While their junior classmates were busy with the second day of state testing on April 24, freshmen and sophomores at Proviso East High School gave a helping hand to the community as they took part in the school’s third annual Service Learning Day.
About 900 students helped out with projects at Proviso East and as far away as Chicago, serving 18 organizations. They planted vegetables and flowers at community gardens in the Proviso Township area, read to students at Garfield Elementary School and Melrose Park Elementary School, and helped to gather supplies for the needy, among other tasks.
Ms. Marcia LaPorte, a Proviso East art teacher who helped to coordinate the Service Learning Day, said that the day has quickly become a tradition at Proviso East where students, teachers, and the community work together for the common good.
"Each year, the number of service providers increases and the number of enthusiastic faculty who are participating increases," Ms. LaPorte said. "The students are learning while they’re volunteering to help."
At the Maywood Park District Building, two groups of students worked on different projects. One group made cat toys for CatVando, a Maywood-based organization that rescues stray cats. Ms. Ellen Miles, the group’s president, said that the students are "an incredible group of kids, very creative."
Marquise Haynes, a Proviso East sophomore, said that he opted to help CatVando because he was inspired by the number of stray cats in his grandmother’s neighborhood.
"A lot of people don’t have toys for their cats or dogs," he said. "I like making them and it’s a fun thing to do."
Another group of students worked at the Forest Park Community Garden at the corner of I-290 and Harlem Avenue, planting vegetables. Fantasia Perkins, a Proviso East sophomore, said that she enjoyed working outside and planned to return to the garden later this summer to check on how the vegetables are doing, while Kamilah Mobley, a fellow Proviso East sophomore, said that she hoped to encourage other students to be willing to serve in the community.
"If we start doing this, more people will do serve," Kamilah said.
The students who took part in the Service Learning Day earned volunteer hours that can be applied to their community service requirement, Ms. LaPorte said. Those students who did not participate stayed at school and learned about civic responsibility and other issues such as safe driving, positive self-image, anti-bullying, teen health, and drug and alcohol abuse.
Mr. Tony Valente, principal at Proviso East, said that the Service Learning Day is a good opportunity for students.
"By participating in Service Learning Day, they are able to learn about the community around them, see the needs that exist, and help do something about them," he said. "The community benefits and the students benefit."
Organizations that were served by students from Proviso East were: