At West End Elementary, the students are learning so much more than subjects and skills. Through initiatives like Helping Hands, the students are also getting lessons in compassion, empathy, and gratitude.
The Helping Hands program has championed the task of using food that would otherwise be wasted in school cafeterias to feed families in need.
“It is a program where we collect unopened packaged foods, whole fruit that has not been eaten, and packaged milk,” Principal Dr. Dennis Drummond, explained. “Then on Fridays, we send that home to families who need it. This is the first full week that we’ve rolled it out.”
Drummond explained that while there is adult supervision involved, it’s really a student-led initiative.
“We have students who come in and help us get it sorted, students who help us count and measure,” he explained, “and then on Friday there are students who help us put it in bags.”
West End actually began the program two years ago, but they weren’t able to participate last year due to the pandemic. Drummond said that once they get the program up and running, they will serve anywhere between 20 and 30 families. He added that there are usually multiple students in each family.
Drummond expressed his gratitude for West End’s school sponsors, or teacher leaders, that are coordinating the program this year; Erin Davis, Katie Storey-Pitts, and Leah Fellers.
The Helping Hands program truly helps everyone involved. In addition to feeding families, the initiative addresses lessons that cannot be taught in a textbook, feelings that cannot be accessed in a class discussion.
“We’re trying to teach the kids to have compassion,” Drummond explained, “and to look for ways to help others.”
The hands-on, immersive experience that a student has when they put their unwanted fresh fruit in a bin for another person’s benefit brings about a whole new perception, a whole new level of gratitude and empathy