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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Service-learning component helped community, enlightened Brighton students

Mar 05, 2019 01:48PM ● By Julie Slama

Brighton senior Leia Simmonds shares with her English class what she learned from doing service learning with the Boys & Girls Club in Murray. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Brighton High senior Annabelle Warner played with 12 refugee children from South Sudan while their mothers learned English at Wasatch Presbyterian Church. 

Although she did it as part of her service-learning component of her English 2010 class, it became something more.

“I learned they’re part of our community and were so appreciative of what I did, giving my time to teach them,” she said. “They were grateful for the little crafts we did together and being able to sing. They weren’t privileged and didn’t need technology to be entertained. It really meant something and I want to do it again.”

Warner wasn’t alone. Other Brighton students gathered food and clothing donations for refugees while classmate Leia Simmonds helped children make foam reindeers as part of a program with the Boys & Girls Club in Murray. Seniors Isabel Newell collected food, collars and toys for the Utah Humane Society, Brayden Nance helped make snow globes for 12 students with special needs at Golden Fields Elementary in South Jordan, and Bailey Eaton volunteered as a medical intern for the Intermountain Medical Center’s Heart and Lung Center in Murray.

Brighton High English teacher Karen Larson was pleased with what she heard from her students.

“I used to have students just do it with Christmas, but I got such great responses about how they love it, I now have all my classes take part in service,” Larson said. “When we talk about college, almost every major has a service-learning component so this is one way they can learn to give service and build leadership skills at the same time.”

Larson has students talk about issues, such as water, and discuss what they can do to help their communities provide and conserve clean water, or recycling, and how they can make an impact. The students are asked to write a reflective essay as well as give an oral presentation. By the end of the class, students will create public service announcements.

“I want them to make a connection, something that hits home for them. After serving, I want them to talk about what they learned and how they helped the community,” she said about the 150 students who will perform service as part of the class this year.

One senior, Brennan Neeley, said he helped a single dad with three young boys in his neighborhood by helping take meals to them.

“The dad was grateful I came over,” he said. “It wasn’t huge, it didn’t majorly impact the community, but it still helped.”

That, Larson said, was significant. 

“He may not have realized it, but by helping this one family, it can impact them significantly — by brightening their days, having them realize people care, making sure the boys were fed so they could learn better in school, taking a weight off the dad’s shoulders, just by helping out,” she said.

Senior Brayden Kenney and the Brighton drill team donated books, hats and gloves to James E. Moss Elementary, a Title I school in Salt Lake City.

“I never realized the impact a book, hat or gloves could be — I just always took those things for granted,” she said.

Senior Austin Bond collected food donations for the Road Home homeless shelter.

“It was an amazing way to serve the community and they seemed appreciative of what we can do,” he told his classmates. “To give to others, to share what we have, seemed right and really gratifying.”