From Boston to the Bay Area, buildOn students across the U.S. dedicated themselves to more than 180,000 service hours this past school year. By serving after school and on weekends at local food pantries, homeless shelters, senior centers, elementary schools, and other community organizations, buildOn students are making an impact on vulnerable populations within their own communities and neighborhoods. But much of our students’ service would not have been possible this past year without the help of our local community partners and service sites. As they open their doors and welcome our students to serve, buildOn’s community partners are empowering students to give back to their own communities and create positive change.
Every year, buildOn recognizes one community partner in each of the our six U.S. cities with buildOn’s Community Impact Award. These community partners have gone above and beyond in the name of service, and with their help, our students have been able to create lasting change.
This year’s Community Impact Award winners are…
Daily Table — Boston
Daily Table is a nonprofit community store in the Dorchester neighborhood that provides healthy meals and groceries for reduced prices and cooking classes for children and adults. This past year, buildOn students served at Daily Table by cooking meals, packaging foods, and helping clients who needed assistance shopping.
“buildOn staff and students appreciate the opportunity to help Daily Table reach their mission of providing nutritious, affordable meals to our community members,” says buildOn Service Learning Program Coordinator Carly Avezzano. “We love supporting Daily Table in all that they do, whether its stocking shelves or preparing meals in the kitchen. They always welcome us and make us feel at home while we serve.”
Above: buildOn students Selena Monteiropires from the Community Academy of Science and Health and Jonathan Ruiz from Jeremiah E. Burke High School prepare fresh food at Daily Table in Boston.
Wakeman Boys & Girls Club — Bridgeport, CT
The Wakeman Boys & Girls Club’s mission is “to guide and inspire young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens.” buildOn students in Bridgeport partnered with Wakeman to mentor and tutor young children in their after-school program. “I think our students love going to Wakeman because not only is it a ton of fun, but you can immediately feel the connections made with the younger kids there,” explains buildOn Partnership Coordinator Nathan Broad. “We don’t have a lot of service partners in Bridgeport with the capacity to welcome more than 20 volunteers, but even as a new partner, Wakeman was always thrilled to have buildOn come in to help run their after-school program and serve their young students.”
For buildOn students like Shamoy Edwards, who attended Wakeman’s after-school program as a child, returning to serve as a mentor and tutor had special meaning. “It is a great program for students and young people to keep them active and engaged, to help them experience new things and meet new people. That’s why I go to Wakeman to serve. It provides a safe place for kids to spend their time after school, which can be hard to find in some neighborhoods.”
Above: buildOn students in Bridgeport served as tutors and mentors to young children at the Wakeman Boys & Girls Club.
Cornerstone Community Outreach — Chicago
Cornerstone Community Outreach has served Chicago’s homeless population for over 20 years, and has been a long-standing buildOn service partner. As the second largest shelter in Chicago, Cornerstone provides hot meals, medical and mental health services, after-school programs, and job training. “They are one of the few shelters in Chicago that allow families to stay together,” says buildOn Senior Service Learning Program Manager Jessie Schwartz. “And they also have beds for single men and single women.”
By cooking meals and serving food to people staying at Cornerstone, buildOn students are helping to make the world a little brighter. “I like going there a lot because you get to interact with people,” says buildOn student Jonathan Hernandez. “I get to help put a smile on their faces and let them know I care about them.”
Raquel Garcia at the Brandon Scotten Community Garden — Detroit
buildOn’s partnership with Raquel Garcia started two years ago when students worked with her to transform two overgrown lots next to her home into the Brandon Scotten Community Garden—a garden with vegetables, fruits, herbs, handmade benches, and hand-painted rock walkways, all for public use.
This year, buildOn students at Western International High School partnered with Raquel to have a monthly sit-down dinner with a changemaker from the Southwest Detroit community. The dinners served to foster a great sense of community in the neighborhood, and buildOn students learned about careers in service learning and social activism.
“Raquel loved the idea so much that she hosted each dinner series we had at her home!” explains Service Learning Program Coordinator Ramiro Alvarez. “She welcomed all of us, guests of honor included, into her kitchen to exchange valuable lessons on growing up and caring for the community as an extension of caring for the self.”
Above: buildOn students from Western International High School in Detroit stand at the entrance to the Brandon Scotten Community Garden. “The trust we have in Raquel and her in us has extended to the greater community around the garden,” says Ramiro. “The Brandon Scotten neighbors, who are close to Raquel, are now coming out on Wednesdays to see our students work on their block.”
Susan’s Place — New York City
Susan’s Place is a 200-bed transitional residence in the South Bronx serving women experiencing homelessness. They also provides healthy meals, clean clothing, recreational activities, and a broad range of health care and social services. This year, buildOn students from cooked and served meals to the women at Susan’s Place on a weekly basis.
The cooks at Susan’s Place—Fatu, Henry, and Jackie—have not only challenged the buildOn students to step outside of their comfort zone when serving by trying new jobs at Susan’s Place, they have also opened the doors to Susan’s Place to allow the buildOn students to serve whenever they are able, even if there isn’t a service project scheduled that day.
“I don’t go to Susan’s for the food or the fun,” says buildOn student Steven Pena. Steven has served at Susan’s Place over 30 times this past school year, including 15 times when he came to serve on his own. “I go cause it feels like home, and I can spread joy to those in need.”
Above: buildOn students from Mott Hall Bronx High School take a picture before serving food at Susan’s Place.
Carmen Flores Recreation Center — Oakland
Located at Josie de la Cruz Park in the Fruitvale neighborhood, the Carmen Flores Recreation Center provides after-school programs and activities for youth in Oakland. buildOn students regularly served at the center to mentor younger students, as well as lead arts and crafts, sports, and games for the larger Fruitvale community on the weekends. Oakland buildOn students have also helped to beautify the park by cleaning up litter and painting murals.
Below: Oakland buildOn students are acting as role models from the next generation of changemakers at the Carmen Flores Recreation Center.