Contributed by Joseph Bush and his Leadership Through Service program students, Elk Grove High School
On October 28, 2018 Elk Grove High School’s Leadership Through Service (LTS) program, in partnership with the Shinnyo-en Chicago Temple and Shinnyo-en Foundation, hosted a family service event at Elk Grove High School. This was the first time that the event was held at the high school under the great leadership of the Elk Grove High School’s LTS program. Based on the number of participants and the amount of service completed, it was a great success. The relationship between Elk Grove’s LTS and Shinnyo-en Foundation has grown exponentially over the past several years and we continue to look forward to the leadership and modeling that Shinnyo-en Foundation provides for our young leaders.
At the start of the service event we brought the group together to introduce everyone and introduce the projects that were going to be completed. The students from Elk Grove described the projects and the organizations that were being serviced. The organizations included: WINGS, The DuPage Senior Citizens Council, Project Linus, The Humanitarian Service Project and the Kenneth Young Center. Project descriptions are listed briefly below:
Wings – Putting together Christmas gift bags for children
The DuPage Senior Citizens Council – Making goodie bags for the Meals on Wheels Program
Project Linus – Making no sew fleece blankets
The Humanitarian Service Project – Putting together hygiene kits for senior citizens
Kenneth Young Center – Making affirmation cards
After the introductions, we began the service projects and everyone chose a different area to work. During this time, there was a very positive interaction at an intergenerational level. Nate Kraemer from LTS commented, “It was really cool that people from different areas were able to come together as a community. When we were making the blankets, there was an elementary student, a college student and several older members of Shinnyo-en, but we all were kind to each other and the Shinnyo-en members were interested in what we were doing and what we do in the class. It felt like a group of friends working together.” That point was reiterated by Stephanie Garcia who said, “It was a great experience to learn about everyone’s different stories. It was a great way to demonstrate teamwork, which was the big takeaway for the event.”
During the time together, many of the group members moved from station to station to learn about new service projects, as well as to make new friends. Julia Blaszko said, “It was a way to get together with a diverse group of people across the community to make an impact on strangers’ lives in the long term.” Stevie Burton also commented that, “It was fun to see how easy it was to make a difference while having fun with friends and people from the community.” It was also very clear that the large number of people made a difference in the results we were able to achieve. Jake Mizalko said, “When I was talking with the leader of the event, she was so appreciative of all our hard work and collaboration. She mentioned that with just a couple people from her group, it would take days to complete all the activities we finished in a couple hours. This was eye opening to me because it showed that with determination and an end goal, you can achieve so much with the right people.” Overall, the various projects were completed successfully and everyone had a fun time.
At the end of the event, we came together in a circle and reflected on the successes of the day. Many different people spoke about how happy they were to work collaboratively and make a difference. Gabi Kulik said, “Working as a community was very helpful to learn about how to speak with others.” She would like to get more people together to see the event grow. Others commented on the fact that they never knew an event like this existed and they wanted to make sure to do it again in spring or even next year. We all learned that the servant’s heart is what we all need to lead and to grow as people and as leaders.
Joseph Bush teaches a class called Leadership Through Service at Elk Grove High School, IL. Its mission is to leave a legacy while developing leaders who serve and inspire others. The vision is to build a world-class service-learning program, which develops stronger leaders and lifelong learners. Throughout his class the students focus on direct leadership training and then supplement that training with service opportunities where they can practice what they have been taught.
Please view more photos from the Family Service Event at Elk Grove High School here.