How do you get an auditorium full of freshmen fired up about community service?
At Morristown High School, you give them blindfolds (to simulate the Seeing Eye experience), building blocks (Habitat for Humanity) and diapers (Children on the Green, the Neighborhood House) and challenge them to a relay race.
That’s what seniors from the Peer Group Connection mentoring program did on Wednesday to promote their volunteerism push, which they have dubbed CaRevolution.
Last week they organized a big concert to herald the project. Next, they are planning a “summit” where students can shop for a social service agency that intrigues them.
Interest from the community has been extraordinary, according to Laura Fenster Rothschild of the Princeton Center for Leadership Training, which provides training for faculty advisers at Morristown High and dozens of other schools statewide.
Claudine Priola, an English teacher who coordinates Morristown’s Peer Group Connection program, said this year’s seniors surpassed her expectations. The school now is considering making community service a graduation requirement, she said.
A highlight of Wednesday’s race was a speech by John Nally, a senior “peer group leader” who aspires to a career in special education.
“What fulfills my spirit is helping other people,” John told the assembled freshmen. “You can help yourself and do things for yourself to a certain point. But there’s always going to be a little part of you that’s not fulfilled, because you haven’t done anything to benefit the world and the people around you.”
The seniors want CaRevolution to be their legacy.
“We’re hoping that each year the seniors do a presentation to the freshmen, and that it cycles every year, so these freshmen we’re teaching now about community service and volunteering, when they’re seniors, they’ll continue it on and it will grow and grow,” said Eric Sturm. The senior is bound for New York University next fall, where he wants to study to become a social worker.