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Kids and a Teacher Make a Difference at Colfax Elementary

Posted By Karen Young On July 28, 2009 @ 11:49 pm In Featured,School News,Schools | 1 Comment

IMG_1340.JPG copyBY BJ NATHAN HEGEDUS

Summer is without a question here. At noon, the day is sultry hot, rapidly approaching triple digits. A haze hangs over the nearby hills as I walk into Gail Craven’s classroom at Colfax Charter Elementary School located in Valley Village.

I’ve come to meet and talk with  the Summer Youth Council which meets here five days a week from nine until one o’clock. Today they have just come back from the Food Bank at First Christian Church, having spent the morning bundling and distributing food. The four-week program is open to any student at no cost. All one needs to bring is the desire to perform community service and a sack lunch.

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Members of the Summer Youth Council (L-R) Isabella, 11; Greta,10; Amber,10; Alexis Walker,11, and teacher, Gail Craven. (Not pictured: Hailey Carter, Chase Wilmot, David Williams, Benjamin Markus, Austin Wilmot, Natalie Stark, Rachel Sloat, Julia Green, Megan Arian). Photo: Angela Gordon.

Craven, a fifth grade teacher with 28 years of experience, was slated to teach summer school until classes were canceled due to budget cuts.  Wanting to do something for and with her students that went beyond money restraints she came up with the idea of a community service program.

Fifth grade curriculum at Colfax Elementary involved leadership and service activities. Over the course of last year students organized book drives and ran a recycling program.

“They raised money for soccer balls to be sent to a school in Africa without any sports equipment.  President Obama’s call for everyone to find a way in which to  serve their country deeply resonated with these kids and some of them wanted to keep going,” says Craven. “The Summer Youth Council is a way for them to continue to do so beyond traditional school.”

The Summer Youth Council members volunteer through out the week at a Head Start program, a senior citizen center and a community garden, besides working at the food bank. There are a total of ten kids on the council with an average of five or six showing up each day. All the places they volunteer at are within walking distance from Colfax.

“While it is important to think globally, I wanted to emphasize to the council that volunteering is something that they can do individually and in their neighborhood,” explains Craven, who is a prime example since she is volunteering as a mentor to the council.

Five girls  sit at desks pushed together to form a big square table. They are eating lunch and working on a craft project; friendship bracelets that will be given in exchange for items donated to the food bank.

Four of the members are heading to middle school and one, Amber, 10, is going into fifth grade.  I ask them which activity they enjoy the most. Chase, says the food bank, “It feels good to hand a person food and see the smile on their face.”

“I like the senior center,” Alexis, 11, says, “I like to help serve the food and play bingo.”

Hailey, Greta and Amber think the Head Start hours are the most fun.  “I like how happy the kids are when we get there,” Amber says, smiling.

I ask them why they want to be a part of this council, when they could be sleeping in late or playing video games.

“Every little bit helps,” says Greta, 10.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world. Ghandi said that,” says Hailey, 11, looking up from the bracelet she is working on.

Out of the mouths of babes.

BJ Nathan Hegedus has been a Valley Village resident for over twenty years, often writing about life near the intersection of the 134 and the 101. She is currently at work on a collection of stories about growing up in N.Y.C.

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