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Creating a Positive Learning Environment

Congregation adopts a school in a poverty-stricken neighborhood.

Community Contact Information:
Congregation Or Ami
Calabasas, CA
www.orami.org

Goals:

  • Nurture the strong sense of responsibility already present in the community.
  • Assist children in a local poverty-stricken neighborhood.
  • Involve congregants in organizing social change.

Overview:
In order to make a direct impact on their community, the congregation “adopted” a school in a poverty-stricken, gang-dominated area. Congregants donate items and their time to insure that all of the students receive adequate clothing, school supplies, and daily nutrition.

Preparation:
The social action committee contacted the administration of a local school in a troubled area of the city to determine the needs of the students. With the help of several congregants, the committee developed several programs, such as the Back-to-School Clothing Drive, the Hands-On Science Program, Museum Day, the Peace Garden, and Teacher Appreciation Gifts.

Project Implementation:

  • Clothing Drive: congregants were asked to purchase school uniforms in a variety of sizes and bring them to High Holy Day services.
  • Hands-on Science Program: One congregant bought 500 clay pots, seeds, and dirt for a program in which congregants taught students about ecology.
  • Museum Day: students and families spent the day together at the California Science Center, with lunch donated by the families.
  • Peace Garden: Members of the youth group worked on the garden, which commemorates alumni of the school who have been victims of gang violence.
  • Teacher Appreciation Gifts and Corporate Gifting: Volunteers obtained pencil and pen sets from their established corporate-gifting program to assist the hard-working teachers of the school. Congregants have also used the corporate-gifting program to provide shoes, holiday clothes, backpacks, and gym clothes to students.

Results:
For the schools’ students, teachers, and administrators, the addition of new supplies has substantially impacted their learning environment. Just as importantly, they have learned that people outside their own community care about them. For the congregants, this outreach program has taught them that they can organize for social change. Children, teenagers and adults have visited the school to deliver donations, volunteer, and speak with staff, and for everyone involved this project continues to be a powerful experience.

This program won a Fain Award in 2003.