Sunday, December 12, 2010

DSS Gives: Building Pride and Purpose

An enduring measure of success in a school community is its ability to develop a sense of pride and purpose in each of its students. This is a mission shared by caring and thoughtful educators, parents, and also students themselves.

The Pacer school community showed both pride and purpose through efforts to support more than 30 local families through the school's ChristmAssist campaign. The results were impressive, with participation and "buy in" that far exceeded past canned food drives and the traditional class competition to see which class could donate the most canned food items.

Here's how it happened:
Each Block B class appointed a student campaign leader(s). The leader(s) attended an organizational meeting where the class was assigned a description of a family for whom they would be providing "Christmas." For example: Family C: single mother, two children (boy 3, girl 7).
The class would then come up with a plan to provide food and age/gender appropriate gifts.

Armed with a purpose, each class set about the task of providing for a real family. The enthusiasm was measurable. Classes held meetings, they tapped into personal resources and family contacts. Some classes approached local businesses encouraging discounts and donation matching. The local business community came through as did teachers, parents, siblings and neighbours. But it was the students that lead the way. They took ownership of the campaign and when the donations were tallied on Friday, ChristmAssist had raised more than $4000 in gift certificates and gift cards, almost 1900 canned food items and more than 800 new or near new gifts (toys, toiletries, and sports equipment). On average, each local family will receive almost $150 in gift cards, 60 items of food, as well as gifts suited to both the children and the adults.

In his book, The Empathic Civilisation, Jeremy Rifkin writes of a "dawning realisation that we are a fundamentally empathic species" and that this has a "profound and far-reaching" effect on society. I believe that it also has a profound effect on the way we learn. Purposeful and relevant learning is more deeply engaging and honors the strengths and potential of our students. In a blog post titled, Competitive or Collaborative, John Abbott writes, "Those learning structures that are moving towards a new empathic approach to education show a marked improvement in mindfulness, communication skills, and critical thinking as youngsters become more inwardly looking, emotionally attuned and cognitively adept at comprehending and responding intelligently and compassionately to others."

Delta Secondary's ChristmAssist Campaign is a shining example of such a structure. Congratulations to the organizers, students, staff and to the entire Pacer community.

Working with community partner,  Deltassist


  1. What a great positive change this was for the school during the giving season. In previous years it was difficult to get into the giving spirit when the food drive process was so competitive. This year everyone felt that they wanted to help and identifying a specific family to help made it even better. I know my Block B class felt good about what they contributed and I did too. Merry Christmas!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Graham. Caring, charity and helping others is embedded in the ethos of our community. This year's campaign acknowledged those values and created the opportunity for student's to lead and to make a difference ... key internal motivators!

    I'm encouraged by the shift we're seeing in student leadership to more purposeful service oriented, community building activities.