Gifford Students Help Community

Gifford Students Help Community
Posted on 01/31/2019
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Published by The Weston Town Crier, January 31, 2019
For students who have struggled trying to fit in at previous schools due to social, emotional and/or learning challenges, The Gifford School offers a community that fosters a sense of belonging. Feeling
 accepted, supported, and safe helps our students achieve success in academics and social relationships, which in turn enables them to look outside themselves to support others in the community.

One example of that success is happening in Gifford’s Philanthropy Group whose main goal is to create and nurture the spirit of service to the community. Throughout the course of the current school year, the high school students in the Philanthropy Group have volunteered their time and effort toward a variety of causes and charities. They organized a successful clothing drive and spent a day working in Boston, at Cradles to Crayons. They volunteered at HouseHold Goods in Acton cleaning, moving, and delivering household goods and furniture to needy families. They got their hands dirty feeding, cleaning, and exercising Great Danes at The Service Dog Project in Ipswich.  Showing their artistic side, they hand crafted fleece blankets for The Linus Project which provides sick or traumatized children with the comfort of blankets. They have written supportive letters to the troops for the organization Operation Gratitude, and sent care packages to a soldier deployed in Afghanistan who the group “adopted.” High school Head Counselor Jimmy Tsekrekas, a 15 year veteran of Gifford who leads the group shared, “In spite of all the struggles these students have gone through, it’s inspiring to witness the amazing compassion they have toward others.”

Another group at Gifford that embodies the spirit of community is the High School Student Government. Every December, the Student Government organizes a drive to donate new toys to the local Salvation Army chapter in Waltham. This toy drive has been successfully executed for over twenty years at The Gifford School. A few years ago, the students decided to include a new component to the tradition with the addition of a food drive. Student Government President Andrew Wojtas explained, “We thought that by [also] asking for canned food, we could help more families.” That theory proved to be a resounding success as donated food items came flooding in. The students filled three school vans with over 30 bags of food and toys and proudly dropped off them off to an appreciative Salvation Army. The Student Government reps returned to campus proud that they had helped 200 families over the holidays. 

Finally in the spirit of giving back, Gifford staff undertook its own community service project, which will be the start of a new tradition, January Giving at Gifford. The charity we chose to support this year was Rosie’s Place, a women’s shelter in Boston. Staff organized various “stations” and spent the afternoon putting together packages that included hats, mittens, toiletries, children’s books, and hand-made cards with inspirational messages. Rosie’s Place believes that “every woman is a resilient and resourceful individual who’s past and present need not be her limits.” We believe the same about our students who are determined not to let their challenges define them.

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