Ms. Gehring and Ms. Weberding are teachers at Oldenburg Academy in Indiana who said, “We are a Franciscan school, and service is part of who we are. This was just another opportunity for us to learn about the world we live in and give back.” 

Just over 215 high school students were involved in the service-learning project named Blessing Box. Poverty and Charity, a Learning to Give lesson, was modified slightly for the students at Oldenburg Academy. They researched and learned about poverty in their community, and the educators asked students to look at the connection between poverty and literacy. 

A local newspaper group provided the youth with old newspaper boxes that were painted by the art club. The boxes were used for a personal hygiene item and children's book drive that was held by the National Honor Society. Personal hygiene items were donated after learning about how essential they are and that they cannot be purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The Blessing Boxes including items organized through donations were placed at a food pantry for use over the summer. 

The Learning to Give mini-grant provided plexiglass for the box, paint, and crates. Students were responsible for selecting items for the drive and deciding what to do with money that was leftover. The students heard about a program that feeds students during the summer, called Summer Food for Kids of Batesville. They decided to gift their remaining mini-grant funds to that program and sent along some of the donated young adult books, too.  

When originally asking the students, “Did you now that 61% of kids in poverty don't have books at home?” there was silence that followed. This service project allowed light to be brought to the idea of a connection between poverty and literacy, an important connection. Youth became more connected to the community around them and learned about the issues that exist there. 

“This conversation allowed us to think about groups in our town that help people,” said the teacher duo. The project is set to be reevaluated in the fall to see if any improvements can be made to make it more successful, and the students’ goal is to keep the box stocked during the 2019-2020 school year. “There are also many students planning to volunteer at the summer food program through an area church!”