For over 30 years Saint John of God Community Services has served the needs of people with profound disabilities living in southern New Jersey. Over the course of time, many partnerships have been forged. One of the longest standing and most rewarding partnerships is with the Runnemede School District’s Mary E. Volz Middle School.
Over the years, over 700 eighth graders have been involved in this partnership. They have served as tutors, mentors, and child care assistants for children with profound disabilities. Their efforts have enhanced the educational experience of the students and supported the work of the staff. The middle school students are given a chance to bond with persons who are a little different than them. They are also given a realistic view of the professions in the field of special education.
Many of the student participants have gone on to become special education teachers, physical therapists, nurses or speech therapists. Their volunteer experiences have shown them the difference they can make in someone’s life. Many of the alumnae specifically stated the experiences they encountered while volunteering greatly impacted their choice and enjoyment of career.
This service-learning project has alumnae who are very supportive. The school’s current project coordinator was once a volunteer in the program along with her daughters who are about to go to college. The charter group of youth has watched others behind them as well as their own children follow in their caring example of service. They are continuing the cycle of “giving back.”