Maybe you’ve heard or read the quote? It’s a frequent pin on countless education boards.
The quote’s popularity most likely underscores a larger truth – that great educators have the capacity to take the experience of learning and transform it into something with far-reaching potency and potential. Dive into Northbrook High School’s Miller Volunteer Program’s popular Twitter feed (@MVPNHS) and you’ll see countless examples of this truth in action.
Over the past few months, the channel has posted a picture book’s worth of photos capturing student activities as part of the program’s community outreach activities.
From serving meatloaf at Turning Point Center, an independent non-profit organization for homeless elderly in the area, to working with the Old Spring Branch Neighborhood Association to clear and clean up neighborhoods and park areas, to sewing fleece blankets as part of the program’s Blanket Project, students at Northbrook High School are building on lessons shared by one educator who certainly believed education is life.
Donald Miller, a long-time teacher at Northbrook High School, planted the seeds of what is today’s Northbrook’s Miller Volunteer Program (MVP). The volunteer program, named in his honor, continues the work Miller began while at the Childress Foundation Academy.
Student volunteering, a pillar of the earlier program, continues in the new organization. Mr. Miller, while retired, is still an active participant, donating supplies to the Blanket Project and a frequent visitor to after school projects.
Any Northbrook High School student can join the Miller Volunteer Program, and most student volunteers become regular participants in the range of community projects the school program supports.
“I think students are surprised to learn how much they get back from helping others,” said Claire Hutchison, a Northbrook teacher and an active supporter of the volunteer program. “They may initially sign up because someone has told them that volunteering looks good on a high school resume, but they keep coming back because they enjoy it. I think there are a lot of students who want to volunteer, but maybe don’t know where to start.”
Hutchison’s support is helping raise awareness and participation in MVP’s existing and new program initiatives. As part of that growth, the program’s Blanket Project recently delivered 21 no-sew blankets to children in area homeless shelters.
After learning about the support work of homeless shelter, students were inspired to do something for area children. A previously successful Meals on Wheels service and learning experience, and the need to find an after-school or weekend work schedule, made the blanket project a perfect fit for student volunteers and shelter needs.
Twenty-two students participated in four different after-school work days. The blankets were no-sew and involved cutting and joining pieces of fleece material. Fleece was from donations or left over from previous projects, and scissors and yard sticks were borrowed from other classes and campus offices, with Hutchison finding no-sew directions online.
Although time-consuming, student participants were excited as the blankets came together. Students were able to deliver completed blankets directly to the shelter location.
“I wanted to participate in the project because as someone who struggled at a young age to get things such as clothes and blankets, I wanted to give back to others,” said ninth-grader Xiomara Soriano.
“It’s something small to me but really big to others in need,” said Soriano. “This experience changed how I see the world around me,” she added, a sentiment shared by other student program volunteers.
“It’s not hard to help others. If you want to help, there is always a way,” said tenth-grade volunteer Guillermo Diaz. “Most people think of money, but you can do something that is of little or no cost to you and is something to others. It’s about making a better place for everyone.”
As new postings appear on the volunteer program’s Twitter feed, it’s obvious the work and the legacy of Mr. Miller continue to positively impact Northbrook High School’s students and the larger Spring Branch community. If eleventh-grader Gabriella Campbell has anything to do with it, it will for many year to come.
“I am going to volunteer again,” she said. “This was an amazing experience!”
(Special thanks to educators Claudia Castillo and Claire Hutchison for their support of this project and student participants.)
Do you have an amazing story about the work your campus is doing? Make sure to share it with us @SBISD #collectiveGreatness.