Weekend teaches Burr Ridge students to give back
Seventh-grader Zoe Trujillo chats with Pleasantdale Middle School gifted teacher Dana Merchant about her trip to Chicago for CivicAction Weekend. | SANDY ILLIAN BOSCH—Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 24, 2012 1:17AM
BURR RIDGE — Zoe Trujillo and her family have travelled abroad to learn about other cultures.
And although the trip she will take Nov. 2 and 3 is only to Chicago, the Pleasantdale Middle School seventh-grader is looking forward to CivicAction Weekend as another opportunity to see how other people live.
“It’s a big world out there,” said Pleasantdale gifted teacher Dana Merchant.
She encouraged students to participate in the annual event, at which 60 seventh- and eighth-graders from the western suburbs will take part in service projects while learning about social issues facing urban communities.
Under the supervision of trained staff from the Civic Education Project, students, including 21 from Gower Middle School in Burr Ridge and five from Pleasantdale, will spend the two days engaged in meaningful service, hands-on learning and meetings with community leaders at nonprofit organizations.
“It’s a chance for kids to see what it means to give back to the community,” said Gower Middle Principal Tracy Murphy.
She said a second section was added this year to allow more students to benefit from the experience. More than 80 students applied for this year’s weekend.
Food pantries, soup kitchens and Habitat For Humanity have benefitted in the past.
Karsen Kolnicki, an eighth-grader at Clarendon Hills Middle School, spent her time a year ago playing with babies and helping elementary-age children with their homework at a day-care center.
“It was a great experience,” said Karsen, who will participate again this year. “It was so interesting to see how some other communities live. It opened my eyes to a lot of things. We have so much, but I saw there are others who would be cold, with no coats, if we didn’t give provide them.”
Karsen also said it’s important to help others.
“I want to continue to help, and I hope others in my generation find out about programs like this and get involved,” she said. “I’d like to see helping others become contagious.”
Upon their return Merchant said she will have students share their experience with classmates.
Zoe said she has heard good things from those who have attended in previous years and she is looking foward to a similar experience.
She also is looking forward to sampling the college life by staying overnight at University of Illinois at Chicago.
Chuck Fieldman contributed to this story.