Led for the third year by St. John’s teachers Gwendolyn Chestnut and Linda King, Commune with Your Community was a weeklong summer camp that gave participants an opportunity to earn school-required service hours while helping their community in a variety of ways.
During the camp, fifth through eighth graders visited a variety of Dallas organizations. Working inside and outdoors, they helped agencies that address the needs of animals, the elderly, homeless individuals and low-income families.
Together, they read books to toddlers at Vogel Alcove; performed skits at C.C. Young; delivered treats and served lunch at the Stew Pot; packaged food at White Rock Center of Hope; played with homeless animals at Dallas Animal Services; painted furniture for Dwell with Dignity; spruced up the playgrounds at Interfaith Housing Coalition; and taught 72 kids at the Wilkinson Center how to make slime.
Each activity involved a tour of the facility and an overview of the organization’s background and mission.
The camp included daily reflections and journaling at the end of each trip. Camp leaders provided questions to guide participants’ reflections, such as, “What types of people do you think you will meet this week?” and “Include something new you learned and something that made you happy or sad.”
According to their journals, all campers enjoyed the projects and felt excited about their contributions.
Eighth grader Clay Walters said: “This camp was awesome. It’s the first time I thought working was fun. The camp was also quite the learning experience and made me feel very good.”
Fifth grader Alyssa Manganello agreed. “I liked this camp a lot because I like helping and making a change,” she said. “I loved working with all different kinds of animals and people. I learned that just a couple of hours of community service can make a difference.”
In addition to the hands-on services, students collected donations for White Rock Center of Hope and created “Manna Bags” (food from heaven) containing snacks for clients at The Stewpot. They celebrated the week’s success by sharing their reflections with one another.
St. John’s will offer a second session of Commune with Your Community June 25-29. See stjohnsschool.org/summer for details. St. John’s Episcopal School is a Pre-K through eighth grade co-educational school in East Dallas. Created as an outreach of St. John’s Episcopal Church in 1953, St. John’s is the oldest Episcopal school in Dallas and remains committed to the five tenets of an Episcopal education.