Weekly Feature



2018-06-07 / Front Page

Middle school students learn good citizenship through service projects

by ALAN RIZZO
Reporter


Sixth-grader Will Roberts, a student in Peter Herman’s social studies class at Orchard Park Middle School, performs community service by tutoring students at the Northwest Buffalo Community Center on Lawn Avenue in Buffalo. The activity was part of a unit in which students learn about ancient Greece and the value of citizenship. 
Photo courtesy of Peter Herman Sixth-grader Will Roberts, a student in Peter Herman’s social studies class at Orchard Park Middle School, performs community service by tutoring students at the Northwest Buffalo Community Center on Lawn Avenue in Buffalo. The activity was part of a unit in which students learn about ancient Greece and the value of citizenship. Photo courtesy of Peter Herman With another year comes another chance to be like the Greeks and learn that true citizenship means giving back.

That’s the view of Peter Herman, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Orchard Park Middle School who encourages his students to do community service each year to learn that a society that works is the product of good citizenship, as it was in ancient Greece.

“They started the democracy, which is one of the first times we actually see true citizenship,” he said during an interview last week. “It used to be, ‘I’m the king, you’re the subject. Do what I say; you don’t have any rights, you don’t have anything else to do.’ When you’re a citizen, you get some rights, but really what I’m trying to teach the kids is if you want to have that good stuff, you’ve got to put the work in too, you’ve got to help out and contribute in society. That’s really what makes it run.”

Herman said that for the past seven years, he’s had his students do two hours of community service as part of a unit on ancient Greece. And while they can sign up to be tutors at the local Boys & Girls Club, or participate in Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper cleanups on Earth Day at Chestnut Ridge Park, he encourages them to come up with their own ideas.

“It’s pretty impressive to see really what they do,” Herman said.

One student he was impressed with this year was Will Roberts, who decided to tutor elementary school students in Buffalo at the Northwest Buffalo Community Center.

Will, who helped second- and third-grade students with reading and vocabulary homework, said he was inspired to tutor at the center because his mother, a program officer for the Buffalo Bills Foundation, frequents the center as part of her work.

“I felt like I needed to give back and help people,” he said. “My mom does that a lot for her work, and I guess it sort of felt right to do that. There are a lot of fundraisers out there, and I thought that this would be something different.”

He said it was valuable to interact with children he’d never met and brighten their day through tutoring and playing games.

A family connection was also a motivating factor for Kendra Niewczyk and Kailey Wells, who raised $115 in roughly four hours selling lemonade to help buy mobiles for babies at Oishei Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, and Tim Hortons gift cards for new parents.

Kendra, whose mother works at the hospital, said she was surprised by the generosity of people who visited their stand after she and Kailey advertised on the middle school’s announcements, and she distributed flyers in her gymnastics class.

“Most of the people donated a lot of money,” she said. “Instead of 50 cents, they donated $1, or like 20 bucks, just for like one glass.”

Kailey felt their fundraising, which raised enough money to buy three mobiles and eight gift cards, would have a large impact.

“A few dollars can help a lot,” she said.

Giovanna Mangino, who set up a stand in the village and sold bracelets she made to raise money for the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, said knowing her efforts would help those who are suffering was a lasting lesson.

“Raising money and bringing it to them, it helps them a lot,” she said. “Thinking of that made me feel good.”

Herman said that kind of exposure, along with preparing students for service opportunities in high school and beyond, is why he continues to have his students do community service.

“It’s a chance just to get their feet wet,” he said. “Then, when they get into high school for these different clubs and different classes, they’re ready to go, and they’re eager to go.”

Approximately 100 students performed community service through Herman’s class this year.

In addition to the efforts of Will, Kendra, Kailey and Giovanna, students performed activities including baking cookies and giving them to the Orchard Park Police Department and Meals on Wheels, creating a brochure to introduce new students to Orchard Park, and volunteering through the Boys & Girls Club of Orchard Park and Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper cleanups.

email: arizzo@beenews.com

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