Connections: Decatur Students Connecting with the Community

Daily Point of Light # 3286 Sep 8, 2006

Connections: Decatur Students Connecting With the Community is a student driven volunteer center at Stephen Decatur High School founded through a grant written by former students Joe Chen and Caroline Andes in 2002. Connections serves as a facilitators between students, parents, and the community by increasing communication in a way that allows all participants to fulfill the needs of the community and enables student volunteers to enjoy positive experiences helping others. Connections currently has 60 members who are responsible for conducting meetings, organizing the volunteer center's activities, and meeting with organizations to survey their needs. Students in this organization work after school, on weekends, and during the summer volunteering where the need arises. Connection students raise funds for all projects. The teacher advisor for Connections, Laurie Chetelat, does not receive a stipend or any other monetary income as an advisor for Connections.

In addition to their own volunteer work, Connections has strived to form partnerships between Stephen Decatur and the community. In 2003, Connections hosted a successful community breakfast with over 40 organizations in attendance. Students presented a program to the community organizations highlighting the benefits of using our youth to meet their needs and the services available through Connections. From the breakfast a service manual of community organizations was developed that is used by students for volunteer opportunities and by the teachers of service learning at Stephen Decatur. Connection members have formed partnerships with organizations such as the Surfrider Foundation, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Believe in Tomorrow, Atlantic General Hospital, March of Dimes, Relay for Life, Project Outreach, Agape, Worcester County Commission for Women, Worcester County GOLD, and local recreation departments to name a few. Connection students are involved in all aspects of the community including the environment, the elderly, those in poverty, health care, and in various educational fields.

Connection students continue to develop their leadership skills and gain new ideas by attending state and national conventions, and other meetings ad dressing community issues. From one of these experiences, Connections initiated a service project last year known as "Surfing with Connections" where Connection students teach senior citizens how to use the computer, search the web, and set up e-mail. A computer manual of basic skills and website favored by seniors was developed by the students for all senior participants to take home. This project has been an overwhelming success and a student committee for this project has been organized to further their services to our community. An additional on-going service project has been the "adoption" of families in need through Worcester County GOLD. Connection members have collected school supplies, holiday gifts, and spring baskets filled with household items, toiletries, toys, clothing and educational items the past three years.