Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

VISTA Spotlight: Sarah Lesperance

Know someone interested in making positive changes in the world? GHCC is seeking qualified candidates for our nationally-renowned AmeriCorps*VISTA program.  Sign on for a year of service with us and receive health benefits, a modest living allowance, and an end-of-service education award.  We have 10 positions available to start in August 2010 in the areas of improving public schools, strengthening neighborhoods, and adult literacy.  

We’ll be featuring several VISTA stories in the coming weeks to raise awareness of national service.

Want to know more? Visit our website!
Submitted by Sarah Lesperance.

Growing up in the small town of Meredith, New Hampshire, I was not exposed to a lot of diversity.  Moving to Worcester, Massachusetts for my undergraduate studies opened my eyes to a new kind of culture and different ways of living.  I was heavily involved in volunteering, and it soon grew to become a passion.  I knew right away that I needed to continue advocating and assisting those who were less fortunate.  After seeing so many fellow volunteers go on to serve, I knew for years that AmeriCorps would be my next step in life.

Being accepted as an AmeriCorps*VISTA member at GHCC has proved to be the path I was meant to take for many reasons. Moving to Baltimore immediately felt like home to me.  Everyone was so welcoming and willing to help in all ways.

On a daily basis, my primary responsibility is getting parents more involved in the school by notifying them about what is happening in the school and when. Currently I am helping our new softball club get started by helping with the practices. I also apply for grants, such as a Parks and People Foundation grant we were awarded recently for our annual Earth Day Celebration. I also keep in constant contact with Medfield Heights Elementary’s community partners and let them know about important meetings and events. My work varies day to day, but with the ultimate goal of bringing in new resources and people to improve the school’s well-being and success.

When I got to Baltimore, I was not accustomed to how a city public school system operates. Back in Meredith, we had three towns attend our one public school, and even then I only graduated with a class of 99 students.  But with the help of staff at GHCC and Medfield Heights Elementary School, I was quickly able to catch on.

The skills and experiences that I have gained from my VISTA year so far have been invaluable. Being put into so many unfamiliar situations allowed me to grow as a person. I have realized that if you live within your comfort zone, you aren’t really living at all. I have met some fascinating individuals through my work as a VISTA member and just living in Baltimore. I have learned that it is important to make friends before you need them, work hard but always with a smile, and to listen to what everyone has to say around you because it’s a great way to learn.

I would definitely recommend a year of service with AmeriCorps*VISTA to others because it is a great chance to build new skills and experiences and meet new people. It is also a great way to give back to your country and community, which will have a lasting impact on the community as well as the individual.

Sarah completes her VISTA year in August 2010.  She is currently searching for non-profit job prospects and hopes to remain in Baltimore.

Medfield Heights Elementary Hosts Sixth Annual Green Thumb Day

written by Catherine Bates

Medfield Heights Elementary School held our sixth annual Green Thumb Day on April 23rd. In honor of Earth Day, the school sets aside a day to spend outside in our schoolyard working to get ready for the gardening season. This year, not only did students spend time in our school’s outdoor learning areas to celebrate Earth Day, but fifth graders planned and lead other activities throughout the school as well.

The fifth grade taught the Pre-K classes to make bird feeders out of pine cones, lard, and birdseed; led the kindergartners in painting bird houses, bat boxes, and butterfly boxes to be placed in our gardens; led the third grade in making boxes for bottles and can recycling in the classrooms; and helped the fourth graders write skits about being energy efficient. While all these activities were going on, students were also working in the garden with Rick Hobbs from Irvine Nature Center, one of Medfield’s most active partners.

The day began with Rick Hobbs instructing the Medfield Heights fifth and second graders on the proper way to plant shrubs and flowers and about the basic ideas behind our schoolyard habitat. These students spent the morning working in front of the school in the outdoor classroom, which is made up of a butterfly and bird garden, and spent the afternoon working in the back of the school instructing the other grades on planting and mulching.

Overall the students of Medfield worked beautifully together! I was so impressed with the students’ ability and excitement to work in teams while digging holes, working hard to get shrubs out of their pots and into the ground, and to spread around fresh mulch. There is no doubt Medfield’s awesome fifth graders lead by example! They not only planned activities for the school in teams, but they lead their younger peers with excitement and maturity, and of course Irvine Nature Center could not have been more helpful! Medfield is so lucky to have such a great partner!

Medfield just received their recertifictation as a Maryland Green School last week and continues to work to educate our students on the way their actions affect their school, their community and their planet. Green Thumb Day is just one example of the school’s continued efforts.

Medfield Heights Elementary to Host Second Annual Boys & Girls Fashion Show

Written by Angela Tyler, Medfield Heights Elementary School parent.

Don’t miss this one! Second Annual Boys & Girls Fashion Show – Friday, April 24 – 6:30-8:30pm @ Western/Poly HS (Falls Rd at Cold Spring) hosted by Medfield Heights Elementary PTA and yes, it is a boy-friendly show, too!

This family event features 51 Medfield Heights boys and girls gracing the stage with their unique personalities and charm, while showcasing their own fashions. Due to last year’s sell-out crowd, the PTA decided to relocate the show from the school’s multi-purpose room to a larger facility so many more could enjoy. This year’s show also highlights children designers from Sew Fabulous Sewing School in Owings Mills, MD. Tickets are on sale for $7 via (VISA/MC – debit/credit); by contacting Catherine Bates for group tickets (443-324-9161); or by stopping by the school on Thursday evenings (April 16 & 23 – 5:30-7pm) – 4300 Buchanan Avenue – 21211. Tickets will not be sold at the door.

Medfield Heights Elementary is a small, non-Title 1 school known for its consistent educational excellence, cultural diversity, its Maryland Green School status, and its strong parental and community support. Less than 350 students attend the school ages 4-11, PreK through fifth grade. The Fashion Show serves as one of the PTA’s largest fundraisers for the school. Proceeds benefit school activities and 2010 MSA practice booklets.