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VIEWPOINT: It's a true blessing to see students serving together

New Life Academy of Woodbury served its community en masse. (Submitted photo)1 / 4
Lucy Pedro, left, Cara Grohn, Brooke Weichbrodt and Elaina Carsten don the locally famous Feed My Starving Children hairnet at a massive citywide event earlier this month. (Submitted photo)2 / 4
Redeat Teshome of New Life Academy of Woodbury helps pack meals for kids a world away. (Submitted photo)3 / 4
Three volunteers from New Life Academy of Woodbury -- Maya Binsfeld, left, Mackenzie Porupsky and Kayla Binsfeld made up a pouring team at the Feed My Starving Children event at Bielenberg Sports Center Oct. 8-11. (Submitted photo)4 / 4

The students at New Life Academy have a heart for service, and they let it be known Thursday, Oct. 8, at a community-wide event for an organization they are proud to serve: Feed My Starving Children. At the Woodbury Area Prayer Breakfast last year, Mark Crea, the executive director of Feed My Starving Children challenged the city of Woodbury to a community-wide mobile pack event to prepare and package meals for the hungry. NLA students in Grades 6-12 took the first shift at the FMSC event at Bielenberg Sports Center and packed 807 boxes which totals 185,000 meals and equates to 507 kids fed for a year.

“I feel that New Life Academy is a tremendous part of the Woodbury community, and we really want to be working alongside the community with something like this,” said Cade Lambert, head of school at New Life Academy. This community-wide service project was an opportunity NLA could not pass up.

New Life Academy promotes three pillars to instill in students; service, leadership and scholarship. “Service is something that sets NLA apart from other schools,” said Becky Wallerick, academic dean at New Life. Staff works to lay the groundwork to prepare the hearts of students for service because it is important that they have the opportunity to do things outside of themselves for others, said Lynn Atkinson, secondary principal.

Feed My Starving Children, otherwise known as FMSC, is not a new organization to these students. Because FMSC is a ministry focused on serving children, the students form a special connection by serving other kids around the world.

These students have a heart for people around the world. On Wednesday mornings, NLA students run “Buy a Coffee, Buy a Well,” an organization started by New Life Academy students a few years ago that continues to run. Students make and sell drinks, and the proceeds go to fund wells in villages where there is not access to running water, Wallerick said. Students at New Life have a heart for service, whether it’s through their own initiatives like “Buy a Coffee, Buy a Well,” through their churches, or other organizations, Lambert said.

FMSC has students use little M&M bottles to collect quarters and turn in as fundraising for their work. NLA donated an M&M bottle to each secondary student at the Academy prior the the MobilePack event. Staff was confident that the majority of the students would return the bottles full with quarters. Overall, NLA students raised roughly $1,200 through the M&M bottles on Oct. 8. This event was the perfect example of a community coming together.

“It was cool that all three schools (Woodbury, East Ridge and NLA) could get together and work for one big cause,” said Julia Stone, a senior at NLA.

Teachers, parents, and students alike were overjoyed and powerfully impacted to see high schools of the Woodbury community come together for people who could use food to eat. 

Atkinson reflects, “As an educator, it is a true joy so see your entire student body working together for a cause bigger than themselves. To see the hearts of students in action serving is a true blessing.”

Lauren Vigar wrote this Viewpoint for the Woodbury Bulletin.