By Megan Jones, Senior Administrator at CEP

Service learning — both the opportunity to reach out to the community, as well as the benefit students receive — doesn’t go away when the school year ends. The summer is a great time for children to be able to undertake a project without being pulled away by homework, sports practices or other commitments.

Service LearningAs a new member of the CEP staff, I have always been passionate about giving back to the community whenever I can. Honestly, I’m not sure what sparked the desire for me, but I remember taking a strong interest in such projects as an elementary student. As an adult, I’m really inspired by the selfless spirit a lot of kids have. I think that the desire to give back is something innate in a lot of children, and as the adults around them we need to work to encourage this spirit rather than discouraging it to focus purely on other goals.

This past Friday night, I had the opportunity to lead a service project at my church, sponsored by the students of our annual Music Camp, in which we stuffed backpacks full of much-needed school supplies for 30 high school students in our county’s foster care system. While I really expected to feel exhilarated by the opportunity to meet such a crucial need, what really inspired me was our own youth.

These kids had already had a taxing week. Many of them had spent the week attending Vacation Bible School in the mornings followed by Music Camp in the afternoons, and had hosted their final events and performances for both of those activities that day. Instead of going home to do something fun after their busy days, many students and their families stayed late to serve others. Besides participating in the project itself, several children arrived early and offered assistance setting up;  others helped to clean up even as dinner was being served elsewhere in the building.

The highlight to me, though, came as I was checking each backpack to make sure it was complete and ready to send to the county representative assigned to the project. In each bag was a letter addressed to the recipient, from the child who packed the backpack. These letters, each addressed to a high school student from a rough background, came from children mostly between six and eleven years old, but many of them were more eloquent than I ever could have been. Where so many adults struggle with what to say, these children came from a place without preconceptions.

In cases like this, we adults really can learn from kids we teach.