On Tuesday, April 24, 2018, twenty-seven freshmen students and seven staff from Quinebaug Middle College (QMC), a regional magnet school in Danielson, partnered with five community organizations for their annual Day of Service. The students are part of the Teen Outreach Program® (TOP), a nationwide positive youth development program that seeks to empower teens with the skills they need to avoid risky behaviors and develop into healthy, thriving adults.
“My goal is to help our students identify their strengths and then use those strengths to make a difference in the lives of others," said Nicole Colter, QMC’s TOP facilitator. "Our students have so much to offer and partnering with community organizations helps these young people connect to their own communities and develop interests they might not otherwise discover.”
One group partnered with Kidz Teaching Kids to host an interactive art event at The Arc Quinebaug Valley in Danielson. QMC students prepared six large canvases in advance with the phrase “Look at Me, Not My Disability.” Students then worked directly with the Arc clients to help them make their mark by outlining their hands and writing important characteristics about each unique individual within the outline.
“Having any kind of health disorder may change the way you look and the type of activities you are able do on a daily basis, but it does not change your personality or your soul," said Alicia Jimenez Vargas, a freshmen at QMC.
Another group partnered with the Willimantic based organization, GROW Windham. The students worked in the community garden located in Lauter Park, built a table for a greenhouse and a garden bed, spread compost in the garden bed and wood chips along the outskirts of the garden bed as well.
“Personally, I learned how easy it can be to contribute to a local community," said QMC teacher Brian Levine. "I believe this site is something we can build on and continue visiting for years to come.”
Another group partnered with the Northeastern District Department of Health (NDDH) where Linda Colangelo, NDDH Education and Communications Coordinator did a walking meeting with the group to talk about the importance of health and how the students can positively impact their school community. Along their walk Linda interviewed people on the streets about why they walked and the benefits of walking.
Some students worked to get an inside look at hunger and food insecurity. In March a few students helped on Fridays at the Community Cafe located at Living Faith United Methodist Church in Putnam and then on the Day of Service the group helped out at the Covenant Soup Kitchen (CSK) in Willimantic. The group continues to solicit plastic bag donations for CSK’s food pantry.
Last but not least, a group coordinated a speed-friending event with the residents at Davis Place, a nursing and rehabilitation facility in Danielson. This project started earlier this year when throughout February and March a group of students visited Davis Place residents after school.
“Getting to know [the residents] and hearing their stories made me realize that these people taught me things that they don’t teach at school,” said student Janirelis Santiago Cancel.
Below, QMC students work together with Arc residents on a craft project.