Elkhart students are learning character education through activities that engage their hearts and minds in solving problems that matter. Activities at all grade levels encourage involvement in community-minded concerns, from canned food, toy, or blood drives to highway clean-up and book donation projects.
Starting at the primary level, students attend weekly assemblies that generate excitement for character values such as responsibility, kindness, respect, and citizenship. The young students, from kindergarten to second grade, learn by watching speeches, role plays and celebrations about character traits
Elkhart schools encourage their 1,200 students to stay involved as they progress through each of the four campuses. Elkhart Middle School’s student council collected nonperishable foods in November for United Charities of Elkhart, a joint effort among churches that serve residents of Elkhart and Slocum.
Eighth grade student Madison Perry, vice president of the middle school’s student council, explained why the students’ food donations are important.
“There’s a lot of people that aren’t as fortunate as us with food,” Perry said. “And we thought that some donations of cans would be really beneficial for them.”
Student involvement also includes helping load, unload, and stock items at the food pantry throughout the year by different student organizations or campuses so each gets a chance to participate. At all levels, students are developing citizenship.
Superintendent Lamont Smith of Elkhart schools said student organizations and their sponsors determine collaboratively which services to adopt.
“We believe that if we make our students aware of the needs in the community and abroad, we can build and point our children to make a positive impact on the community, county, state and nation,” Smith said. “To be an excellent citizen it requires you to give back and respect the people around you.”
Secondary students participate as part of organizations such as band or athletics or with academic clubs such as National Honor Society, Interact, Future Teachers of America, National Art Honor Society and Spanish Club. Each group adopts their own project with guidance from an adviser.
Spanish Club recently started a book collection and library at the Anderson County Jail, while middle school students and the high school band participated in the Palestine Veterans Day Parade.
Some December projects include Toys for Tots collections at the intermediate, middle school and high school. Future Teachers of America will host a Head Start Christmas party, and the high school band will participate in nursing home tours and Palestine’s Christmas Parade of Lights.
February activities at Elkhart High School include a blood drive organized by the Student Council, Valentines for soldiers by the Interact Club and Valentines for veterans by Quill & Scroll, an honor society for journalism students.
Smith said the Elkhart school district provides opportunities for students to learn through service learning opportunities.
“Citizenship means we look after other people and provide resources,” Smith said. “It also means taking on projects and seeing them to fruition.”
Service learning opportunities over the next three weeks before the winter holiday include donations to Toys for Tots or the school district’s Family Tree, which provides gifts to families in need.
United Charities of Elkhart opens at 9 a.m. the first Thursday of each month at First Baptist Church of Elkhart.
For information about Elkhart schools, visit www.elkhartisd.org.