Over 20 years ago, a group of 40 dedicated families envisioned a child-centered educational experience based on a partnership among students, teachers, parents and the community. In addition to a high standard of academics, they designed a curriculum that incorporates and promotes the values of character development, personal emotional management, positive conflict resolution, social awareness and community service. They also wanted to make these values a part of the everyday school experience by putting them into action.
One of our favorite hands-on experiences is the Giving Party, which happens each year during the holiday season. The Giving Party involves the children, parents and teachers contributing their time, talent and treasures to the residents of the Laguna Beach Friendship Shelter, the only shelter serving homeless adults in this area.
At the Giving Party, our students make or creatively package a collection of useful gifts for each resident of the shelter. Some of this year's gifts included golf shirts wrapped in hand-decorated paper; a festive ceramic mug chock full of herbal teas and treats; a variety of personal toiletries in a child-decorated tote bag; a pair of cozy tube socks stuffed with a mini-umbrella and tied with a bow; and a bath towel, hand towel and wash cloth creatively shaped into an elephant's head, complete with trunk and eyes!
A note from Friendship Shelter's volunteer coordinator, Jill Silver Edwards, explained the difference CLC's commitment to community has made in their residents' lives.
She writes, "At the shelter today, I saw the wonderful items you made, collected and donated for our residents. The residents really do appreciate what you have done for them. Your caring gives them the strength to move forward. All three of my now-grown children attended CLC. I'm thrilled to see that the holiday giving program started back then is still going strong!"
We're thrilled to know that the commitment to community started by CLC way back when wasn't just lip service to a lofty ideal. It's been an important and consistent part of the CLC culture that really does make a difference. This is one of the many ways in which the C in CLC really means community.
* Bara Waters is a member of the PTA at Community Learning Center.