Last Monday and Tuesday, 40 Beacon of H.O.P.E. Students Achieving Success Program students "made a difference" by serving their community in a number of ways on "Make A Difference Day."
For more than 20 years people have joined together to sponsor "Make A Difference Day" to make it the largest national day of community service. This year the Pine Island Beacon of H.O.P.E. joined in.
The SAS Program is designed to help 3rd, 4th and 5th graders obtain additional socialization and developmental skills. The program also provides afterschool tutorial and mentoring by working with island families, teachers, school administrators and other community organizations to improve students' academic success and integration into his or her community.
“The Mighty Green Team” included, from left, front, Yocelyn Perez, Jo Martila (mentor) and Ricardo Perez Valdez; and back row, from left, Elyana Harper, Kent Hanson and Dakota Darna.
The "Make a Difference Day" idea originated with SAS coordinator Rebecca Rose.
"I just thought the kids needed something to do that would benefit the community," Rose said. "The 'Make a Difference Day' seemed to fit."
Starting a project involved identifying needs within the community. Rose allowed the students to identify those needs themselves. With a little guidance the mission statement from the children included: "Keeping Pink Citrus Beautiful," "Bringing Happiness to Others," "Showing our Appreciation to our Neighbors" and "Thanking our Veterans for their Service."
On Monday the students visited the VFW to serve cookies and coffee to the veterans; Century 21 to show appreciation for Carlyn Herring's contributions to the community; and the Pink Citrus Trailer Park and Bobby Holloway baseball field to clean up.
Kaylynn Sabella, 10, was excited about cleaning up around Bobby Holloway Baseball Field.
"I think it helps the community to make the park look more beautiful by cleaning it up," she said.
Peyton Lovelace, 10, said, "We're going to Pink Citrus to clean it up. I think it helps Pine Island by keeping a healthier environment for the kids and adults in the community."
Kaylee Proulx, 10, went to the VFW to serve cookies and coffee to the veterans.
"It's nice to help the veterans because of their service to our country," she said. "They did a lot of good for all of us."
Tom Cote welcomed the students to the VFW and gave them a tour of the hall. The students learned the significance of the POW/MIA table when Cote explained the symbolism of the individual place setting.
On Tuesday, one team visited The Windsor Nursing Home to sing songs for some of the residents while a second team visited with clients of the Meals on Wheels program.
Ricardo "Ricky" Perez Valdez, 9, was one of the students who visited the nursing home.
"We're going there to pass out cookies and sing songs for the seniors," he said. "It's pretty nice to help out the seniors and I also helped make the cookies."
Yoselyn Perez visited The Windsor Nursing Home in Cape Coral.
"We're going to play some games, sing some songs for the people there. It makes me happy to help the community," Yoselyn said.
The third team cleaned up Phillips Park and the fourth set up a car wash at Pine Island Methodist Church.
"I think these experiences touched their lives," Rose said. "And I think the kids learned that they can make a difference in the lives of others in lots of different ways. The feedback from the community was amazing and we will definitely do this again, not just as 'Make a Difference Day,' but in other ways."