In a time when there is a lot of complaining done about the apparent entitlement and apathy of the next generation, a group of students prove that actions do speak louder than words.
On Wednesday, May 17, over 50 students from Pinkerton Academy divided their efforts among eight Derry organizations to provide assistance in the form of yard work, filing, painting, and assisting with elementary classes and the elderly in the Youth Day of Giving Back.
Nonprofit organizations including the Boy Scouts of Daniel Webster Council, Vintage Grace, Community Caregivers, the Salvation Army, the Derry History Museum, Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy, and the Upper Room all made use of the energy and spirit the students exuded to make progress on various spring projects.
All of the students are volunteers of their own accord, some returning from previous years’ Youth Days.
“We find a couple of them who’ve done it previously loved it so much they did it again this year,” explained Brenda Guggisberg, Executive Director of the Upper Room. “It’s meant a lot to them, personally.”
The first Youth Day of Giving Back began roughly 20 years ago, in partnership with the United Way, with the purpose of giving the students of Pinkerton Academy the opportunity to give back to their community. The students’ projects through the years have more or less been focused towards helping organizations with sprucing up for spring, such as garden work, light building, and assisting the elderly with spring cleaning projects.
Guggisberg, who has been involved with the Day for the past 15 years, said that the event has continued to have the same wonderful momentum it’s always had, and mentioned that often they find they get more student volunteers than projects. She explained that a lot of the non-profits might not have the funds to put on an event such as this, so the desire always seems to be a little bit bigger on the student side. Regardless, the event always seems makes a big impact on them individually.
Nichole Iacuzio, a Troy University graduate, is an example of one individual whose experience with the Youth Day of Giving Back has a lasting impact, as she recalled her experience with the Youth Day of Giving Back when she attended Pinkerton Academy.
Iacuzio said that she and her friends had participated in the event all four years of high school, and when she went away to college in Troy Alabama, she noticed that her new school was involved with a lot of service in their community, but with no one day dedicated to it. It was when she ran for Vice President of Campus Activities in Student Government that she had made it one of her main goals to bring in more service-oriented events. She credits the staff in the University’s Department of Service Learning and Civic Engagement in assisting her with starting the University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, inspired by the Youth Day of Giving Back, where the 100 students involved in the first year visited sites such as their local Boys and Girls Club, Big Brother/Sister, Salvation Army, and Pioneer Museum, to name a few.
Iacuzio commended the students’ efforts at this year’s event, and mentioned that though a lot of them begin their day saying it’s a fun way to get out of school, by the end of the day, those same students really see how even small acts of service make a large difference in another person’s life, and that it was always amazing to see the students, “doing good work and having a great time.”
Many of the students work so fast and so efficiently that they are often finished with their projects long before many of the adults expect, said Roger Konstant, Associate Dean and Citizenship Committee Chairman at Pinkerton Academy. He further mentioned that when the kids are through with their work, a lot of times they are seen conversing with the adults at the various agencies.
For instance, Konstant mentioned that four of the young ladies who went to volunteer at Vintage Grace, an adult care center in Derry, had been engaged in conversation with some of the residents, offering them their company when he arrived to check on the progress of their work.
“They may have not been doing any physical labor,” Konstant said, “but they were doing something good for the community otherwise, beyond just cleaning.”
Konstant mentioned that he has been met with pushback against the program over the years, as it requires the students being taken out of school for a day during a time when students miss a lot of class time for testing, assemblies, etc, but to Konstant, the benefits far outweigh the consequences.
“It’s immersing them in an experience they can’t get in a classroom,” Konstant said. He further stated that the students do get a lot out of their efforts and feel good about the work that they do, and furthermore, it shows that young people can, and want to make a difference.