Celebrating with service: Students mark occasion by giving back


Time, talents and treasures are focal points for students and staff at St. Ambrose Catholic School in Seymour.

That’s especially evident each year during National Catholic Schools Week.

One day of that special celebration is devoted to community service projects, which take place inside and outside the school building.

This year’s projects, conducted Tuesday, included sixth-graders helping with various tasks at the Jackson County Public Library, fourth- and fifth-graders cleaning gymnastics equipment and organizing rooms at Girls Inc. of Jackson County and eighth-graders visiting the Ronald McDonald House in Indianapolis.

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In the school’s gymnasium, seventh-graders helped kindergartners through third-graders make crafts to give to nursing home residents and veterans.

Collectively, they took time to share their talents, which will be treasured by others.

“Part of our mission is to help others,” fifth-grade teacher Kim Stewart said. “It just reaffirms what they are learning about — helping other people and giving time and giving back to the community. This is one way we are giving our time today.”

Tennille Chandler, a third-grade teacher at the school, organized the activities in the gym.

At one table, students cut out red paper hearts and added a star and stripes to look like a flag. On the back, they wrote a personal message to thank veterans for their service.

At the other tables, students made heart-themed crafts for nursing home residents.

“Normally, they make the craft, and they get to keep it, and they are excited about that,” Chandler said. “But I said, ‘Today isn’t about us. We’re going to make somebody else’s day and put a smile on somebody else’s face.'”

She said local nursing homes often contact the school about having students make crafts for residents to hang up.

“Whenever we do deliver them, they are super excited,” Chandler said. “I wish for the kids that we could take a trip over there and they actually get to see that, but just knowing that they are making it for somebody else, they are excited about that, too. It gives them pride to know they are doing something for someone else. That’s what we’re about, just spreading that love and being kind to others.”

For St. Ambrose students, community service extends beyond National Catholic Schools Week.

Donations are collected throughout the school year for various causes, and middle school students help Community Provisions of Jackson County, Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Food Pantry and Meals on Wheels on a monthly basis.

Seventh-grader Valeria Ramirez said she hopes doing all of those activities encourages students to find ways to give back outside of school.

“It also makes you feel good doing it,” she said.

Giving back is at the forefront of students’ minds all of the time, but Valeria said it’s enhanced during National Catholic Schools Week.

“This week is more strongly talking about it,” she said. “We get to help people. Not just us, not our school, but others. For the little kids, they learn more about other people and how to thank them in different ways.”

Sixth-graders Noah Surface and Alex Martinez helped out at the Jackson County Public Library. There, students stamped and marked out barcodes on withdrawn books, changed labels on books, cleaned items in the children’s area, arranged displays and helped at the circulation desk.

Noah and Alex also were at the library a few years ago during National Catholic Schools Week.

“I like it because other people don’t get the opportunity to do this and help other people with their jobs. It’s good that we get to help with stuff that people need. I enjoy it,” Noah said.

“It means a lot to help the community,” Alex said.

While the students had fun doing the community service projects, they also participated in other fun activities as part of National Catholic Schools Week.

On Monday, they dressed in patriotic clothing or state-themed apparel and played states bingo. Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman also made a proclamation.

Wednesday included an inflatable obstacle course in the gym and various activities to get students up and moving around.

On Thursday, they traveled to Jennings County for Mass with students at St. Mary’s Catholic School. There also was a card shower for the priest and seminarian and a question-and-answer session with them.

Today, after Mass, students could change into their pajamas to watch a movie and enjoy popcorn in the gym.

Noah said it’s always a fun week at school.

“I like that we can celebrate that the school has been successful in helping kids learn,” he said.

Noah and other students said they appreciate having the opportunity to attend a Catholic school.

“The good thing about our school is that it’s smaller, so if we need help, we can get special time with the teachers. That’s what I like about smaller schools,” Noah said.

“I like to learn more about God,” Alex said.

“I like that you can learn more about your faith and how God helps you in different ways that you might not see, but He’s still there for you,” Valeria said. “We have religion class, but this week helps us learn more about God, and I like that.”

The teachers appreciate that opportunity, too. Stewart, who has taught at St. Ambrose for 15 years, said she likes the personal feel of the school.

“It’s kind of like family away from family. There’s majorly a family feel to it,” she said.

“I especially love that we get to start our day every day praying together, and we do the Pledge of Allegiance,” she said. “We pray before lunch, we pray at the end of lunch together, we pray at the end of the day to end our school day that way and we conclude our school week by attending Mass together as a school and celebrating the reason that we’re there.”

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