Guest Post ~ Service Learning Teen Shares Some Take-Aways from his Project

This spring, I’ve had the pleasure (and sometimes the pain!) of working with 7 Ipswich teens from the high school’s junior class, including my own son, Mark.  Every single junior is required to do 25 hours of community service and my idea was to mentor a few groups in service learning projects from start to finish… It’s been a learning experience on all sides, I’d have to say! While I could  (and should, and will) share a post on the experience from my perspective at some point, here’s the summary paper written by one of the participants. (Yes, it’s my son’s write-up. Know that I was harder on him than the other teens ~ yes I’m one of those moms who sets the bar high ~ it’s good for them!). 

DeClutter For Good Sports Equipment Drive Summary 

By Mark Gallant 

           My community service project was full of experiences and unique opportunities and I feel that I have greatly benefited from the time that I put in. For my project, I organized and ran a sports equipment drive, with the help of two of my friends and classmates, Will G and Brendan C, under the social enterprise Time Well Spent. Over the past couple of months, we have learned many skills that will be useful in the outside world, such as contacting businesses, spreading information through a number of different sources, and managing time. 

Some pics of Mark sorting and transporting donated sports equipment. DeClutter For Good drives involve a lot of moving of stuff!

            The first step we had to take was planning the drive. At first the process seemed simple, but on the contrary, there were many things to be done in order to have a successful experience. Perhaps the most important of the steps was researching organizations that would be able to take the sports equipment to where it was needed. This was the entire purpose of our community service project, getting sports equipment to kids who do not have the same privileges that we are so accustomed to. For the most part, kids in our school have had the privilege to play sports, whether it be playing on a Little League team or shooting hoops in the driveway. Some kids, however, grow up without this privilege. There are entire communities of children that may have as many sports goods that one family in Ipswich has, which isn’t right in my mind. Many of us have garages filled with old sporting goods that are no longer touched, and there’s no reason why these unused goods shouldn’t be given to someone who has nothing. Time Well Spent has monthly drives called DeClutter For Good Drives, which target a specific item every month to be donated. The purpose of these drives is to not only get unneeded clutter out of the house, but to also be helping those in need. 

            We did manage to find three reputable organizations to accept donations from us; Playing it Forward, in Framingham, Sports Gift, in Holbrook, and Cornerstones in Ipswich. Playing it Forward gives its donated goods to underprivileged youths around the state. Sports Gift brings its donated goods to somewhere much farther, but with the same intentions, as they take sports equipment all the way to Liberia. Cornerstones is a school in Ipswich for children who need a safe place to stay and be educated. All three of these organizations were excellent finds and definitely reliable. When we found out where we could take the donations, we needed to spread the word of the drive around the community, which we did in a few different ways. Perhaps the most helpful of these was our experience with the Ipswich Chronicle, which I am sure we will never forget. 

            In order to spread the word of our drive, we wrote a letter to the editor of the Ipswich Chronicle. We wrote about what the drive was about and what we were looking for, and the letter was published the next week. What we did not expect was a call from one of the writers, wanting to do a follow-up article regarding the drive. We met with the reporter, Jane Dooley, the following week, and were interviewed about the drive. She asked us questions such as why we chose to do the drive and how we benefit and learn from it. After we were interviewed, a photographer took our pictures for the paper, which is easier said than done. Our “photo shoot” lasted about a half hour and the photographer had us in a few different poses with some of the sports equipment, taking a few dozen pictures of each pose. The article ended up landing on the front page of The Chronicle, with a funny picture of us that I’m sure we never forget. 

            Although our work with The Chronicle was the most unique experience we had, we also spread word of the drive through the school system. At both the Doyon and Winthrop Elementary schools, as well as the high school, we put up flyers and had an announcement run over the PA system. These locations are also where we placed collection boxes, which was the next step of the drive. We had to find large boxes and make sure the schools were fine with us putting the boxes in the lobbies. Once the drive was over, we collected the boxes, and sorted the equipment into what each of the three organizations would be getting. Then we transported the sports equipment to the organizations, finishing our part of the drive. 

            I felt that our idea and the way we accomplished what we set out to do made this a successful project and learning experience. We learned a lot about running a drive, and even though we did not do everything perfectly, it worked out in the end. There were definitely bumps in the road, as there were a few occasions where we were unsure of what to do or became stuck. One example is how we had trouble finding the boxes to place at the schools. Since we expected a good amount of goods to be donated, we knew that we would need large boxes, but did not know where to find them. This delayed us a bit, but eventually we got our hands on a couple refrigerator boxes, which were perfect for the job. We did end up getting a pretty good amount of items, and although there could have been more potential donations, we knew that this was a learning experience and we were not going to end up with truck loads of used sports equipment. 

        We also had our share of fun doing the drive. Since we’re all friends, we shared a number of laughs and had a good time whenever we were working. We would also usually end up getting food together afterwards, which was always something to look forward to. I feel that doing the community service project with friends was a good decision because even though it was a serious project, there’s nothing wrong with having some fun with it as well. We all found the project to be very rewarding because it was easy to feel good about ourselves when we saw how successful we were with a drive that we organized and managed ourselves. We also hope to take the knowledge we gained from this experience with us in life, as many of the skills necessary for this drive can be applied to other areas in life. There was a certain sense of responsibility that was needed for this project because we knew we had to follow through with it and not just give up. I feel like our project is different than most other students because we weren’t going and doing the same thing every day after school for a certain chunk of time like many kids do, but instead we were doing something different almost every time we met. I am glad that I chose to do this drive and I hope in the future that other students will do something similar because of everything it can do, not only for the people being helped, but also for the one helping. 

HOURS WORKED TALLY/Time Sheet 

  • 2/14- Picked up and moved objects from a house in Hamilton to Nancy’s office – 2 hr
  • 2/31- Videoed Nancy for her Pepsi Refresh Contest Entry – 1 hr
  • 3/1- Researched organizations and e-mailed them regarding the drive – 3 hr
  • 3/7- Went to the local YMCA, wrote letter to the editor, and made a Facebook Group for Time Well Spent – 3 hr
  • 3/9- Created a flyer for the drive to post around the schools – 1 hr
  • 3/10- Further online research regarding the drive – 1 hr
  • 3/15- Interviewed by Jane Dooley of the Ipswich Chronicle about the drive – 2 hr
  • 3/16- Went around to the local schools and asked them if we could put boxes in their lobbies – 1 hr
  • 3/23- Stayed at Nancy’s office for the drop-off day to greet donaters – 6 hr
  • 4/5- Picked up boxes from the schools – 1 hr
  • 4/17- Met with Nancy regarding the final steps that needed to be taken – 1 hr
  • 4/20- Sorted the sports equipment and divided it into what organization it would be going to – 2 hr
  • 4/23- Brought the sports equipment to the organizations that were to receive them- 4 hr
  • 5/3- Wrote a thank you note to the Ipswich Chronicle for their help – 1 hr
  • Total- 29 hours
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