Chicago Students Give Back to the Community

Kid Reporter Joseph Gorman interviewing SHS student George Huebner
Kid Reporter Joseph Gorman interviewing SHS student George Huebner

Joseph interviews SHS student George Huebner.

At Sacred Heart Schools (SHS) in Chicago, students learn to cultivate “a social awareness that impels them to action.” How is this done? SHS develops relationships with neighborhood organizations that provide services to people in need. Students like me, in turn, are encouraged to support those organizations’ efforts in a variety of ways.

School-wide activities at SHS include clothing drives, bagel sales benefitting community groups, and a holiday project that encourages students to collect gifts for hundreds of people in need.

Younger students make sack lunches for the homeless. Older students serve off-campus at such nonprofit organizations as Misericordia Heart of Mercy, a residential facility that provides support for 600 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

As SHS fifth-grader Emma Penner explained: “We get to make other people feel good about themselves.”

SHS Head of Schools Nat Wilburn said that SHS gains something invaluable in the exchange. Helping others “enables us to learn more about how hard life is for some people and reminds us how fortunate we are.”  



SHS’s relationship with Misericordia is extra special because some Misericordia clients work in SHS’s cafeteria. “Not only do they have a job here, they come to all of the big school events,” Wilburn said. “They really are a part of the SHS community.”

Tina Stendardo, Misericordia’s Assistant Administrator of Developmental Training Programs, sees how excited residents are about student visits. “I start getting asked at the beginning of the school year: When is Sacred Heart coming?

One Misericordia resident summed up SHS students’ impact this way: “You guys change the world.”  

Kid Reporter Joseph Gorman interviewing a Misericordia resident and Maria Paz-Salas of SHS

Joseph talks with a Misericordia resident and Maria Paz-Salas of SHS.


SHS’s service commitment is so strong that the school has a full-time Coordinator of Service Learning and Community Partnerships, Maria Paz Salas. Her commitment is in her genes.

“My parents met while they were working with people in a very poor area of Santiago [Chile],” Salas said. “They always helped people, [and] they inspired me to do the same.”

Salas encourages students to serve by “learning about an issue that affects others and doing something that will create more justice.”

SHS students can initiate and lead service opportunities. Seventh-grader George Huebner explained the work of a student-led school group called Service, Outreach, Advocacy, and Philanthropy (SOAP). “Right now, SOAP is trying to provide educational resources and a reliable source of food to areas in need,” George said.

Like schools everywhere, SHS teaches students how to achieve their goals in life. Perhaps most important, service programs at the school teach students how to make the world a better place and, hopefully, inspire others to do the same.


Photos courtesy of the author