Lessons of labor | TheUnion.com

Lessons of labor

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

The Woolman Semester School students who participated in a week-long service project with the Food Bank of Nevada County, not only confronted the issues of poverty in the region, but learned how hard work can benefit a community and how discussions between individuals of different backgrounds can yield valuable perspectives.

The 14 students currently enrolled at Woolman come from various geographical locations throughout the United States, hailing from places as close as San Jose and as distant as Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The high school students have elected to spend four months enrolled in the residential educational program that emphasizes sustainable living, peace and social justice, said Emily Wheeler, admissions and outreach director.

Part of the lessons imparted at the school is the value of hard work, Wheeler said.

“We emphasize getting things done with your hands to benefit your community,” Wheeler said.

In keeping with the emphasis, the Woolman school selected the Food Bank as the nonprofit at which they would work for a week.

From 8:30 a.m. to about 4 p.m., the students went to the Food Bank and performed two essential functions: Part of the group worked in the warehouse, organizing administrative materials and participating in distributions of food to needy families in Nevada County, while the other group performed physical labor in the Food Bank’s garden, eradicating weeds and building gravel pathways.

“I learned a lot about food banks in general,” said Hannah Kohler, 17, of Carlisle, Pa. “I’ve worked at food banks before but this was so different. Before I worked here, I didn’t think it was possible for food banks to carry healthy foods.”

Toni Thompson, executive director of the food bank, said in a previous interview that the purpose was to be able to
supply needy families with produce and healthy fresh food as opposed to the usual canned goods obtainable at similar organizations.

“Just because you are poor doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be eating good, healthy food,” Thompson said.

For student Estefania Amador, 17, of San Jose, the experience provided a valuable opportunity to discuss how hunger issues play out on the world’s stage.

“In our class we were talking about world hunger and how the quantity of people that get the food they need is very little,” Amador said.

“For me, it’s very different — I’ve never had a class where we talk about world issues,” said Orlando Guzman, 17, also of San Jose.

“Coming from a school where all they teach you about is the SAT, I came to a school that teaches you about how to change the world.”

While lessons about global hunger were important, Amador said it was valuable to interact with people within the community that are affected by a lack of food access.

“Even if (those receiving the food) didn’t say it, it was obvious that they were inspired and grateful for what we did,” she said.

Student Paul Karpinski, 17, of Portage, Mich., said the experience led to some intense discussions among participants in the service project.

“Some of the issues touched home for a few people,” Karpinski said.

“Different people in the group come from different backgrounds so everybody has a different viewpoint on it.”

Wheeler said it is important that the students come from different backgrounds and are exposed to the diversity of socioeconomic backgrounds that other people experience.

Utlimately, the experience not only vested the students with pride in service provided to the less fortunate element of the local community, but allowed them to explore poverty issues that touched their own lives and outlooks, Wheeler said.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4239.

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