By J1 Reporter Megan Patterson
It is easy to get caught up in our busy lives. Marian girls have a lot on their plates from competitive sports, to theater, to rigorous academics and then balancing that with family, friends, after school jobs, and personal time. We forget about what matters in our lives because of all the clutter in our daily lives. It is important to get involved in programs that offer unique opportunities so that you can broaden your experiences. Luckily, we go to a school that promotes doing service activities and all you have to do is be open for opportunities.
There are countless service opportunities in the Omaha area alone. A program Marian formally supports is the Hartman Elementary School after-school program, which is offered during the Campus Ministry sponsored Service Sites at the beginning of the year. The students who sign up receive weekly emails, but there are one-time opportunities to do service at Hartman Elementary as well. This program was recently brought to my attention in the second semester of my junior year. I was looking for more ways to get involved in my community and I hit a stump. I could not find the right service opportunities for me; I checked my email (something all of us Marian girls need to do more often) and I opened up an email from 2 seniors at Marian: Fiona Gautschi and Maddie Kmiecik. They sent out an email about Hartman Elementary School volunteering and it immediately caught my eye. After reading the email, I was hooked.
The email described what a typical afternoon volunteering would look like: go to Hartman Elementary from 4:15 to 5:30 after school on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. When Marian has days off then there are no visits to Hartman that day as well so it is very comparable with Marian’s school schedule on days off.
The main goal of this program is to go play with the kids and help the teacher’s with small tasks. I had the opportunity to go to Hartman Elementary after school on a Friday, and I was amazed when I walked into the gym with all of the students in it. Right away the atmosphere at the school is so positive and the kids are so kind. They ran up to us and hugged me even though I had never met them before. They asked me all sorts of questions and were just as excited to answer questions like what their favorite color was, what was the best movie they’ve seen recently, and what their favorite song was. They had bright smiles on their faces and they were all extremely grateful that we were there to play with them.
First, we helped them get their bags ready in the gym and we waited for the teachers to give further instructions. Then we traveled outside to the playground area in the back of the school. The kids loved the playground! They were all screaming and climbing everything in sight. We played big games of tag all around the playground until they could not run anymore. Next, we did piggyback rides and raced each other while the rest of the kids cheered us on. Then of course you could not miss going on the super-fast spinning part of the playground. The line for this merry-go-round was long, if you can imagine. Finally, we settled down and watched the kids do the monkey bars, go down the slide, and played simple games like leapfrog.
After everyone was settled down, we made our way back into the gym because it was a special day. That meant that the younger kids got to watch their older classmates play in a basketball game against a different elementary school. They were ecstatic and the teachers said they had been waiting for this game for a month! They cheered loudly in the stands for their classmates and started positive cheers. While they watched the game some of the girls wanted to do people’s hair so we had a braid train and just did each other’s hair for fun. During this time I also got to play Pokémon games with one of the student cards that he had brought from home that he was excited about.
As the afternoon moved closer to 5:30, the kids all went around and asked the girls I was volunteering with and me if we could come back again next week because we had made their day special. They said it was one of the best days that month and that they had so much fun. We shared long hugs and told them we would be coming back next week and their faces lit up again with their bright smiles.
Although listening to this experience may sound like just another service opportunity, it truly had an impact on me. I was able to experience a different kind of opportunity and the effect we had on these kids was huge. They looked up to us and wanted us to be there. Volunteering for something like this goes past just wanting to get service hours for your resume. The connection you form with these kids and listening to their stories and where they come from is so eye-opening and amazing, especially since Hartman is right down the street from Marian at 5530 N 66th St Omaha, NE 68104.
I encourage all of you to spend an afternoon after school volunteering at Hartman. To learn more about Hartman and its after-school program contact Fiona Gautschi and Maddie Kmiecik at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. All you have to do is fill out a few quick forms. Then you are ready to go and can just sign up through the google spreadsheet sent out each week. I hope to see you all there volunteering soon if you think this sounds like something you would enjoy.