Juan Diego students provide service to community
Jan 19, 2017 05:57PM ● Published by Julie Slama
Juan Diego CHS Senior Lorena Quiles helps students at Jordan School District’s Kauri Sue Hamilton School during Senior Service Project week. (Phyllis Marston/JDCHS)
About 180 Juan Diego Catholic High School students will learn to provide by serving others during the school’s second annual Senior Service Project.
During the week of Jan. 9, students traded in their textbooks to perform community service for 26 agencies from North Salt Lake to Draper, reaching over the Wasatch Mountains to Park City, said Dave Brunetti, Juan Diego director of campus life and service.
“We want students to put aside their day-to-day ‘stuff’ and to be conscious of another human being and to be of service,” he said. “The more they know, sense, have the taste of serving, the more they may volunteer, reach others in the community and teach Catholic social justice. At the same time, they are learning life skills in scheduling, meeting responsibilities and organization.”
In November, students learned through a “big announcement” of their assignment with an agency and had time to set up their schedules and carpools. In December, the students had an orientation with the agency, where they toured the facility as well as learned who to report to and what is expected.
“We want students to walk in and get right to work helping. We want them to be directly involved in the population they serve, not organizing a storage room or filing papers,” Brunetti said.
Many of the agencies are working with special-needs students, as well as veterans. Some students volunteer with refugee children, helping with the homeless, and helping in after-school programs and in other agencies.
Brunetti said this time works well when many agencies are in need of volunteers, as many church and youth groups like to give time when the holiday spirit moves them. Winter months are difficult for volunteer-driven charities when inclement weather dissuades many retired volunteers from serving, he added.
“We want our young people to hear the stories, realize how very difficult life can be for some, and learn how much they can impact a person who is struggling and feels forgotten,” he said.
The program was introduced last year. Previously, students just had the requirement to give 100 hours of service.
“Some traveled the world on humanitarian missions, while others did the bare minimum. While raking leaves in the neighborhood was an important act of kindness, we were concerned that most of our students never came in contact with those most vulnerable members of our society. It’s one thing to prepare students for college and career, quite another to teach them to care,” he said.
Through a major undertaking, the school administration identified a diverse group of agencies and offered to them service from the school’s high school seniors.
“It worked well last year. About 90 percent of our seniors already have been accepted to college, but it is an experience they include on applications and resumes. It also opened the door to about 20 students who volunteered beyond their week to serve through the rest of the year. Some worked into an internship and for others, it became employment,” Brunetti said.
Brunetti said for many students, the week brings a significant impact on their lives.
“Many students can’t expect to realize what they’ll feel and learn when they prepare food and the homeless stands before them with two kids,” he said. “Nothing can mirror that experience.”