Instilling a sense of respect for one’s self and for others is important to helping students understand and appreciate cultural differences. Thomas Fitzwater Elementary School fourth and fifth-graders have been doing just that by participating in the school’s Service Corps, an in-school program that promotes self-confidence, leadership skills, and behavioral and academic success.

Recognizing that a young person’s connections to the community can have a positive impact on student leadership, confidence, behavior and academics, school officials began plans for the Service Corps in fall of 2009. The first event was held in January 2010. Members of the program improve their school community by completing regular jobs around the building and modeling excellence for the rest of the students. The students can be called on for any service work in the building from planting bulbs to reading to younger students. Students also attend field trips and serve organizations such as Cradles to Crayons in Conshohocken.

Members not only learn to appreciate what they have in their own personal lives, they also realize that helping others can be fun and fulfilling. In addition to service, students attend workshops that include inspirational guest speakers who share personal stories, promote goal setting, and model excellence. Teachers and staff serve as mentors to the Corps members, developing relationships that provide support, concern, trust, and friendship.

Meeting regularly, mentors and children set goals for becoming more successful in school, at home, or with friends. Parent involvement is also strong, with mothers and fathers attending planning meetings and supervising various activities.

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