Cindy Says: Community service with your kids…now?

Cindy Says: Community service with your kids…now?

By Cindy Ripley on October 29, 2020

For kids who volunteer their talents for community service, the benefits are life-changing. There is no better time than while our normal focus has been altered so drastically. For kids who take part, it's a habit that often develops with them through adulthood.

Why now you say? Many of you have already balanced your personal life, family responsibilities, and your job, all in the same space. You have learned new technology platforms that you were totally unfamiliar with. You may have spent countless hours safely restructuring your programs. Another project?

Here are the benefits of arts focused community service with your students:

• Helps students develop soft skills through their creative abilities: collaborative thinking, teamwork and leadership, responsibility.

• Allows them to experience cultural sensitivity, empathy and compassion.

• Creates opportunities to showcase their signature talents they have cultivated in your program to change our present world.

Many of you know my dear friend Christie Jeter, executive/artistic director of Jeter Backyard Theater in Gibsonia, PA. Her reputation as an outstanding and multi-faceted educator speaks for itself. As long as I have known Christie, her "out of the box" ideas with her students and community are boundless, always leaving us with anticipation for what she might next create.

Her multi-faceted covid project, "Helpergram Project" is one to showcase for many reasons. Let me share the "birth of it" in her narrative:

"When I was young, living in a one-bedroom apartment with my baby grand, I loved to play the piano and sing everything in my gig book. My first year as a music teacher, I moonlighted at a piano bar in the city. When our family got together on Sundays, it was my job to play and take requests. In that first 15 days of quarantine, I started to call my parents in the morning and sing to them - all their favorites. I got a call from my friend Mike, whose daughter is one of my voice students. He said that he missed his daughter's voice singing around the house. She needed to sing again because it made her feel good, too. I told him I knew he was right and shared about singing to my parents every morning. Mike reminded me of Mr. Rogers telling us to look to the helpers. He said that the kids could help people feel better with their voices. The Helpergram was born."

As quarantine moved from 2 weeks to 2 months, Christie and her students edited and revised but their format and purpose always remained the same. Everyone wanted to look forward and make people feel good - it was that simple. It was their community service to the world during a time when much of the world was still in shock. When people wanted to donate, they declined and asked them to pay it forward instead. "Your voice is magical to someone. Call somebody you love. Laugh with them, sing to them. It helps." And Christie said it helped them too.

• Adversity Is Temporary

• Adversity builds emotional muscle

• Adversity fosters flexibility and resilience

So, in homage to keeping the arts vital in these times, share some of the skills that are second nature to you and your students with the world. When presented with adversity, you will become more creative, more flexible and gain a layer of confidence that will see you through the next storm. CR

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