Students Learn Life Lessons, Make Friendships Through Service

As told by buildOn’s Brian Socall

The benefit of service learning is walking away with invaluable lessons about life from the people you serve. This summer buildOn worked with fourteen students at Phoenix Military Academy as part of Chicago Public Schools’ month-long Summer of Service and Leadership program. The program matches incoming high school freshman with a non government organization that teaches them about issues affecting seniors, food and the environment in and out of the classroom.

The students at the academy bonded with seniors at living at Edwin Berry Manor, an assisted living facility, while serving them a breakfast of donuts, juice and coffee and organizing a game of bingo for them. It was a fruitful experience for both the students and the residents, because many residents never get visitors and they enjoy the company and the students rarely interact with seniors for long periods of time.

One of the residents, Diane, opened up to Christian Martinez about her life. She encouraged him to stay in school, since she had dropped out herself, and then touched on deeper themes, such as her history of sexual violence. Martinez left not only with pearls of wisdom, but with a deeper understanding of the seniors living in Chicago. It was truly an education you can’t get from school.