How students are living out Keystone pillars, serving others

Apr 23 2020

How students are living out Keystone pillars, serving others

“One of the most important things you can do on this earth is to let people know they are not alone.”
Shannon L. Alder

At a time when we’re all hunkered down and isolating ourselves, it would be easy to become self-centered and lose sight of the suffering of others. Thus, it is all the more impressive when our Keystone Cobras look beyond themselves and want to take care of those people in need. In a school that holds “community involvement” and “responsible leadership” as core values, it is heartening to see the ways that students are finding ways to help people. Although I realize that there may be many examples of our Cobras serving others, I want to highlight three examples this week.

Screen shot from Little School Dance Party

While all of our students grapple with being stuck at home and unable to socialize face to face with their friends, it can be exceptionally difficult for our youngest children in the Little School who are just learning how to form friendships with peers and relationships with teachers. So, when Head of Little School Dena Hoenig Valdez reached out to senior Bella to discuss ways to connect with our Terrific Turtles, Busy Bugs, and Rain Forest Animals (as the children are known), Bella joined with her peers to create something both beautiful and joyful. I asked Bella for her thoughts, and she wrote me last Saturday. I quote from her below:

Mrs. Dena had called me after the first week of online school, and asked if I could brainstorm some ways to keep the preschool students connected with the older students: this connection and program would hopefully lift not only the little’s spirits, but the older kids’ too, as we have all been struggling to cope with the lack of social interaction. I told her I’d think on it and call her back with some ideas and some volunteers, and I reached out to the Lower School Connects members–the new club I’ve started this year where high schoolers volunteer with K-4— and 10 students from 9th-12th said they’d be interested. I told Mrs. Dena that I was thinking about a smaller buddy program, with some one on one time, and a bigger call to keep the kids connected with each other and moving. She loved this idea and reached out to the Little School families, and came back with a little over 20 students who were interested. Each of my high school volunteers has 2-3 preschool buddies, and it’s been a great success.

I wanted to be able to stay in touch with the preschool students myself, and I know that some of the high schoolers, specifically the 10 that volunteered, really love being with children too, and so it was perfect that Mrs. Dena reached out and asked if we could do a program. Though it’s more screen time for us all, I think it’s been a stress reliever and a day brightener for everyone involved.

I just asked the Lower School Connects members via GroupMe to reach out to me if they were interested in working with preschool students, which most had never done but were really interested. I want to especially commend Stella C, Alex F, Maya C, Bella A, Iris R, Aidan C, Gabrielle S, and Liv L., Quincy B for volunteering to give up their time a few days a week to work with the Little School students. They’ve all been very flexible, great communicators, and willing to try anything and work with any student I’ve paired them with. They’re the best group of volunteers to try a virtual buddy program with.

I’m really happy with how it’s going. We’ve been doing one-on-one buddies for the last couple of weeks, and I’ve been able to jump on some calls and check in with the preschool kids, and I’ve heard from the high school volunteers all positive feedback. The dance party was a first yesterday, and it was great to see what went well, what we can work on next time, and the turnout was awesome: 27 families!! I’m excited to see how this is going to continue and progress, and hopefully the buddy system can be a catalyst for great relationships between the youngest and oldest students on campus.

As you have probably seen in the news, there has been unprecedented demand at the San Antonio Food Bank with thousands of people lining up to receive donated food. While some people may have been returning to the Food Bank, there were many people who found themselves there for the first time. A few weeks ago, one of our families asked if people in the Keystone community would like to support the Food Bank. Their lower school son Jeeve wrote the note below:

“As you all know, COVID-19 is affecting people and those families are losing their jobs. That means that these families cannot produce enough money to live a healthy and nice life. The Foodbank is needed to provide enough meals for the people in need that don’t produce enough money and don’t have jobs. We would gladly like to donate money to the food bank, but the problem is that we need you guys to do this too. Our goal is to provide $100,000 and that equals 1,000,000 pounds of food. This will be going on from March 31 to April 13. Together, we can change the world.”

Perhaps one silver lining in our current situation has been a long overdue appreciation for first responders and medical caregivers. Thus, when 9th grader Ishan reached out to Upper School Head Mr. Spedding and me inquiring about a GoFundMe campaign to procure equipment for medical personnel, we were impressed. Freshmen Ishan, Jeffrey, Brendan, Aruj, Asher, and former Keystone student Brendan banded together to take care of the caretakers. They have expanded their efforts to care for the homeless during the pandemic. Ishan said,

“My team and I have been collecting donations to provide Personal Protection Equipment for doctors and nurses at University Hospital. We created a GoFundMe to collect monetary donations. We are also collecting supply donations, such as masks or gloves, which can be delivered to your nearest 15RX Pharmacy. Anything is helpful to help protect our local doctors and nurses and no amount is too small or insignificant to make a difference.

I want to help our local doctors and nurses, since they need our community to come together and help during these times. I want to help the essential workers at University Hospital, since they go to work everyday to keep us safe. My thoughts are that we need to help them by keeping them safe as well. My hopes are that I could help every doctor and nurse at University Hospital by providing Personal Protective Equipment to them. I want to raise money so they could buy masks, gloves, gowns, etc., to stay safe while they are working.

I told my classmates about my fundraiser and wanted them to join it. Everyone that I asked to join my fundraiser wanted to also help our community. I knew that with every person I invited, my fundraiser’s information would reach many more people. I would be able to collect more donations after telling other people about it.

I have also been in contact with The Center For Health Care Services, and they house a large number of homeless people. These people do not have masks and are not respecting social distancing, since they do not have a lot of space there. I was thinking to try and get Keystone involved to make masks for the homeless people. I am going to record a tutorial on how to make a mask and I wanted to ask students to make them if they have the supplies. It would be another way to help our community, if they cannot give monetary donations.”

We know that other Keystone students are doing their part to help people who are suffering. There is now a place on the Keystone School website publicizing how all of us can aid people in the San Antonio greater community during this pandemic. During times like these, we remember the words of poet John Donne, and we can take pride in the efforts of Keystone students to make a difference.

‘No Man is an Island’
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

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