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South Jordan Journal

Rather than class party, Hawthorn students turn to service

Feb 01, 2021 03:11PM ● By Julie Slama

Hawthorn Academy’s sixth-grade student government officers showed some of the toys that were donated to the Utah Youth Village during the holiday season. (Halley Miranda/Hawthorn Academy)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

For many elementary students, this past December’s holiday class party wasn’t what they may have envisioned — if they were able to hold one at all.

For Hawthorn Academy, it’s a tradition they were able to keep even with all the safety and health guidelines of COVID-19. That’s because instead of a typical class party, they turn to doing service, both as a school and in each individual class.

“The students really get into it and have fun,” said Halley Miranda, social media specialist. “When they become older students, they look back at all the service they’ve done and given rather than having had class parties. They feel the joy of serving and many of them like it more than a craft they may make and then throw away. They understand when they do service, they’re giving to others.”

Each year, Hawthorn student government leaders lead their classmates to gather food and toy donations to help others in their community. For three weeks in December, they were receiving contributions toward their goal of 2,020 pounds of food for the Utah Food Bank and 202 toys for the Utah Youth Village.

Through the years, the class service projects have been varied from tying fleece blankets for Bikers Against Child Abuse and filling the school’s food pantry to donating warm clothing to a shelter and making beaded gecko toys for a humanitarian aid trip to Guatemala. 

This year, fifth-grade teacher Joy Leavitt got the idea for her class service project from her daughter. Her daughter’s class at another school was writing letters to Santa and dropping them off at Macy’s Department Store. For every letter the store gathered, Macy’s would donate to Make-a-Wish Foundation. 

“We usually sing and help at the assisted living center near us, but with COVID, we couldn’t do that, so this was a perfect fit with what we are able to do during this time,” Leavitt said. 

Leavitt shared the idea with other teachers at Hawthorn, who also had their students write letters.

“We told the students it doesn’t matter if you believe in Santa or not, it can just be a persuasive letter, to work on your writing, and it will benefit those Make-a-Wish students. We could have our online students and the few we have quarantined be able to participate as well because they had an online link,” she said. “It’s just nice to be able to do service and it makes the students feel good. I like them to think of others and it’s fun to see how they’re wanting to make the world a better place.” 

Plus, it ties into the curriculum, according to Hawthorn Academy Superintendent/Lead Director Deborah L. Swensen.

“One element of the International Baccalaureate program is service,” she said. “Students learn that they are a part of a community. Communities grow stronger as each person gives back to their community.”

Swenson said it got started 12 years ago when Hawthorn Academy opened. Back then, faculty, staff, parents, students and administration looked at how students could contribute to their school community and the community in which they live. 

Student leaders took on the challenge of a school-wide service project of collecting food for the food bank and toys for other children who were not as fortunate as them. Parents, students and teachers then suggested that each class and/or grade also could do a service project rather than just have a winter party. 

Since then, each grade level team has come up with a way to give service within the school, to give to their school’s community. 

“Kids do some amazing projects to give service,” Swenson said. “On the day before the (winter) break, it is about doing for others, not just playing games and having treats.”