After three years of anticipation and hard work in the Leadership and International Relations Specialty Center, I could hardly wait to design and implement my service-based Capstone Project. My vivid passion for working with children and my interest in a future career in pediatrics inspired me to connect with United Methodist Family Services (UMFS), a social service organization in Virginia that provides an array of programs for high-risk kids. Lauren, my best friend since middle school, and I decided to be partners despite the continuous warnings of working with your best friend. Luckily for us, it ended up working out in the best way possible! Shortly after we decided to become partners, we met with their volunteer specialist to learn more about their needs, expecting a short donation list, but we were overwhelmed with much more. Not only did the kids in foster care need items like sensory kits and books, but they craved healthy relationships and advice regarding their young adult years to come. Through this meeting, Lauren and I learned that there are over 5,000 children in foster care in Virginia, a number that compelled us to take action.
In order to create awareness within our school, we invited students to create “Hero Cards” on September 29, 2017 with their favorite quote on them to be gifted to each of the seventy residential kids at UMFS during their holiday party. 71 students attended to create cards and over 100 cards were made. Not only did we reach our goal to get one card to each kid, but additionally there were enough to be gifted to each of the current foster parents.
Phase two of our project was a Football for Foster Care Powder Puff Football Game on October 20, 2017 at James River in which we raised $1,555 to buy the 12 sensory kits that UMFS had been needing since the beginning of 2017. The football game was a 45 minute game between underclassmen and upperclassmen completely organized by four student coaches. We had teacher referees, two announcers, a scoreboard manager, a cheerleading team, concessions, music, and t-shirt prizes for answering trivia! The event was a huge success and resulted in three adults signing up to get information about being foster parents.
Next, on November 28th, 2017, we invited students to pack the 12 sensory kits that would be shipped to UMFS for their residential visits. These kits have already made a huge difference in the lives of the kids associated with UMFS and their programs. This event was also an opportunity for James River students to get a look into the UMFS campus and its purpose through an online tour that we displayed.
Fourthly, Lauren and I used our funds to hold a four day workshop from December 11 to December 14, 2017 where professional speakers from ECPI and Chesterfield Mental Health provided instruction on life skills such as mastering interviews, pursuing healthy relationships, and using social media in a positive way for the students attending the Charterhouse School at UMFS. We had 20-25 kids attend to each lesson and had great feedback from each and everyone of them and their mentors.
Lastly, on January 9, 2018, we provided breakfast for the 60 staff members and teachers in the Charterhouse School at UMFS to say thank you for their hard work. Fortunately for the kids and families, these adults are incredibly selfless, but they often don’t get much credit for their incredible patience, dedication, and love for making a difference. We purchased 5 dozen Sugar Shack donuts, boxes upon boxes of coffee, orange juice, and granola bars and delivered everything the first morning back after winter break! We left a thank you note to them displayed on a poster since we had to hurry back to school.
Completing this project was the most memorable part of my high school career. Each experience was immensely valuable and I learned so much about myself, Lauren, and the love I have for reaching out to those who really need aid. Today, we have $2,306 leftover in funds to donate to UMFS. They have let us know that they are interested in using this money to create a sensory room for kids with autism, something that the organization has wanted to complete for years now.