My brother James Scott, author of The Kept and creator of TK Podcast, wrote the most lovely piece about our mom as part of the Dedicate Your No-Trump Vote. From the Dedicate Your No-Trump Vote website: “Acclaimed novelist, Julianna Baggott, wrote a simple Facebook post, dedicating her No Trump Vote…Within days, it had been shared over 1100 times… The act of writing the dedication felt hopeful, and it seemed to have struck a chord. So Julianna and David Scott decided to invite others to join her…The line-up of writers include a Pulitzer-prizewinner, New York Times bestselling novelists, a National Book Award-winner, critically acclaimed poets, as well as social workers, teachers, a folksinger, even a retired lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Army Special Forces…These dedications are powerful — they’re personal narratives that create empathy, which is something we all need.”

Regardless of your political leanings, I hope we can all agree our world needs more kindness and empathy. My brother recognizes my mom as the best person he knows because of her unfailing commitment to giving everything she could to “helping others, taking care of them, and making sure someone is listening to them.” (A high bar!)

While I can never hope to top this beautifully written homage to my mother’s saintliness, I can fulfill this family legacy by instilling in my daughter the importance of volunteerism. She has been introduced to fundraising, and she has been to her share of community events, but I was so excited when her teacher introduced an ongoing partnership with her class and their first grade buddies and the local Meals on Wheels program – for me, so nice to have the message reinforced by another respected adult and to know her classmates have been introduced to the idea.

The teachers first invited the Meals on Wheels Executive Director to the class to talk about its mission and activities. Then during their “buddies time,” they made cards to be delivered with the meals. I went with them to tour the facility; they asked amazing questions about fundraising activities, meal preparation logistics, and how they can help. Later in the year they hope to have kids deliver meals. I’m hoping for Pen Pals or senior reading buddies, too!

Does service learning have a place in schools? There are many definitions of service learning, but the simplest is a teaching method that incorporates community involvement into course work. I found this great outline of service learning benefits:

Students Gain:

  • 21st century skills: critical-thinking, problem-solving, leadership, decision-making, collaboration, and communication.
  • Real-world experience connected to academic subjects.
  • Greater sense of the purpose for learning.
  • Deeper understanding of themselves and empathy and respect for others.
  • Opportunities to explore skills and interests and to network for career readiness.
  • Guided practice in taking action as socially responsible global citizens.
  • Increased self-efficacy as they address community needs.

Schools Gain:

  • Deeper connection between academic knowledge and real-world applications.
  • Increased pro-social behavior and student engagement.
  • An effective drop-out prevention strategy.
  • A focus for school improvement.
  • Improved school climate.
  • Positive school-community relationships.

Communities Gain:

  • Energy and creativity of youth in addressing community needs.
  • Opportunities to build positive relationships between community members and schools.
  • New perspectives on youth as assets, not liabilities.
  • New generation of caring and experienced citizens, activists and volunteers – tomorrow’s civic leaders.
  • Increased public awareness of key issues.

Who has time to make a regular commitment to volunteer? Not many of us, which is again why we should support teachers in connecting kids with their communities. Perhaps parents can volunteer in school or work somewhere with connections to ongoing volunteer opportunities or can incorporate volunteering into holiday plans.

It feels great to do something good. I got this leaf-note from my daughter’s classmate when we got back to school after the field trip. It says “Happy Halloween. You are the best.” In this crazy, insult-filled election cycle, we all need to hear and say “you are the best” more.img_2691

Photo: Morrisville Elementary School 1st and 3rd grade buddies from Ms. Haskins’s and Mr. Gedmin’s classes.

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