Written By: Jill Higgins, Title I Teacher, Central Elementary School, Valparaiso, IN
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve.” At Central Elementary School, we take these words to heart. We strive to serve our community, and appreciate and grow from how our community helps us. Having a partnership with our community has allowed our teachers, parents, staff members, and, most importantly, our students thrive.
We are very fortunate to have a community that teaches us what service is all about. Our partnerships with Valparaiso University, Hilltop Neighborhood House, and Our Greater Good have been integral components in helping our kids succeed. VU sends “Study Buddies” over to Central. These students come daily to help with our before school learning program. They develop relationships with our students while assisting them with homework and technology programs. We also participate in the College Mentors program through VU.
Some of our students have the wonderful opportunity to head over to campus where they gain exposure to college life through the guidance of their mentors. Many of our students benefit from attending Walt’s Place through Hilltop Neighborhood House after school. At Walt’s Place students are provided snacks, receive academic assistance with tutors, and engage in social activities. It’s a wonderful environment for our students to excel in before heading home for the day.
This year we were able to offer six weeks of Love and Logic parenting workshops thanks to Garner Tullis of Our Greater Good. Through his program’s generosity, parents from a number of our elementary schools have gained invaluable insights into positive parenting, enjoyed delicious dinners provided for our families, and developed relationships that will last a lifetime. Childcare at these workshops was provided through the kindness of Valparaiso High School’s Team LEAD and Key Club members.
There are many ways our students are learning and modeling how to serve others. One way is through our K-Kids Club. This is the elementary school member of the Kiwanis family that allows our students to discover just how important it is to be service leaders. Our members have created “Welcome to Central” kits to deliver to new students, hidden magic wands asking students to perform random acts of kindness, collected books to share, and have many other plans to implement. Our Student Council members hold various drives to benefit others.
We have sent supplies to our troops, collected items for the Porter County Animal Shelter, and filled the backpacks of our Valparaiso students with supplies donated through our district’s Backpack Program. Our students and families are very generous with supporting each of these efforts and it is so appreciated.
It is truly amazing to be part of our Valparaiso community. We are so appreciative of the many who volunteer time and share their love with us and in turn allow us to learn and grow in our service to others. Sai Baba said it best, “No joy can equal the joy of serving others.”