Service-learning Takes Center Stage in the Middle School Food Drive

 

Taipei American School’s middle school organizes a food drive every year to help less fortunate families in Taiwan. This year, the student council received names of 30 families to assist from the Pearl S. Buck Foundation. 

Students from each homeroom volunteer to lead and share information with their classmates. Students in grades 6, 7, and 8 coordinate the service activity and ask that all middle school students sign up to bring in particular goods. 

This year’s food drive took place from January 25 to February 2. In that time, middle school teachers and students contributed food and drink items such as rice, soup, juice, powdered milk, as well as cooking and school supplies. All 95 family members were also given a personal gift. In addition, the middle school student council provided each person with a new fleece blanket, bath towel, and a pair of socks. On February 3, TAS shipped the boxes directly to the families. 

Middle school student council co-advisor Rhonda Pottorf said, “I’m very impressed with the generosity of our middle school students. Through this service project, our students had an opportunity to make a connection with other families in the community and demonstrated the TAS values of kindness and responsibility.”

Pottorf has been leading the middle school student council for every year of her 16-year career. She currently teaches Grade 7 academic support, which is what she has taught for most of her tenure here except for two years that she spent with Grade 6. She says she loves teaching middle school because "Because I teach students in small groups, I get to know my students well. I love being able to work with the students individually to help them meet their academic goals."

Over the last 16 years, many things at TAS have changed, but Pottorf is most struck by what hasn't changed in middle school. "The middle school has stayed the same in the way that we're very tight-knit," said Pottorf. "We're all very close and we look out for each other."

She does note that the school has increased its attention to character education and homeroom over her tenure, which she believes is equally important to academics because it teaches students to be conscious of how they approach situations in life and how their actions can have a positive effect on society. 

Pottorf was initially hired for both academic support and student council from the very beginning. She says that at times her work with the student council feels like a second full-time job, but she knows that every activity - like this food drive or the middle school dances it sponsors - has a lasting impact on the students and their memories of the TAS middle school experience, and that is what makes it all worth it.

"I enjoy working with middle schoolers and helping them develop their leadership skills," she said. "It's Rewarding to provide social events for students where they can just relax and enjoy being themselves without the pressure of academics. It's a very important part of middle school to include social and emotional events."

This year's food drive was larger than in previous years, involving more families and more TAS students than in years prior. "This year we had 134 food drive representatives, which is about two per homeroom who came to the preparation meetings."

Pottorf believes in the power of service-learning and is proud to help students experience this at TAS.  "I feel that community service is vital as it gives students the opportunity to think outside of themselves. They also realize the impact of giving back," she said. "When you support your community by helping others, you create a stronger place for everyone."