Last Friday, eight Highpoint School East students gained useful skills and a new perspective on giving back to their community during a visit to the Houston Food Bank (HFB), the first of many service-learning opportunities through a new partnership with HFB.
The budding partnership is the product of Highpoint Principal Courtney Waters’ desire to bring organized community service projects to the school.
“One of the goals at Highpoint is to provide students with opportunities for learning outside of the traditional classroom,” said Waters. “One of the tasks that I’ve been challenged with this year is how to get my kids exposed to things that teach them lifelong lessons. I want them to have that intrinsic motivation to focus time on others and giving back to the community.”
Waters had the idea of introducing a community service element to students for some time. When Highpoint physical education and health teacher Tomeisha Reed, Ph.D., led a discussion about the HFB following a unit on nutrition, students took an interest in learning more about the 40-year-old organization.
With the help of Kristi Harding, HCDE’s new parent engagement liaison, Highpoint made the collaboration a reality. Highpoint will send a different group of students to volunteer at the HFB each month through the end of the academic year. The school has also received approval to be a distribution site, which will allow it to host on-campus, monthly food drives where students will help distribute food to the community and their families via an HFB mobile unit.
Waters pointed out that participating students will also benefit from volunteer hours to add to resumes or scholarship applications.
Student Alexandro Zuniga found the experience as practical as it was uplifting and said he learned applicable skills that could prove helpful in future jobs. He also described how much the experience meant to him as someone who’s experienced food insecurity.
“I lived in California for a little bit, and we were in poverty when we moved [to Texas]. We used to go to our local church and get groceries from there,” said Zuniga. “Others may not have it as good as us, so it feels good to be able to help people.”
Waters hopes that these opportunities will change how people perceive her students and even how students think about themselves. She wants them to recognize that more is awaiting them beyond Highpoint and graduation.
“My goal is to change the whole trajectory of how people think of our kids—their kids. They are going to make mistakes,” said Waters. “At the end of the day, we’re all human, and I do not want [their mistakes] to be held against them. My perspective is, ‘We are not focusing on the mistake. You still have somewhere to go.’”