At New Life Academy, students begin learning how to live out Jesus’ message from an early age. Though much of this learning takes place academically, NLA aims to give real-life opportunities to apply God’s Word; community service projects make up a large part of learning outside the classroom.
Service opportunities are provided beginning in elementary school. In recent years, the Elementary Student Council has organized food drives for Feed My Starving Children and has collected shoes for those in need through the Shoeman Project. In March, the Jump Rope for Heart event will raise awareness for cardiovascular health.
Kathy Lutes, Elementary Student Council Supervisor, emphasized the character and leadership training these service projects provide. “In the Bible, God calls us to care for and serve others,” she said. “The kids are serving with their time and learning how to think of other people. They learn problem solving and leadership as they take ownership of the activities.” This last school year, K – 5th graders participated in service projects by donating 30 fleece blankets to patients at the Children’s Hospital. This month, they assembled care packages for the Women’s Shelter in St. Paul.
The act of service grows more robust and meaningful as students learn more about the life of Christ in Bible classes. Becky Welander, who teaches Junior High Bible classes and supervises Student Council, organizes the annual “Project SERVE.” For two days per school year dedicated to serving in the community, students experience the real needs around them in a new way. She said, “It’s experiential learning: students go out and serve, meeting others who are passionate about making a difference in this world.”
Welander believes these service opportunities set students up for a lifetime of giving back to their communities: “Our hope is that when they experience serving, they are inspired and encouraged to develop a lifestyle of service,” she said.
For previous Project SERVE days, junior high students have served a variety of organizations, like Feed My Starving Children, Samaritan’s Purse, Salvation Army, Woodbury Food Shelf, and the Marie Sandvik Center. Volunteering in multiple settings demonstrates to students the variety of needs present in the community and allows them to find a cause they’re passionate about.
High school students have community service hour requirements, offering them a chance to explore their own gifts and how to use them to meet specific needs in the community. Most students, according to Welander, choose to serve in in the context of their local church or community organizations.