AJA High School Students Lead Service Projects
For this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Learning, a day of presentations and discussions over Zoom replaced the traditional service-learning day. While the panels sparked conversations and discussions about cultural racism and freedom speech, they lacked the hands-on community service aspect of MLK weekend that previous years had. Due to precautions in response to the virus, this year students could not split into groups and take buses to sites across the Atlanta area and help at places of need. However, AJA still found a way to integrate the hands-on service learning aspect that this year’s schedule lacked: Grade representatives planned a service project that their grade could run this Spring.
For their service-learning project, the freshmen planned to gather hygiene bags for both people who are homeless or just in need of the proper tools to stay clean. Freshman Yulie Maimon, who is running the freshmen project, described that students in her grade will either donate products like toothpaste, mouthwash, and body wash, or donate money to buy these materials. She also noted that they created a competition to see who could bring in the most products as an incentive.
The sophomores organized a book drive with the donations going to the organization Books for Africa, a charity that donates books to children in Africa who lack them. The sophomores placed a bucket in the locker area and requested that people drop their books there. Sophomore grade representative Rebecca Solon explained the idea behind the project: “We decided on this project because it’s super important for everyone to have access to reading material, and for those who are less fortunate, we can help them [by donating books].”
The juniors chose to run a food drive with all proceeds going to the Jewish non-profit organization Yad L’yad. Yad L’yad offers assistance to local Jewish families in need on a biweekly schedule. In a meeting with the junior grade representatives, the organization’s president explained which would help the most and that donated food should be sealed, non-perishable, prior to its expiration date, and bear an AKC-approved kosher symbol. She said the most requested and appreciated food items are 5 lb bags of flour, sugar, canned goods, and bagged snacks. After the project’s introduction on January 29, a drop-off bin was set up in the junior’s assigned hallway upstairs with the end date being a month later.
Seniors opted for a project that also involved giving food to people in need; they decided to gather bags with food and water to hand out to people who are homeless. Senior grade representative Simmy Wilson explained that these “Blessing Bags” are especially useful if a student encounters someone asking for food or money while driving. Often, people wish they had something to give, but they don’t necessarily have anything in their car that will help these people. These bags will contain a couple of food items and small living supplies, and they can be kept in the seniors’ cars for when they pass someone in need.
Following the theme of helping those less fortunate than them, the AJA students devised several projects meant to assist people in different ways. These projects are safely interactive while incorporating the values of service learning. The AJA students managed COVID-19 limitations and devised projects that improve the community.