Giving Back and Giving More

Students give back year-round, not just for the holiday season

Kayelyn Tate, Staff Reporter

Holiday season is near, which means it’s time to give thanks and give back. A lot of schools, organizations, and communities spend their holidays working at soup kitchens, donating goods, or raising money. But, the holiday season is not the only time to give back. Many students participate in volunteer work throughout the year.  

Alyssa Smith (12) started volunteering at the Maren Fund, a place for kids with Down Syndrome, in seventh grade as a Bat Mitzvah project. She’s enjoyed being around the kids and volunteers a couple hours a month. 

“Our general goal is to teach them general life skills that they can take with them to be more sufficient, and it is so rewarding to see them grow and be able to do all these things,” said Smith. “My most memorable experience was when one of the kids was really shy, and nervous to be at a restaurant, but was ok to sit next to me and ask the waiter what she wanted to eat like we practiced.”

The variety of service and volunteer organizations at Central allows students many opportunities to give back. Nnenna Okpara (12) is a part of Senior Men and Women, a community service organization helping with Old Newsboys Day, veterans, and Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, and volunteers at her church’s food pantry.

“At my church the members that help with the food pantry always joke around and say ‘wouldn’t you rather be out with your friends’ as a joke, but still that response is kind of a signal that I should continue to volunteer because I am the only member that is a teen a part of that team,” said Okpara.

There are many ways students can give back to their community, whether that’s being a part of an Honors Society or service organization, or if it’s to spread awareness about different groups of people.

Ethan Winograd (12) works with the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of St. Louis to help educate students at predominantly Christian high schools in the St. Louis area about Judaism and what it’s like to be a Jewish teen.

“I remember last year during one presentation, a student said he had never met a Jewish person before and just knowing that I was the first Jew he had ever met and that just talking to him and answering his questions made such a difference and was incredible,” said Winograd.

JCRC is invited to the schools we go to and are faced with a lot of appreciation for taking time out of their day to come and interact with the people at those schools.

“I really think that giving people a chance to meet a group of people they don’t know a lot about or haven’t interacted with at all really breaks down a lot of the barriers that people just naturally have with those considered to be ‘the other’,” said Winograd.

Juniors, Ava Hayek and Zoe Fritz, volunteer at Beautification Day on Sept. 18. Photo by David Smith and Mikaela Snitzer