Our Plan in Action: Expanding Burke's Partnership with the RDNC
This school year, things are changing with Burke's relationship with the Richmond District Neighborhood Center, and in a wonderful way.
It started with a comment from Lower School Director Alice Moore at the final Parents' Association meeting of the 2015-16 school year. At that gathering, Burke's Gives Back presented administrators from the Richmond District Neighborhood Center (RDNC) with a thank-you for helping to facilitate the food pantries that each grade participated in throughout the school year — though given space issues, only a limited amount of students could take part.
In her remarks, Ms. Moore said she wished that every girl could participate in the food pantry while in Lower School. So, over the summer, Burke's Gives Back huddled with the RDNC to brainstorm ideas to make that possible. This year, food pantries at the RDNC include more activities to make them accessible for all students in a grade.
And by doing so, Burke's partnership with the RDNC grows stronger and brings more service learning to the curriculum, both of which are outlined as goals in the Strategic Plan.
For Lower School grades, the day of the food pantry has shifted from a group of 10 to 15 girls who signed up to attend to a full class heading over at the end of the school day. While full grades of Upper School students don't yet participate together, the numbers of students who sign up have nearly doubled — the seventh-grade food pantry on Thursday, November 17 involved 27 out of 47 students.
Burke's Gives Back Co-Chair Julie Garcia says that the RDNC made adjustments to allow for more attendees by adding stations to the usual food distribution:
Working in the RDNC's Urban Garden with a garden expert. "[The RDNC is] launching a true community garden program where participants, including Burke's, will take responsibility for one of the plots and tend to the garden over the course of the year," Julie says. RDNC's ecology educator, Markos Major, works with Burke's students when they come by to learn about the plants, water them, and keep them healthy. About 50% of the produce that's grown there will go to the RDNC's Home Delivered Groceries program.
Learning more about the RDNC. While taking a break, students can grab a snack and read more about subjects such as food insecurity, empathy, and sharing through books in the Burke's Gives Back library.
Participating in a purposeful project or craft. For the second-grade food pantry on October 6, students collected household cleaning items such as sponges, dish soap, and rubber gloves. They then decorated buckets with messages, wrote notes, and gathered the items in the buckets, which were then delivered to seniors in the Home Delivered Groceries program. "I deliver groceries to a longtime resident in the Richmond and part of the program, and she was thrilled when I arrived with the bucket of cleaning items," Julie says. "She pulled out each item one by one and told me how much she appreciated and needed the items."
When the seventh graders headed over for their food pantry, they took hand-built flower beds with them that they and other Upper Schoolers had put together under Mr. Hetzel's supervision during their conference prep times on the week of November 14. When the fourth graders go to their food pantry in December, they will work with an artist on putting together a mosaic installation for the RDNC.
The Burke's Strategic Plan calls for the school to create partnerships with a variety of organizations, including nonprofits, to help provide our students with a greater sense of global awareness, a sense of citizenship, and leadership skills. While this recent expansion may have resulted from an off-hand comment, it's still going strong toward completing that goal.
Burke's mission is to educate, encourage and empower girls. Our school combines academic excellence with an appreciation for childhood so that students thrive as learners, develop a strong sense of self, contribute to community, and fulfill their potential, now and throughout life.