The Dover-Sherborn Regional Schools are committed to outreach and community service, so much so that 40 hours of community service are a requirement for high school graduation.
Students can do their community service in any way that appeals to them and helps those in need, but one example is particularly rewarding to both the teacher who coordinates it and the students involved.
Current Math Department chair and teacher Jim Baroody credits retired teachers Lou Dittami and Joanne Preiser for beginning the work he now leads.
“Both Lou and Joanne were strong advocates for volunteering to help those in need and they wanted to find a way to give students the opportunity to do this type of work”, says Baroody.
Thanks to their example, Baroody has been driving high school students to Boston’s Pine Street Inn twice a month for almost ten years.
Last year, 40 different students participated, leaving the school at 5:00 a.m. and returning in time for their first classes.
At the Inn, students prepare and serve a simple breakfast, wash the dishes, sweep the cafeteria floor, and wipe down all the tables.
Baroody says the value of this experience exposes kids to “what can happen if they make some bad decisions, because many of the clients we serve are young people who have ravaged themselves through the use of drugs and/or alcohol.”
Baroody said even the Inn’s temporary clients, who are hardworking people who live paycheck to paycheck and are unable to make rent payments through job loss, afford kids a valuable lesson.
“I think it benefits our students to see how living ‘close to the edge’ can quickly lead to a difficult situation,” Baroody said.
Students who participate seem to appreciate the bonding experience they have sitting in the van so early in the morning.
Baroody said he often sees them during the day and they exchange a “knowing smile that they've done some good for the day”.
He also has an annual "reunion" trip that accommodates the schedule of former student participants home from college.
Baroody enjoys seeing them again and is happy to hear them “tell me that they've volunteered at a soup kitchen at college because of their experience doing Pine Street [Inn] in high school.”
Recent graduate Anna Geissert was a regular Pine Street volunteer and wrote her college application essay about her experience there.
She says the morning trips to Boston “brought an energy to volunteering that was contagious” and showed her the importance of making “community service a part of our everyday lives.”
Current senior Brooke Barnett credits Pine Street with providing her with perspective she wouldn’t otherwise have.
She started going to the Inn in her junior year and says, “I've returned to the Inn almost every session after that first one. There's something about it that makes you want to keep coming back.”
Like the best of community service, this experience gives back to Dover-Sherborn students.
They are rewarded with perspective, gratitude and the desire to keep making a difference.