SCHERERVILLE | Forest Ridge Academy has a special tradition of service learning and community service projects. The last day of school before the holiday break in December is set aside for service initiatives that range from visiting the elderly to making blankets for St. Joseph Carmelite Home children.
Every student in the school, from preschool to eighth grade, participates in this day filled with service to others. The gymnasium is transformed into a “factory” sectioned off into various stations.
At one end of the gym, students mix ingredients to make snacks to aid the Westminster Presbyterian Church group that helps feed a local men’s homeless shelter. In another corner, students fold and wrap used coats for We Care from the Heart Social Services.
Other students visit local nursing homes and spend the day singing, playing games, and talking to the elderly. Door hangers are created for Hospice of the Calumet Area patients, greeting cards are designed for the Veterans Hospital, lunch bags are decorated for Meals on Wheels clients and toys are cleaned and organized for St. Jude House shelter.
"Service to others is an integral part of the daily curriculum at Forest Ridge Academy," said Thespena Panos of FRA.
Service learning projects differ from community service in that students are given opportunities to engage in problem-solving, gain knowledge of specific community challenges and identify the most important issues within a real world situation.
Some service learning projects are multi-faceted. The second grade has created a Green Team that audits energy usage in the school and manages a recycling program that not only benefits the community and the school, but also provides much needed funds to the Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Disabled Veterans.
Participation in the Dream Machine Recycle Rally, sponsored by PepsiCo and Waste Management, has presented the second graders with an opportunity to not only study the benefits of recycling, but to develop a relationship with local veterans and discover the true meaning of patriotism. As a part of their studies, the students presented a Veteran’s Day program to honor local veterans.
To raise further awareness and understanding, each month the students create pictures and cards delivered to the Veteran’s Hospital and nursing homes the third Sunday of every month by local American Legion Post members.
Middle school classes attack the global issues of poverty, hunger and over population, learning that homelessness is a major concern in the U.S., especially for women and children. The students then bring it back to their own community by partnering with a women’s day shelter, the Sojourner Truth House in Gary.
To raise funds, the students create and sell Boo Grams, lollipops dressed as ghosts, and collect travel size bottles of soap, shampoo and conditioner for the day residents.