By Cassie Bingham, Communications Specialist
Each year seniors from Juan Diego Catholic High School experience a very unique week, free of the lectures, homework, and quizzes of normal high school life. Instead, they are encouraged by their principal and teachers to leave school and enter community organizations to perform an entire week of service. Juan Diego's motto is "Spiritus Donorum" or the spirit of giving. We appreciate the students and staff putting this motto into action, because for the last two years we have had incredible teams of Juan Diego students elect Guadalupe School as their organization of choice.
For the charter school kids it was a pleasant surprise to be greeted by new faces of young people willing to help during their first week back to school after the winter break. The Juan Diego seniors interacted with students from all of the charter grades, playing games with them during PE, being math tutors, putting together skits for the school assembly, and running a week long one-on-one reading program.
Students were delighted to have new role models who were so willing to make friends and have fun, while also helping them learn valuable tools and lessons. This was most evident during the reading program the Juan Diego volunteers did with Guadalupe fourth graders. Twenty-six fourth graders received personal reading help from the thirteen Juan Diego students each day for the entire week. By the end of the week, twelve of the fourth graders had increased by one level in reading fluency and four had increased by two levels! All together, the Juan Diego volunteers executed 126 one-on-one reading tutoring sessions. By the end, the seniors had forged bonds with their Guadalupe student counterparts, and each of them wrote personal letters encouraging the kids to keep working hard and moving forward.
The Juan Diego seniors not only worked with Guadalupe kids, they also got to meet a few of their parents! In order to help document the powerful stories of the families at our school, the volunteers interviewed several moms. They had the opportunity to discuss their immigration stories, the challenges of raising a family in a new culture and language, and their hopes and dreams for their children's futures. The moms were impressed with the maturity and kindness of the volunteers, and the volunteers were inspired by the stories they were able to hear.
Guadalupe School could not be happier about the example set by such wonderful high school seniors, nor more grateful for their help to both students and staff. We look forward to welcoming more Juan Diego volunteers in the future, and hope that Guadalupe School students will follow similar paths of success and service!