Students carry boxes of goods for more than 1,500 Forest Park families.(L to R: Photos credit: Amelia Joseph
5th graders Ishrat Ibrahim, Rodery Gonzalez, Christopher Marte, Erica Ponce, and
After giving out boxes of food and toiletries to more than 1,500 families in need, Christopher Marte, a fifth grade student at Forest Park School P.S.97 in Queens, turned to Senator Joseph P. Addabbo—who was at the Feed the Children event last month—and told the statesman, “You know what? I made a difference today.”
“We try to make our children the best citizens they can be,” said Parent Coordinator Amelia Joseph, who said that the school’s mission is to prepare students both academically and socially.
P.S. 97 Principal Marilyn Custodio and teachers Ms. Gould and Ms. Ward walked their 19 students, all 4th and 5th graders who currently serve on the student council, to the Forest Park distribution site on October 23rd. There, the students helped families by giving them three different kinds of boxes: one filled with tomato sauce, pasta, peanut butter and other foods, another with soap, diapers, baby wipes, shampoo and other hygiene items, and one with Avon products donated by the company.
These types of experiences allow students to see the importance of their work, and that they “are part of the bigger picture,” Ms. Joseph said. She believes that other schools should place a strong focus on community service.
She's seen its positive impact on students and the community. Despite 5th grader Marte’s occasional struggles with classwork, he knows he made a difference in someone’s life, Ms. Joseph said, and it gave him confidence. Another student, who often has a hard time speaking up in class, returned from the event “and couldn’t stop talking to her father about it.”
P.S. 97 students are involved in community service beginning in the early grades, supporting the March of Dimes, St. Jude’s Hospital, pet drives and other charities. Once they reach the 4th and 5th grades, students are encouraged to become more active participants in community service activities.
Since working with Feed the Children, the students along with the school community at large have turned their attention to helping families impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Some P.S. 97 staff suffered significant losses as a result of the storm, according to Ms. Joseph. The P.S. 97 Parent-Teacher Association established a collection drive for food, toiletries, diapers and baby formula for the community. The first batch of collections has already been delivered to Assemblyman Michael Miller's office for distribution. The next batch of donations will be distributed before Thanksgiving.
“The children know that they might not have everything, but they might have more than somebody else,” Ms. Joseph said. "They have become accustomed to giving back.”
The Forest Park team. Adults: L to R: Sen. Addabbo, Ms. Ward, Ms. Custodio, Ms.
Gould. Students: Brianne Rosario, Rainiei Paredes, Ishrat Ibrahim, Erica Ponce,
Jose Avila, Jasmine Villacres, Ariana Sanchez, Rodery Gonzalez, Tiffany Dayaram,
Clara Maceta, Alexander Valle, Divya Rajan, Michele Gomez, Christopher Diaz,
Christopher Marte, Natalia Garcia, Lenard Tolentino, Michael Dindial, Darlene Diaz.