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Almost seven years ago, Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas’ Outreach Team embarked on a journey to connect local Catholic schools to the work and mission of our agency.  The team landed on what is now called a School Serve Experience, where Catholic Charities staff coordinate learning activities, service projects, and field trips for students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade. 

The goal of a School Serve Experience is to:

  1. Equip students with an understanding of Catholic Social teaching and its practical application in the world today.
  2. Empower students to be socially aware of the needs of the poor and vulnerable in our community.
  3. Engage students in the mission and work of our agency.

During a School Serve Experience, Catholic Charities staff lead students in prayer to center the day. Afterwards, staff share an overview of our agency’s mission and the vision and importance of the gospel and Matthew verses 25:35, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me.” 

After educating the students, each grade then takes on a service project that benefits one of our agency’s 30+ programs. Everything is made age appropriate for the students.

Examples of typical projects per grade are:

  • Kindergarten students bag fresh fruit for our Family Support Centers (FSCs).
  • First grade students put together baby kits for our Pregnancy Maintenance Initiative (PMI).
  • Second grade students create hygiene kits to hand out on our Resource Bus.
  • Third grade students make bags for our Foster Grandparent program.
  • Fourth grade students participate in “spice my plate” and create transitional food bags to hand out at our FSCs.
  • Fifth grade students make cleaning kits.
  • Sixth grade students participate in a poverty simulation. 
  • Seventh grade students volunteer at one of our TurnStyles Thrift Store locations.
  • Eighth grade students volunteer at our Hope Distribution Center (HDC).

“First and foremost, a School Serve Experience provides K-8 students a tangible opportunity to serve those in our community. It is also a chance to encounter and learn more about the Corporal Works of Mercy, where students discover firsthand the importance of volunteering and service,” said Kendra Dudasko, Outreach Coordinator. “School Serve Experiences can also empower students to go out and help outside of this activity. Children are made aware that they are capable of helping others at any age.”

School Serve Experiences are not only an educational event for students; they are extremely beneficial to our agency. All items collected during the experience are donated throughout our agency’s programs and immediately distributed to our clients.

“We are so thankful for the schools that participate in this hands-on experience that enables them to be the hands and feet of Christ,” added Kendra.

School Serve Experiences are coordinated throughout the school year in 13 Catholic schools across our Archdiocese. They have had so much success in our agency that our Community Engagement Team recently presented our model at the Catholic Charities USA Annual Gathering in Baltimore. This model has been adapted for churches and businesses.

If you interested in learning more about how Catholic Charities can provide a Serve Experience at your school, church or business contact our Community Engagement Team at [email protected].

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