StudentsTheir hearts are all in the right places -- like the Prevent Child Abuse Center, the Salvation Army, Kapiolani Medical Center, among dozens of other agencies in the community that could use a helping hand.
Sacred Hearts girls thrive
on service to community
Each year, the school sendsSmiles at Palolo Chinese Home By Pat Gee
its 700 students to help at care
homes, hospitals and shelters
Imagine what can be accomplished when Sacred Hearts Academy puts 700 girls, grades 7 through 12, into the community to serve. Last year, they volunteered about 40,000 hours of service, according to academy Principal Betty White.
"Think of their heads, hearts and hands doing good for the community," she said.
The school was recently named a National Service-Learning Leader School, one of 64 in the country, for helping in the community.
All students have to donate 25 hours of service per year, even though it means giving up their free time outside of school hours, White said. But many of them go way beyond the minimum requirement, putting in a couple hundred hours of volunteer service at places that have grabbed their hearts.
And Sacred Hearts' teachers are proud of the other part of the program: the one that requires students to engage their classmates in the projects.
Religion teacher William Plourde said the students previously had to just fill out a one-page form to prove they completed 20 hours of service. Now they have to make up portfolios consisting of an essay on what they have gained from the experience, do a photo essay, make an oral presentation and lead a class discussion on what could be done to address unmet needs, he said.
Instead of thinking, "Now I've done my service -- that's it," the service they do "becomes a way of life," Plourde added.
Claire Griffin, a social studies teacher, agreed. "The girls gain a sense of empowerment and the feeling that they've made a difference in the lives of the clients or the community. It becomes a lifetime habit."
Plourde, who works with seniors, said most of the girls want to become lawyers, doctors and pediatricians because they like working with kids; 25 percent are interested in health care.
"They want to be the front woman on the line," he said. They also want to be in business. They like the idea of "being at the top," making changes that affect the community, Plourde said.
White interjected, "They believe, 'I can create a product, then make money.'"
"We have dreamers here. They reach for realistic but high goals," added Randy Fong, counselor and the Soroptimists Student Club advisor.
He said about 30 club members have been helping at the Palolo Chinese Home, which has been a real "eye opener." The experience has broken down stereotypes the girls had about the elderly. They have discovered that many of the home's residents, whose average age is 85, have active minds and can communicate well, Fong said.
Sister Katherine Francis Miller, the campus minister in charge of the service program, said the school has been involved with the Loliana Hale shelter for homeless women and children for more than 20 years. One of the girls' most significant contributions was to get a playground built in the parking lot with the military providing the labor. They raised funds to provide the false turf, benches and playground equipment.
The program has also allowed the girls to discover what they are not cut out for. Many of them want to be doctors, but one girl had to help in an endoscopy department and decided running tubes through people's intestines was not for her, Miller said.
Another girl was sent to a delivery room her first day at a hospital, and "she's still in shock," she added, laughing.
One girl wanted to become a teacher, but after spending a few days with a roomful of kids, she told Miller, "I have to go back to grade school and apologize to my teacher." She decided not to go into teaching but became much more appreciative of her teachers, Miller said.
Miller will be among the four from Sacred Hearts to accept the award and participate in a leadership conference in Washington, D.C., in June. The Corporation for National Service, a federal agency that sponsored the award, will pay the way for two to attend.
Sacred Hearts was one of six schools in Hawaii to receive the award, White said.
Dressed in their crisply pressed uniforms of white and navy blue, accented with a sailor's tie, four girls from the Sacred Hearts Academy marched two by two up the walkway to the activity room of the Palolo Chinese Home for the elderly. They chatted gaily, their ponytails swishing back and forth as they walked.
Gardening at Palolo
Chinese Home brings
out seniors smiles
4 young volunteers learn theBy Pat Gee
value of time and attentiveness
When they arrived at the door, the golden oldie "Wooly Bully" was playing over the speakers, but it did not seem to be doing much to perk up the room full of senior citizens, who sat quietly at tables waiting to start the gardening activity.
Seniors Diana Ly and Lianne Takamori and juniors Leslie Taylan and Nikki Guevarra all wanted to work with the elderly, mostly because they are fond of their own grandparents and wanted to learn how to relate to them better. Soon the room was buzzing with activity and conversation as the girls circulated, smiling, encouraging, guiding frail fingers to work in the pungent soil.
Guevarra, who lives with her grandmother, said, "They need more attention and understanding because they often aren't able to tell you what they want."
The seniors sitting at her table did not seem interested in gardening at first, so she tried triggering responses with her bright smile and cheerful comments.
When one tried cultivating the soil, then others wanted to try it, and after a while, as Guevarra put it, "the little gardener in all of them comes out." She added, "As long as you can get them to talk with you, that's good, even if they don't want to plant."
Takamori, who lives with her grandfather, said a lot of young people do not know how to interact with the elderly, and working at Palolo helped her to see them as individuals. She learned that one person used to be a teacher and another a farmer; some liked working with their hands, and others did not.
Taylan said she has put in more than 100 hours of service in the past year, mostly at Wahiawa General's Long Term Care Home, and as a Sunday school teacher in Wahiawa. When her grandfather was hospitalized, she spent a lot of time keeping him company and saw that most of the elderly did not have anyone to visit them.
She started volunteering at Wahiawa when she was 14, and an elderly gentleman there started calling her, "Hi, honey!" mixing her up in his mind with his wife. Taylan teased him by asking how old he was, and the 70-year-old responded, "Twenty-one," she said.
Ly, who lived with her great-grandparents for a while, finds it "fun" to work with seniors because "they are childlike in a way that they are not able to do things for themselves. It takes a lot of patience, and I think I learn from that."