feel good that younger kids can help older kids.”

Hillsides, located on Avenue 64 in Pasadena, was founded by Deaconess Evelyn Wile in 1913. Wile rejected the institutional model of care for neglected or abandoned children and instead envisioned a campus of cottages where they could enjoy a country-like environment with plenty of sunshine and fresh air. In the following decades, Hillsides grew to 12 on-campus buildings and opened an on-campus school and a Family Resource Center. Today, Hillsides collaborates with more than 140 community organizations, including 20 school districts.

Sammy K., 8, summed up the whole activity this way: “I think it’s special. It’s good and nice because people are in need. The teachers have supplies, and we get to decorate them with tape with fun things on them. It makes me feel good to help. It’s fun to make and fill up the bags. I feel like the kids at Hillsides are going to feel good that people care about them and want to help them.”

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