As evident in our special events as well as in the classrooms where the students thrive daily, building community is very important at Benchmark. Ms. Theresa Scott, a 5th grade teacher, has been intentionally building community through special service projects. Four years ago, Ms. Scott developed the Service Corps for students in her class who wanted to provide a variety of helpful services to Benchmark and beyond. Ms. Scott’s goal for the Service Corps is “to build a caring and connected community within the classroom that would extend beyond our walls to the rest of the school and even to the larger community.”
Each year, Ms. Scott explains the service-oriented work of the group and invites her students to apply. This application asks why the student would like to join and what qualifications would make them a good candidate. Ms. Scott uses her project time at the end of the day on Fridays to focus on service after formal instruction is completed.
In addition to its weekly gig counting and delivering soft pretzels to classrooms for the Benchmark Parents Association, the Service Corps has helped set up and deliver books for the Book Fair, cut materials that students in the younger classes need but can't do for themselves, and picked up litter on campus.
Last year, Ms. Scott's class learned about food insecurity and they developed a deeper understanding and empathy toward the issue. As a result, they packed lunches for a community refrigerator. The students in this year's Service Corps wanted to make that particular effort more consistent. To that end, the 5th graders baked bread for community refrigerators with Mrs. Joan Fox, Benchmark’s art teacher, who has volunteered to help the Service Corps with their projects this year.
The work that the Service Corps has done inspired their younger buddies in Mrs. Spirokostas and Ms. Eroglu’s class to research how they too can help reduce food insecurities. They partnered with the Service Corps to pack lunches for three community refrigerators in Northwest Philadelphia. The 2nd/3rd graders decorated 24 bags that contained nutritious meals and worked alongside the older students to cut vegetables and affix a label that read, “Prepared by kids who care.” Fifth grader Aaron beamed as he shared, “It feels great to help others and to give food to people who don’t have any.” Third grader Mekhi said he “was happy to help others and make a best friend at the same time.”
What was once labeled as "project time" in Ms. Scott’s weekly schedule is now known as "Caring for Others." It is accomplishing the goal set by Ms. Scott when she started the Service Corps years ago, as she and her students are making a difference for those within and outside our community. The Service Corps is always willing to take requests for service around the school and has many other future projects in mind. Benchmark is grateful for their acts of service and all the good work they are spreading to the community and beyond.