GILL — Sewing machines whirred and steam billowed from clothes irons as a large group of Northfield Mount Hermon School seniors worked diligently Thursday morning to cut, iron and sew together colorful pieces of fabric.
Contributing to the MoonCatcher Project by making reusable menstrual pads for girls in developing countries was one of a series of projects students participated in as part of NMH’s Service Day.
Service Day, according to Atta Kurzmann, service learning coordinator at NMH, has happened annually since 2000 to allow students to make a difference in the local and global communities, as well as learn about a series of issues such as world hunger.
“It’s a really important part of our school philosophy that we’re not just in it for ourselves,” Kurzmann said. One of the goals, she continued, is to teach the students they all have a responsibility to “make the world a nicer place to be.”
“The point of this all is to not only do good deeds but to learn,” she continued.
Though many NMH students volunteer on a regular basis at local elementary schools or nursing homes, Service Day “gives every student an opportunity to participate in a service project,” Kurzmann said. A total of 650 students in grades nine through 12 participated in a variety of projects depending on their grade.Feeding the hungry
Freshman students focused on combating local hunger, cooking a plethora of dishes which will be served at an Orange community meal through the Franklin County Community Meals Program.
“It’s interesting because my old school never had anything like this,” NMH freshman Isabel May, who helped with cooking, said of Service Day. “Especially being a day student, doing things that will affect the community is nice.”
May’s classmate Taneyah Jolly talked about making fruit kabobs for the community meal, and how she had never considered before how many individuals don’t have access to fruit.
“Not a lot of people who receive this food have fresh fruit in their diet,” Jolly said. “It made me think about what I have in my diet, and how lucky I am.”
“For a lot of these kids, they don’t realize how many people are food deprived,” Kurzmann said. Learning about world hunger through cooking was complemented by watching documentaries on the issue and inviting food access speakers to give presentations Thursday afternoon, she said.
Sophomores and juniors worked off campus, the sophomores on raking and cleaning elderly residents’ yards, and the juniors on cleaning school playgrounds and helping farms prepare for planting season. The sophomores, Kurzmann said, are able to meet the community’s elders, who often express their gratitude for the help.
“One woman makes a pecan pie (for us) every year,” she recalled.
NMH senior James Nicholas, who has been at NMH since he was a freshman, remembers helping with lawn clean-up projects.
“It has felt really good to help elders,” he said. “To see those properties after we work, that’s a good feeling.”
A representative from LifePath also came Thursday afternoon, Kurzmann said, to add to the students’ learning about elderly issues in relation to poverty, and activist Majora Carter spoke Wednesday about environmental justice.‘A really meaningful project’
The majority of the senior class focused on enhancing the campus for future generations, Kurzmann said, doing projects like painting the lines and symbols for handicapped parking spots, cleaning campus signs and clearing NMH trails. Others helped with the MoonCatcher Project.
As he worked on ironing fabric, Nicholas thought back on his four years of participating in Service Day. Contributing to the MoonCatcher Project, he said, has been one of his favorite experiences as over the years he has been able to “better our immediate community as well as across the seas.”
“It’s good for me to help somebody I haven’t met,” Nicholas said.
NMH senior Vicky Fong agreed that her work for the MoonCatcher Project has been one of her favorite Service Day activities, and that Service Day has been a very educa tional experience, while allowing her and the other students to impact the world directly.
“This is a really meaningful project,” Fong said.