On my second day teaching at Porter Creek Secondary School (PCSS), I found myself introducing an officer from the Canadian Armed Forces to students from the Social Justice Club.
He was invited to speak about his experiences providing aid to victims of the 2011 earthquake in Haiti that killed and injured more than 600,000 people.
I sat and watched his slideshow with 50 students and their teachers, everyone strangers to me. The soldier shared his heart-wrenching experiences and we cried (mostly) silently.
That day was more than two years ago and I am regularly humbled by the activities of the PCSS Social Justice Club. Thursdays in the foods room the students, along with the Mr. Hales and Mr. MacDonald, build sandwiches for Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services to distribute to people with personal challenges and an empty stomach.
I never see any food tossed into the foods room’s waste bins, either from the sandwich construction or from the students’ own lunches.
A look into the cafeteria bins tells a different story, however. Some students, who buy their lunches every day and have no experience with hunger, do have experience throwing away good food.
The Social Justice club is changing some students’ attitudes towards food. Consider the fall food drive for the Whitehorse Food Bank.
Students volunteered to drop off grocery bags for a few hours one sunny afternoon last October. The boys I chauffeured made a game of the task, running between houses and trying to deliver more bags than anyone else. They had a good time and got some exercise, but had no sense of the impact of their actions.
Two weeks later, on the last non-winter day of 2012, I took them back to see the fruits of their labour. As the final rays of autumn faded from the Crestview subdivision, Jesse and Bradon filled the bed of my truck with more than 50 donated bags of groceries. They carried these bags into the Whitehorse Food Bank and were able to see the results. More than 20 families got enough good food for a few days worth of meals because Bradon and Jesse gave a few afternoons of their time — and the residents of Crestview gave their groceries.
From such a small effort, they were able to make a big difference in peoples’ lives.
The greatest impact, according to Jesse, was when he saw all the cars in the parking lot at the food bank dropping off food. Bradon was amazed at how much food was collected by the other volunteers. They plan to stay involved with activities that make a difference in their community.
There are versions of Social Justice Clubs in all three high schools in Whitehorse, and students and teachers are making a difference in communities across the Yukon. If you have a story of students and their teachers making a difference in their community, we invite you to share it on the Yukon Teachers’ Association website at www.YTA.yk.ca