When planning their fifth annual Philanthropy Day, Assistant Principal Amanda Rassi said the Chagrin Falls High School seniors decided to give back to the community with a focus on education, which brought some of them close to home at Gurney Elementary School and Chagrin Falls Intermediate School. Through their giving and service, some students actually ended up getting something back in return.

“[One student] was able to connect with a student in kindergarten who gave up her seat because she said that she knew it’s hard for big people to sit on the ground. The kindergartner gave up her seat to the high school senior so that she would be more comfortable sitting in the classroom,” Ms. Rassi said of one connection forged through the day of service.

Chagrin Falls High School seniors participated in Philanthropy Day by traveling to and volunteering at organizations throughout the Northeast Ohio area on Oct. 16. Some of the locations that the 177 students worked at included the urban farms at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, the Cleveland Kids Book Bank and Camp Ho Mita Kota, a summer camp for children and teens with type 1 diabetes.

Students have been volunteering on Philanthropy Day with the Cleveland Botanical Gardens for the past five years, though this year’s participation was during inclement weather. Ms. Rassi explained that several groups of students went to different learning gardens in Cleveland.

“Not only are they cleaning out the beds and cleaning out the farms and learning about the vegetables and where they’re going and what they’re doing with them, but they also get this whole different appreciation for all the work that goes into it because they’re doing it themselves,” she said. Ms. Rassi added that the students showed their dedication by being willing to work despite the weather.

For the first time this year, a group of students volunteered at the Cleveland Kids Book Bank. Ms. Rassi said that the students and staff who ended up working there had positive feedback.

“Outside of Philanthropy Day, some of the students even said that they would want to take some of their own time to go volunteer at the book bank,” she said.

A group of about 20 students went to Camp Ho Mita Koda, according to Ms. Rassi. The students who volunteered there helped close up the camp kitchen and put away furniture as it would sit dormant through the winter, and they also had the opportunity to learn about the camp. Ms. Rassi said some students have gone on to volunteer as camp counselors, which has been a valuable community connection.

Ms. Rassi said Philanthropy Day not only gave the students an opportunity to help their community, but continues to be a vital part of their education. Students were able to learn about their community through service, and recognized the value in serving, according to Ms. Rassi.

“I asked them ‘how did you feel about the manual labor?’ That seemed like a lot of work just from some of the pictures that they sent me,” she said. “They said ‘we can do anything for three hours.’ I think a lot of them saw the value in it. There is this whole learning piece that goes with the volunteering.”

Ms. Rassi said she had only heard positive comments from the students. “Overall, they said they had an awesome experience. Usually I would have heard complaints first, but every pocket of kids that I talked to had something positive to say about what they did,” she said.

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