Global Citizenship steadfast in its support

In-person volunteering is more difficult than it once was, and many struggle to find remote service opportunities. However, that did not stop Mr. Reed and his class from helping out the community. Learn about the projects of the Global Citizenship class, such as visiting the Janes Addams shelter.

Global Citizenship class put together four drives for items needed at the shelter: one for Five Below gift cards, one for shower supplies, one for summer fun baskets, and one for board games. | Photo courtesy of Thomas Reed

A recent study by Fidelity Charitable found that since the beginning of the pandemic, the amount of time that Americans have spent volunteering has decreased or, for some, stopped entirely. In-person volunteering is more difficult than it once was, and many struggle to find remote service opportunities. However, the students of the Social Studies elective Global Citizenship have not let this setback prevent them from serving the community. Although the course has dropped its once mandatory thirty to forty hours of service requirement, it has not stopped providing students with volunteer opportunities whenever possible, and its teacher, Thomas Reed, reports that nearly all students continue to take advantage of these opportunities by choice. The class’s main goal is to not just educate students about the injustices plaguing their community, but to help them get involved in fixing those issues. “The important thing is we want to inform our students, we want them to become aware of these social justice issues, and we want them to become active,” says Reed. “We don’t just talk about poverty, we work to fight poverty.” 

The class takes several different routes to connect with volunteer organizations, often working with the impact center in Haverford, which seeks to connect students from diverse backgrounds with service opportunities in their communities. In addition, the class often invites host speakers from the community to present on social justice issues, and forms connections with organizations they participate in. But the majority of student service is centered on the Jane Addams Place, a shelter in North Philadelphia that houses mothers and children while working to find them more permanent housing. LM first formed a relationship with the Jane Addams Place about eight years ago, when buildOn started organizing excursions for the children at the shelter. buildOn members would take the kids for movie nights or bowling outings, giving them a fun night while granting their parents a much-needed break. Reed has worked to organize these events with the Jane Addams Place coordinator Latisha Brown-Swans for years. When the school district introduced Global Citizenship two years ago, Brown-Swans began coming in to speak with the class. She sought to educate them about her experiences working at the shelter and break down stereotypes about the homeless.

“Educating our youth is the most important thing,” says Da’rel Scott, a fellow educator who is spearheading the Jane Addams project with Reed. Scott was motivated to get involved because he had heard many good things about buildOn’s work. He believes the key to progress is creating opportunities for young people to engage with their community and become better global citizens. He notes that, as a minority, he thinks it is crucial to ensure that all young people are informed about, “issues that people of color have seen for a long time.” The Global Citizenship class is founded upon the idea that these are lessons best learned through service. And it seems as though this approach has resonated with students. Student leader Eyani Rollins (‘21) credits the course for opening her eyes to all the struggles people in her community are facing, and praises her classmates for being “so involved and active with this.”

Currently, the class is holding four drives for items needed at the shelter: one for Five Below gift cards, one for shower supplies, one for materials to put together “summer fun baskets,” and one for board games. The students will be organizing the supplies into baskets before dropping them off in person. Although the volunteering has been mostly remote this year with students putting together mostly contactless events such as these drives, Reed hopes to have students in person working with people at the shelter as soon as it is safe to do so. As the number of vaccinated Americans increases every day, this goal is looking more and more achievable for next year’s Global Citizenship students.