The following essay on community service was written by Alma Karmina Eidus Kastan, a middle schooler, enrolled in City Congregation’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program. Students spend a year and a half researching their heritage, values and beliefs, and write on a Jewish subject of their choice, their major project; they also perform 13 hours of community service, and write about it. An example of this component can be seen below. The process improves both the student’s writing and critical thinking skills, as well as their self confidence and overall maturity.
Ever since I was a little girl, my parents have taught me to care for others and my community.
My first act of community service was joining my school’s Green Team. The Green Team at Churchill School is a recycling and environmental team run by high school students. I was told that I would be the only middle school student working with kids from the high school.
Instead, Ms. Szalai, the teacher in charge of the Green Team, decided to work one-on-one with me. She said she needed “someone to help out with ‘green projects’ in the middle school.”
Things got even better when my friend, BettyAnn, asked if she could join the Green Team, as well.
(SHOW SLIDE OF ALMA & BETTYANN)
Together, BettyAnn and I made flyers and sent out emails, reminding everyone at school to place their plastic bags in the bag holders so they could be used more than once. We also made flyers to remind everyone to write on both sides of paper.
In addition to making flyers, we learned about “upcycling.” Upcycling is using non-recyclable materials and changing them into new products.
Sometimes these products are made into art objects. One of my mom’s favorite artists, Joseph Cornell, “upcycled” when he used old books and other “found objects” and made collages with them.
(SHOW TWO SLIDES OF JOSEPH CORNELL COLLAGES)
BettyAnn and I saw some great examples of upcycling on the Internet. We saw wallets made of plastic Dorito bags and backpacks made of Capri Sun Juice pouches.
(SHOW SLIDES OF WALLET OF DORITO BAG & BACKPACK OF CAPRIS SUN JUICE P0UCHES)
My second community service project was volunteering as a teaching assistant at City Congregation. I really love “giving back” to City Congregation because I’ve been a member since I was two years old. I’m now a TA for Gillian, who was my first teacher at KidSchool.
(SHOW SLIDE OF GILLIAN AT KIDSCHOOL)
I looked forward to working with the littlest kids. I imagined it would be fun, but also challenging because little kids aren’t the easiest to handle.
I was nervous the kids wouldn’t like me. But we hit it off right away. I helped Gillian with all the activities, including set up and clean up, singing, and art projects. One of my personal goals was to help the kids feel comfortable.
Because the kids were so little, their parents stayed in the classroom. All the parents were super-nice and friendly. I appreciated their interest in me.
Being a TA has taught me to be supportive and kind – but also firm when I need to be. Being a TA has also helped me to realize how much I enjoy being around little kids. It has made me think about how I will parent my own kids one day.
I’ve enjoyed both community service projects equally. I like helping others and giving back to my community. I was more nervous about being a teaching assistant, because I didn’t know the kids and parents in advance.
Through my community service, I felt connected to the following Jewish values: Teaching and Learning; Guarding the Earth; and, Bettering the World.
I’m going to keep helping others. I plan to donate a portion of my Bat Mitzvah money to an orphanage in Guatemala, my birth country.