FREEPORT — Students at Freeport Middle School are learning to help others, volunteer their time and give back to their community as part of a new sixth-grade program.
Modeled after a program started at King Middle School in Portland, teacher Kelly Fitz-Randolph helped put the program in place in Freeport.
Fitz-Randolph previously taught at King Middle School. This is her second year at FMS; she worked over the summer to develop the program in Freeport.
The project is designed to teach students about giving back to the community, and to help them understand the needs of others. By working with a variety of local organizations, the students are able help others and learn the importance of volunteerism.
In her experience as a sixth-grade teacher, Fitz-Randolph said, the students are very self-aware and self-involved. She said sixth grade is a good age to introduce them to the concepts of community, giving and others.
“This is the beginning of a transition for middle school students,” she said. “It’s really the age they start to come into their own and start learning there is more to their world then just themselves. I tell them it’s not about you, it’s about what you can do for other people that’s important.'”
On the first Thursday of each month, 90 students break into groups and walk to different locations in the community, Fitz-Randolph said. For two hours they interact with seniors at a nursing home, help sort items at the food pantry, volunteer at the library, pick up trash in local parks, and assist teachers and other students at Mast Landing School, Morse Street School and Meadowbrook Montessori School.
They are learning how to be good role models for others and learning about service in the community, she said.
“I think the greatest thing for me is when the kids suddenly become aware that they can help other people when they thought they couldn’t,” Fitz-Randolph said. “They get a feeling of empowerment and recognize there are needs in the community that they didn’t realize were there before.”
Fitz-Randolph said she welcomes suggestions for other places to volunteer. She can be reached at ?firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rylen Greer, a sixth-grader at Freeport Middle School, reads a book to the children’s play group at the Freeport Community Center.
Grace Cushman, a sixth-grader at Freeport Middle School, helps pick up trash at Leon Gorman park.