Written by Christopher Potter, 22 years old, from Arlington, MA, serving on The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Team at Beech Street Elementary School.
I challenged the five members of my 50 Acts group that they couldn’t get to 50 Acts before me. An act of greatness is an action that shows a positive value. A typical entry might read, “I cleaned up everybody’s milk cartons at lunch. That shows caring.” I’ve performed 39 myself, but two of my students have finished the 50. Other students have seen their acts and have asked for “Leadership Logs” of their own.
Not only are my students excited to be doing good and learning exactly what it means to be responsible or honest, they’re engaged in community service. That’s because these five leaders, a mix of current leaders and students in need of socio-emotional skills, have spent our Wednesday lunch-time meetings planning a service project for the whole third grade.
We performed the four steps of idealism. In this case, idealism is not merely a positive attitude or a naive hope; it’s the skill of making our community reflect positive values. First, we imagined our Beech Street School as we want it to be: beautiful and full of responsible students. Next, we recruited. These third graders met with the principal to explain their idea of cleaning up the school and get her approval, then they asked teachers whether they would bring their classes to the playground.
This is when we transformed our community. Over ninety students, equipped with gloves and grocery bags, spent a class block scouring four large areas of the Beech Street campus for litter. At the end, my students dumped a big barrel of trash into the dumpster, bursting with joy for their success and enthusiasm to serve. I don’t think any of them will ever forget this.
The final step is to inspire. In the coming weeks, these five students wrote cards to each class, thanking them for their contributions to beautifying Beech Street. My students have already inspired me. I play basketball at a neighborhood apartment. Just as my students did, I’m going to supply some plastic bags, recruit some help, and start the transformation.