HEALING, MSD STRONG, NEWS — March 22, 2020 at 8:23 pm

Students, faculty participate in community service projects on Feb. 14

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Junior Roberto Noschese helps make a new path in Marjory’s Garden. This was one of the six different activities offered in the garden on Feb. 14. Photo by Travis Newbery

Breathing Easy

One of the biggest reactions to the shooting on Feb. 14, 2018 was the outreach from countless therapists, psychologists and social workers to the students and staff of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. One method of healing introduced to the school community was mind-body medicine techniques. 

Mind-body medicine refers to the process of one’s mind and body working together to promote health and focus. With the help of the club’s leadership members, sponsor Diane Wolk-Rogers held a morning of mindfulness and tranquility for over 90 students and members of the community. 

“We hope to reach out, with compassion and love, to all of the members of our community and make it a really full day of love and giving,” Wolk-Rogers said.

Wolk-Rogers is a strong proponent of mental health and self-care. She starts out every history class with a “soft-belly,” which is a short session of focused, deep breathing that calms students down and prepares them for class. 

“Research has shown that mind-body medicine can be used to manage stress and anxiety. It’s been proven to improve immune functions and increase relaxation, improve relationships, support learning…” Wolk-Rogers said. “I’ve seen it with myself, and I’ve seen it with my mind-body ambassadors; that just having self-awareness, self-care and group support is really beneficial.”

Wolk-Rogers worked with the members of her workshop, as well as the Rho Kappa History Honor Society, to give back to the community. The group prepared 300 relaxing goody bags filled with childrens’ toys and activities to give to the Jewish Adoption and Family Care Options, an organization that works with foster children and children with disabilities. Wolk-Rogers also awarded Walt Disney World tickets to a family in need. 

“I learned through the activities that we did that there are other ways of coping with this tragedy that happened,” sophomore Nya Owusu-Afriyie said. “Some people resort to being left alone or some people resort to doing other stuff, like the beach yoga or different activities. I feel like it closely connected with me.”  

Feeding Our Heroes

The Feeding Our First Responders service project was created to give back to the police officers, firefighters and medical workers that rushed to help after the shooting on Feb. 14, 2018. 

The service project was operated like a traditional restaurant; Church by the Glades volunteers provided catering from Chick-fil-A, and the Broward Teachers Union sponsored coffee from Carmela’s. Students and other volunteers were split into different teams, where some were greeters, and others were wait staff.

“I think it’s really important to give back, and [the first responders are] always there for us, so it’s nice to do something for them,” sophomore Audrey Curtis said. “It gives you something, knowing that you helped someone; it gives you a good feeling.”

Over 170 students attended the Feeding Our First Responders project. Additionally, teams of volunteers from Church by the Glades contributed heavily.

“I think that there is a bond that is created when you can just relate and have compassion with somebody,” Church by the Glades volunteer Nick Ferraro said. “My team and I, we grow stronger as a team when we do stuff like this, and really the people that we serve: the students and the first responders. It gives us a level of compassion that is unmatched.”

Student volunteers could also choose to decorate cookies to give to teachers and first responders. Professional chefs, like Kimberly Elvis, from the Broward County area managed the cookie-decorating station.

First responders appreciated the opportunity to interact with students. 

“It gives a way for the first responders that were there that day to interact with the students… If new students have questions, they can talk to the first responders,” detective Nicholas Mazzy said. “It’s just a way for both sides to interact; [students] can see that the first responders are dealing with it, [first responders] can see that the students are dealing with it. So, it’s certainly beneficial for both groups.”

Where the Fresh Things Are

This year’s service project at Marjory’s Garden consisted of 85 students, plus teachers and outside volunteers, who took on initiatives to help improve the quality and features of the garden. Activities included clearing ground for a new pathway, constructing a shed to store the Astronomy Club’s equipment and digging a space for a new fountain.  

Kyle Jeter, the sponsor of Marjory’s Garden and the Astronomy club, led the day’s events. He supervised all of the work being done while passing the leadership of individual tasks to teachers, such as chemistry teacher Sean Simpson and television production teacher Eric Garner. 

“We got some great kids that come out and put their heart into this. For some kids, it gets their mind off things. For some kids, it makes them feel good,” Simpson said. “For me, it’s a different adventure every time; it’s a lot of fun being out here.”

Students could choose from a variety of hands-on tasks like digging, weeding, planting new crops or building the shed. However, they were not pressured to work. Representatives and the founder of the Kindness Rock Project were also present with rock painting kits to give students the opportunity to dive into a positive creative process.

“This year, I decided to take the initiative and make something real happen, [and] make something that I made,” senior Gilon Kravatsky said. “I’m a senior; I’m leaving this year, and I’m not really going to have any impact permanently left of the school. But if I come back and visit, I can see something that I did, something that’s going to stay here for a long time.”

While graduating students may want to leave their mark, teachers and faculty members felt nostalgic about their time at the school while tending to the garden.

“This is just giving back to the place that I’ve been at for 16 years. It’s kind of like leaving our mark, Jeter and I, on this place,” Simpson said. “Hopefully, this place will be here long after we’re gone, or at least the memory will be here.”

Boxes of Love

The Feeding Community Harvest Drive Service project was intended to give back to the community and provide food, water and other necessary items to the homeless population of Broward County. It was run in collaboration with the county’s Harvest Drive program. 

Students and volunteers were tasked with packing up rice, pasta, other dried-goods and water. They also wrote handwritten messages of love and encouragement that were to be included with the donated food. The boxes were sealed and prepared to be sent to homeless individuals and low-income families. 

“We made sure it looked like something we put thought into, and we showed [the recipients] we cared about them,” sophomore Ahmed Elgili said. “We tried our best to have fun; we played games, saw who could carry the most boxes. We tried to make it as fun as possible, even though it was a sad day.”

Students in attendance found that the feeling of helping those in need was able to help them through the day.

“It helped us to take our minds off of what happened and tried to bring joy to an already sad day,” Elgili said.

This story was originally published in the March 2020 Eagle Eye print edition.

Travis Newbery

Travis Newbery is a sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Travis has interests in photo and video editing and computer hardware.

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