June 9, 2017

The Hidden Passion Within the Halls of GOA

Sarah Cehelyk ‘18

Even while balancing a dual curriculum, students at GOA find time in their schedules to participate in meaningful activities. For many, this means a club or chug, but for others, this means devoting time and energy to others through volunteering.
Many of students at GOA feel incredibly fortunate for the education their parents are providing.
“We have been lucky enough to have incredible opportunities and we feel that it is our job to give back to those who may not have been as lucky,” junior Miriam Morris said.
This also connects with the GOA mission of “Tikkun Olam,” helping to repair the world and supporting those in need within the community.  
Unlike many other high schools, GOA does not require its students to fulfill a certain number of service hours. While this could be seen as a flaw, leaving students with the freedom to discover service projects on their own terms is often beneficial.
“The atmosphere at GOA promotes a deep caring and respect for others,” guidance counselor Ms. Hersch said. “It seems to be infectious.”
Perhaps this is why so many students involve themselves in community service.
Although there are no requirements regarding volunteerism, GOA provides its students with a multitude of opportunities to find service activities that they are passionate about. For example, the school has an annual Community Service Day when students and faculty fully immerse themselves into a day of volunteerism. This includes packing food at a soup kitchen, playing board games with the elderly and joining children with Autism for a day at school.
A positive experience from Community Service Day leads many students to devote more time and energy toward volunteering by choice.
“When students have a good experience on this day,” junior Rebecca Landau said. “it either makes them want to return to that specific place or spend more of their time volunteering.”
Once a student finds an organization or activity about which they are passionate, they are much more willing to devote their free time to that activity.
Sophomore Alana Wernick recently began her volunteer work with the Boys and Girls Club. Many of these children do not get enough attention at home and rely on the older volunteers for guidance and reassurance.
Wernick was inspired to start volunteering after a positive experience at summer camp.
“We went to a day camp for kids with special needs,” she said, “and I was really moved by it and wanted to start volunteering at home too.”
Now, each of her weeks is brightened by helping to make someone else’s week just a bit brighter.
Junior Matthew Friedman is also a devoted volunteer. He began his work with the Friendship Circle as a sixth grader and has been involved ever since. This organization works to provide friendship to children and young adults with special needs.
Friedman has fond memories from this past summer working with a boy named Eli.
“We spent a whole week together and it was a great experience because I got to learn about him over an extended period of time,” he said.
Although Friedman spends most of his time doing schoolwork and playing sports, his time spent with the Friendship Circle can be easily considered to be the most meaningful.  

Despite the academic demands of a dual curriculum, students do and will continue to find the time to assist others in the local community. No matter the reason, many students find their volunteer work to be their most meaningful out of school activity. Although not everyone speaks about their community service involvement, it is clear that many GOA students have an unwavering passion for helping others.


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