Connected within the world
Arts and Technology High School students took a slightly different approach to learning last week. Students spent half a regular school day volunteering before they reconvened and reflected on their experiences.
"The purpose is getting our students connected within the world," said Principal Saskia Dresler. "So many times teens can be made to feel that they have to wait before they can have an impact, but we know that's not true."
On Thursday, Nov. 29, Art Tech students split into groups and volunteered at either the Northwest Children's Outreach Center in Portland or the Volunteers of America Family Recovery Support Center in Gresham. At the children's outreach center, students folded and sorted clothing and at the recov-
ery center, students helped clean.
"I think it's always good to take a little bit of time away from the people you know well and yourself, and go to people you don't really know and help them because everyone always needs a little bit of help," said junior Sophia Gelinas, who volunteered at the children's outreach center organizing and sorting clothes.
While Art Tech staff has led students on various volunteering expeditions in the past, the idea of a service-oriented trip sparked from students themselves.
"(Students) want to recognize the fact that their living situation and life experiences are in a more positive place at the moment compared to many people in our state. So it's really coming from the heart where they felt this empathy," said William Lee, science teacher and student activities coordinator. "One of the things our school would like to do more is really connect with the community much more than it currently is. This field trip could help start developing that sense of service."
Junior Austin Morrison volunteered at the recovery center by cleaning the children's room and the living room. And it wasn't his first time in that type of environment — his mother runs the Second Chance House, a clean and sober house in Hillsboro.
"It was basically me doing what I do on the weekend," he said, adding that it was interesting to see how the different recovery centers operate. "We basically teach them how to be sober and how to have fun without drugs and alcohol; how to live on your own and do your own chores and stuff."
Dresler said it's important for students to see how they can contribute to the world and to open up their minds to possible career paths. After students volunteered they presented their responses to deep-thinking questions during a reflection activity.
Dresler said a response to a question about what students thought were underlying issues in the community stood out to her. A student brought up a lack of education as one possibility.
"Having an education can be a pathway to a strong and stable life," Dresler said.
Dresler plans to increase and emphasize the importance of expeditions this year with the help of Lee. Future plans include a higher education expedition that will explore college and apprenticeship programs and a nature trip involving hiking, an activity on the water or snowshoeing, which students have done in the past.
Dresler would like to do a service expedition more than once a year so students feel comfortable volunteering in the community.
"It's a really good teaching experience because we get to learn about how life works if you make the wrong decision for something," Morrison said. "People out there are in need and they sometimes can't get that help. It's good to try and help them the best you can."