Developing a Sense of Empathy and Compassion Is the Hallmark of the Community Engagement Curriculum, and This Year Is No Exception
By Norma Richman
“It’s important to help because other people don’t always have things so they can be healthy. For example, the toothbrushes and toothpaste keep their teeth healthy. It makes me feel really, really good to help.”—Titus T., age 8:
In the spirit of giving and High Point’s tradition of student service, Mrs. Tori Dohlen and Mrs. Jenny Mattesich led their energetic second graders to an understanding of what it means to help others. It took a ton of duct tape and patience, but the entire class, plus lots of moms and grandmas, got an assembly line going to produce 48 very clever zip-lock toiletry bags. They were jammed with a total of 248 personal hygiene items meant for children at Hillsides in Pasadena. It all started with a campaign to collect as many travel-size shampoos, body washes, toothbrushes, and the like, as possible. Students also made decorative bookmarks for inclusion, and everything went into the pouches.
Kimmie L., age 8, explained: “This project is to donate things to kids who need things or don’t have much money or maybe some who are homeless. It’s so important to help others. It makes me feel happy to know that I’m helping people who need my help. The most fun was creating the patterns on the zip bag because I love being creative.”
Eight-year-old Jackson S., age 8, noted, “So we are making bags and bookmarks to help Hillsides with more resources. We saw a video about Hillsides. It is a community where they help kids when they can’t live at home. We made the bags, and we used different kinds of duct tape. In fact, I used duct tape with ducks on it.” [Duck duct tape!]
Jackson went on to say, “The next step was to make a pattern of the tape on clear zip-lock bags. And then we filled the bags with shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, and toothbrushes. We made bookmarks too.”
Beatrice Z., 8, added: “I think it’s important because people really need these things. It made me feel good because I’m helping people. My parents helped too because they bought the conditioner, shampoo, and other things from a store.”
The children knew exactly what they were doing. Mrs. Mattesich described the learning service part of the project this way: “As we prepared for our Community Service project for Hillsides, we read a book (authored by one of Ms. Neville’s friends) titled, Scruffy and the Egg, Adventures on the Road. It is a story about a dog and an egg—an unexpected family—that is currently unhoused. It covers the challenges families are experiencing . . . in order to find food and a safe place to sleep and how exhausting it might be just to get to school.” She continued, “Let me say how incredibly proud I am of all the children. We discussed how other humans have value and we do not label people with a term that may be out of their control. Their situation does not define all of who they are.”
Hillsides Residential Treatment Services provide a safe and stable environment in a short-term residential therapeutic program for children and youth who cannot live at home, who suffered trauma, or who have severe emotional, psychological and behavioral challenges requiring specialized care and treatment. Their Bienvenidos program offers an array of services including foster care and adoption, family support, community-based programs and services, and mental health services. They are licensed, accredited, approved, and nationally recognized as a leader in the field of adoption.