“I believe that all students innately want to make the world a better place, but often are not given the opportunity to do so,” said Ms. Foster. “They don’t realize the power they hold! By providing opportunities to serve, and by showing students the power within themselves to do so, we are creating well-rounded, civic-minded young adults who put other’s needs ahead of their own. Academics are important, but compassion and empathy are key to a better future.”
Ms. Foster is involved in the Vanguard National Honor Society, a group of seventh and eighth graders who stand out as leaders among their peers. Each member of the group is required to accumulate 20 hours of community service per school year, along with maintaining high standards in academics and behavior. Members of the group also participate in a trimester of Student Council, an elective where students collaborate on project-based service learning.
She thinks of herself as an advisor when it comes to service learning. She’s there to guide and help students and allow the class to be student-centered and student driven. They strive to answer the question: “How can we improve the school, the community, and the world?”
“They are in charge!” said Ms. Foster. “Each class follows a project-based learning model where they identify problems in their school, community, and world and then work together in a collaborative way to plan projects that improve them. It is an honor to be able to walk alongside these young adults as they learn what it means to be change-makers in their world.”
Some of the ideas students have come up include helping animal shelters, supporting God’s Kitchen, participating in trash pick-ups, and creating fundraisers. They even raised money for clean water in Africa. Ms. Foster lets her students find what they’re passionate about so they can make a plan and execute it.
“My favorite experience is watching my students grow into leaders before my very eyes,” she said. “It is when they realize that a vision, coupled with some planning, mixed with a heart for others can yield such fantastic results! A favorite service-learning experience for my kids has always been providing for families in need in our own school.”
Her students practice gratitude and generosity during the month of November, in line with the month’s Moral Focus virtue, by organizing a Food and Clothing Drive to provide Thanksgiving meals to families who would not otherwise have one. They use the funds they raise to go Christmas shopping for those same families in December. Ms. Foster believes there is no greater experience than watching the joy on a middle schooler’s face as they pick out the perfect outfit, doll, or game for another child, knowing that the kids would not get Christmas without them.
“It’s important to me that my students see themselves as active participants in making the world a better place,” said Ms. Foster. “This change can start at home, with a focus on our own school community, but shouldn’t stop there! I want to get my kids out into the world to see the ways in which their talent and passion can be tapped. Whether that is wiping tables at God’s Kitchen, reading to dogs at Makenzie’s Animal Sanctuary, or playing games with seniors at retirement homes, there are so many opportunities to serve others. The world is broken in many ways, yet when you bring together a group of driven teens, there is hope for a brighter future!”
Keep up the great work, Ms. Foster!