by TaLeiza Calloway – firstname.lastname@example.org
Students attending Kennedy Kidstop do more than play bingo and board games. They’re learning the value of community service as they run and play through the cafeteria of Kennedy Community School in St. Joseph.
The latest service project underway is the collection of towels to be donated to the Salvation Army’s Emergency Shelter. The after-school program will collect towels and washcloths until the end of the month. Collection of the towels started in January.
“I just figured they are here every day,” Erika Jagiella said. “They can make a difference.”
Kidstop is a school-age child care program for K-6 located at 13 schools in the St. Cloud, Sauk Rapids-Rice, Sartell-St. Stephen and Rocori school districts. Jagiella is the program manager for Kennedy Kidstop in St. Joseph. She brought the idea of collecting towels to her students after a fellow church member announced the Salvation Army’s need. While collection has been slow, her goal is not for students to get caught up in the number of towels collected but for them to know they can help those in need in their communities.
“My goal is to teach them something every day,” Jagiella said. “Whether it’s one child or one lesson, that’s important to me.”
The effort to help the Salvation Army is not the only service project the after-school program has done. Other service projects include preparing and donating Thanksgiving boxes filled with complete meals for local families, collecting and donating hats and mittens and working with the local giving tree to assist families during the holidays with gifts. Jagiella also hopes to coordinate a park-restoration project in Waite Park once the weather gets better.
Like most Kidstop locations, the Kennedy site has a Torch Club. This is a group of older students at the club who serve as role models for the younger students. Some of the members of the Torch Club at Kennedy have made fleece blankets to donate to the Children’s Hospital in the Twin Cities. They will deliver the blankets in March. Students are eager to see the reaction to their work.
“It feels good to help someone else,” Westin Hiltner said. “One day they could write you and say ‘thank you.’”
Hiltner, 10, of St. Joseph is a member of the Torch Club. Fellow club members Mitchell Hieserich, 11, and Reanna Borger, 9, also like knowing they can make a difference from a distance. Borger said helping others could inspire more to do the same.
“It makes me feel good inside,” Hieserich said of community service. “I’m learning how to be a better person and how to make a difference.”
Jagiella said teaching students about the value of community service early is beneficial to their overall development. Her favorite thing to see is the sense of accomplishment on their faces.
Community service is important to Jagiella and something she grew up witnessing from her mother who is a nurse in Wisconsin. The St. Cloud State University alumna brought this value with her to St. Joseph and hopes her students don’t forget the value of community service as they advance. Teaching them early is key.
“I feel it’s important (to teach them early) so it continues as they grow,” she said.
Kennedy Kidstop is open 2:10-6p.m. Monday-Friday at Kennedy Community School, 1300 Jade Road.