Maria Found

Grade Level: 
11 and 12
Subjects: 
School: 
Brewster Academy
NH 03894
United States
Why I want my students to be involved in volunteering and service, etc. 
I have learned through personal exploration that you are happier when you are making others happy. Doing kind things to and for others truly makes one's heart feel amazing!
Tips for infusing philanthropy... 
I work at a private boarding school and I teach AP Calculus. In order to help bring philanthropy and service learning to our school, I started a series of clubs. Three of which are the Random Acts of Kindness Club, the Best Buddies Club and the Big Friends Club! It is through these clubs that I do my best to instill service learning. We meet weekly to talk about how we can positively affect our environment and the surrounding areas and the impact we can have as a collective unit as well as individuals now and for the future.
I taught this LTG lesson 
We utilized "Identifying Community Needs: Choosing and Focusing" (http://www.learningtogive.org/units/student-voluntarism-symposium/identifying-community-needs-choosing-and-focusing#lesson-instructions)
How I adapted the lesson for my learners 
We came out of this with a strong idea as to which organization we wanted to work with because we had identified a need in our community. Children in our area with intellectual or developmental disabilities have plenty of athletic opportunities to interact (adaptive horseback riding, adaptive Biking, adaptive skiing, etc...) but we identified that there was a lack of social events for those with IDD. Going through the lessons really helped us focus and feel motivated, knowing we were meeting a need in our community! What a simple way to start by making a ‘playdate’ with individuals with IDD. The lesson helped firm things up for us, ensuring that our decision was a solid one!
Student Impact 
Video of event: https://vimeo.com/151413356 Pictures of event: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10205524593057367.1073742468.1328010360&type=1&l=d1ebb69f67 The students planned and executed the entire event. During one of the meetings, they brainstormed a variety of games and activities that they could do over the course of the three hour event. The president of our Best Buddies club led the charge! It was great to see our students who find difficulty in academics find a venue for success. While some of the special needs kids were comfortable right away, others weren't. We loved watching our students reach out to those kids with empathy. We loved their focus on inclusion. A great experience can help people see each other in another light. When given the opportunity, people often rise to the challenge. There is nothing more rewarding than watching someone participate, gain confidence, let go and truly become involved, make a connection, believe in themselves, and truly blossom or shine from the experience. A great experience can often be life changing as we learn empathy for others, gain real life experience, learn about themselves, get inspired, and quite possible learn that they might want to pursue similar events and/or even consider a career in the human services field. Some personal reflections on the different service clubs we are involved with are: “Being involved with students and members of the community in very different ways, giving back to others, trying to make a small difference for someone else even if it is just a warm smile, lending a helping hand, taking pictures, showing support or empathy, etc., learning life lessons, etc. have all been very valuable lessons. Ironically, although we are the ones trying to give to others, we have often found that we have been given so much more from some of these experiences. We have met some amazing people, been inspired in ways we didn’t think possible, been humbled by all that we have to be thankful for, learned some outstanding lessons, and been extremely grateful for the experiences.” Some of the student reflections are below: “Today was an unforgettable experience. Being able to be with these kids and watch them grow in just four hours by coming out of their shells and playing with both the older kids and the younger kids, was truly amazing. Kids with disabilities can often feel alone and different, and being able to bring them in and show them that they aren't alone is incredible. I would do this every weekend if I could, I was genuinely happy the entire time I was there.” “The training did inform me but I already was motivated to help these children. I also know a lot about kids with disabilities because I have a brother who has severe disabilities (not the same as these kids but dealing with him is the same idea). I didn't have any trouble or questions when working with the kids but I was glad that I had background to help.” “I hoped to simply be able to connect with the kids from today and learn more about them. I learned that each of them, though some were similar ages, were very different. I was just happy to be there with them and I think that they were happy to have a big group of people to play with. I am glad I was one of those people.” “The training helps give some insight of how to act with these kids as it can be different than other kids. For example, the noise level was too high for one of the girls, and one of the things we were told in the training was that kids with down syndrome can have sensory issues that we may not entirely recognize. It was good to have the training so we had already been introduced to those types of issues that we may run into.” “It was an amazing experience filled with so much happiness! For example one girl, Katie, was very shy and overwhelmed at the beginning but by the end was giving us all hug attacks and posing like a model! It was amazing to see all the kids come out of their shells and just have fun!” “Today I hoped to spend some time with nice kids and have a good time with them. I had a great experience connecting with many of the kids by playing games and talking with them. One young boy named Michael didn't feel comfortable playing with the rest of the group, so I went over to him and had a nice conversation with him about what he likes to do. At first, it was hard to get him to open up, but after a while Michael felt more comfortable talking with me. For me, it is very moving to be able to have Michael open up to me when I can tell that he is very shy. I am glad that I can help him express himself and maybe feel more comfortable in the group.” “I usually volunteer with Special Olympics for a team called Blazing Bears were we help kids with disabilities play soccer every fall, but because of my school schedule I was not able to go to that many this year. So it was really nice to be around a program such as Camp Blue Sky. I missed Blazing Bears and Camp Blue Sky reminded me of it.” “I had a lot of emotional experiences, all positive. I think everyone who went felt the same. The kids who were there were literal rays of sunshine and brought a smile to my face more times that I can count. I think I may have enjoyed myself more than they did, to be honest.” “I got out of learning to work with children with down's syndrome. I can understand them better and know how they react to some things and don't like others. By doing this event it has helped me to get along with them better.” “It truly was a great experience for me as I have never experienced something like this before. Today I realized and learnt a lot from the kids. Of course I felt appreciative of what I have in my life but also happy to see the personal growth of each individual. They are all doing sooooo well.” “The training has helped me to see that all these kids are the same as us. They may not like certain things but everyone can get along together and that is what made it so much fun. It has motivated me to work harder on the club and do more fun activities.” “I was hoping to get out a new experiences and to see things differently. It definitely did that I think it was an amazing opportunity for all of us.”