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WHS students give thanks by giving back

Woodbury High School students involved in the school’s Advancement Via Individualized Determination (AVID) program have volunteered to serve meals at the Dorothy Day Center. (Submitted photo)

For some folks, Thanksgiving is a time to sit down with family and friends and enjoy a delicious meal. For others, it’s a chance to reflect back on everything they have.

Over at Woodbury High School, it’s a chance to give back to those in need.

On Saturday, a group of WHS students prepared meals at the Dorothy Day Center through the school’s Advancement Via Individualized Determination (AVID) program.

“It’s fun to serve and it’s a great feeling when you get thanked for it,” said WHS senior Dina Rath, who is a frequent volunteer with St. Paul-based center.

Volunteering at the Dorothy Day Center is just one way AVID students at WHS have chosen to give back throughout the year.

“We encourage students to look at the world around them and what needs there are,” AVID coordinator Lisa Hyland said. “We want them to think of themselves as a potential solution to the problems that they see.”

Change in the community 

Part of the AVID curriculum, for sophomores, juniors and seniors, is to find a volunteer opportunity that they are passionate about, Hyland said, and spend the year developing a relationship with the service organization.

“It’s not about the hours,” Hyland said, “It’s about a meaningful way to give back to the world around you – to have such direct contact is pretty powerful.”

Throughout the year, students have put in time at such organizations as the Christian Cupboard Emergency Food Shelf, Feed My Starving Children, Second Harvest, the Animal Humane Society, Goodwill and the Cookie Movement.

The group as a whole visits the Dorothy Day Center every other month.

“We want to get them out in the community and picture the world outside of themselves — it helps round them out as individuals,” said Julie Onken, an AVID teacher. “Small things do make a difference and we all have talents we can give with just a little bit of our time and hard work.”

WHS senior Josh Dabney, who volunteers with the Christian Cupboard, said finding the right place for his community service project wasn’t that difficult since he found a place that has a personal meaning to him.

“I actually got to go to Christian Cupboard once when my family was struggling, which is why I wanted to help out there,” he said. “We’re not in that state now, but other people are and they need the food every week, and it shows. I guess I can see both sides now.”

Strengthening through service

Participating in community service has not only proven to be a benefit to those in need, it has also taught students more about the world around them.

“You see all these different kinds of people and there are people that you wouldn’t think would need help,” Rath said. “It goes to show you that you can’t judge a book by its cover because you never know who needs help.”

WHS senior Rashad Roomes, who volunteers with Second Harvest, said volunteering as boosted his leadership and communication skills.

“I believe volunteering will not only better yourself, but everyone around you,” he said.

Dabney agrees.

“If you pick somebody else up, it really does benefit your life,” he said.

The benefits of volunteering aren’t solely reserved to individuals though.

“It strengthens the community because it brings people together,” said WHS senior Donovan Patterson, who volunteers with the women-empowerment organization the Cookie Movement.

Students and teachers agreed, though, that the biggest benefit of community service is understanding how lucky they truly are.

“You learn to appreciate things more,” Rath said. “I know a lot of people who take things for granted, but once you put yourself in that position and see what people have and don’t have, what you go through isn’t as bad as you think it is.

“If you see something that isn’t right, you should make the impact to change other people’s lives.”

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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