Teenagers see and understand more than we think. Even as they advance through high school, navigating the social landscape and experiencing so much personal change, students develop a world view.
More than ever, it’s easy to see their sense of charity, community, and kindness. Rarely does a day pass without students in our community promoting a service project to peers. It seems someone’s always asking for help to help someone else.
Today, the Lemon Food Drive -- named for a former teacher – offers a prime example. Never in its more than 25 years has this project attracted so much support at Shepard High School. A possible explanation: Kids today have grown up during a time of need and see how families struggle.
“It seems a lot of people are not doing well,” said Shepard student Mike Scaccia.
“The food drive is very time consuming but extremely beneficial to me. It gives me the chance to help others in need at their weakest times,” said Jackie Murphy.
Whether it’s the tradition or the economic times, there’s something about this project that has inspired students and teachers. And it’s never been more evident: Last year, the Lemon Drive set a new record with nearly 10,000 donations.
Those who work the drive discover – or, in most cases, reaffirm – that giving provides its own reward. Requesting and sorting donations, contacting needy families, delivering food, and helping families who pick up food stir a student’s mind.
“We are used to living in the middle and upper class. Then we see the way some of those families are living and it breaks your heart,” said Kendal Wigboldy.
“It makes you realize how lucky you are and view what you have in a different way,” said Kathleen Schofield.
“It’s a truly life changing experience. We suggest everyone help out if they can,” added Shannen Hitzeman.
Students who experience volunteering tend to make it a habit. Asking teenagers who choose to participate invariably draws the same response. When they contribute once, they usually return next year.
“I always have enjoyed these types of community service projects. I did it in grammar school and want to continue it here,” said Scaccia.
“I’ve done it the past two years and it has been really humbling,” said Nick Lippe. “I like going to people’s houses and helping them out. I like giving back.”
And like other growth opportunities, the process of working a food drive motivates teenagers to participate in similar works after high school.
“The food drive helps people like me find out that they are capable of helping out, even if it doesn’t seem like all that much,” Murphy said.
“It’s something you can’t just stop doing. You do community service like this because you want to help,” Scaccia said.
Speaking for Hitzeman and Schofield, Wigboldy stressed “we all look forward to helping out and giving back to the community whenever possible.”
Want to help? You can drop non-perishable food items or money at Shepard through Friday, November 18. Shepard’s located at 13049 S. Ridgeland Avenue in Palos Heights.