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Students learn to focus on others, not themselves

Eighth-graders (from left) Trevor Woyda, Kylee Davidson and Moqui Huberty spoke from the heart and wowed teacher Jonnalee Buckel with their generosity during their community service project presentations last week. (Photo by Sarah Young)

So often in this busy day and age, we focus on ourselves and lose sight of how important it is to reach out to others.

St. Croix Central Middle School eighth-grade teacher Jonalee Buckel wants her students to learn the valuable lesson of helping other people.

“The holiday season -- whether celebrated as Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan or Kwanzaa -- is known as the season of giving,” Buckel said. “Students considered ways in which to give of their time or energies in order to help someone else during the holiday season.”

Each year, students in Buckel’s class read <I>A Cup of Christmas Tea<I> by Tom Hegg. The story is about a young man who dreads going to visit an elderly great-aunt at Christmas-time. Once he does, he realizes how important she is to him and how much it meant to her that he came.

Buckel motivates students to apply the lesson from the book to their own lives. She has implemented this project into her curriculum ever since she student-taught in Prescott 17 years ago.
“I think the Holiday Tea is a great way to get kids involved in their communities, relate to their relatives, and overall, offers a big-picture perspective to my students,” Buckel said. “Eighth-graders usually focus on their own lives; this activity allows for them to put someone else first. In doing so, students realize that they can positively affect those around them. Through donating their time and energies, my students learn the true meaning of giving.”

Each student was required to pick a way to help someone over the holidays. They had to write an essay on their acts of kindness and present it to the class when they returned from holiday break.

Some ideas students thought of included shoveling driveways, volunteering at local churches, organizing a food drive, writing a letter to grandparents who live far away and visiting elderly relatives at a care center.

Buckel chose three students who had the best essays and projects: Trevor Woyda, Moqui Huberty and Kylee Davidson.

Woyda chose to help with a local food drive at Peace Lutheran Church in Baldwin with his confirmation class. He said another church from the area was hosting a food drive at the same time.

“We decided to make it a challenge to see who could collect the most food in the Baldwin area,” Woyda said. “This food was later given out to people who desperately needed food this holiday season. In the end, no one won the challenge of collecting the most food. Everyone won because we all helped someone in need this holiday season.”

Huberty visited her ailing grandfather, Buckel said.
“‘No one has ever become poor from giving,’” Huberty said, quoting Anne Frank. “When you give, you never really become poor because you receive gratitude and love in return for your gifts. Giving is something joyous and beautiful and always is received with open arms and love. What is the world without a little love and gratitude?”

Davidson made cookies and brought them to shut-ins in Baldwin. Davidson said it was a group effort.

“Baldwin has a lot of shut-ins, people who don’t leave their house often or at all,” Davidson said. “It also has many elderly people, similar to shut-ins, but much older. Each one of us wanted to help the people and give them a bit more joy this holiday season.”

Buckel’s class will do another community service project during spring break.