Trip lays foundation for students to serve in community
As part of their first week at school, Grade 9 students at Toronto District Christian High School (TDChristian) embarked on a service trip downtown Toronto and helped the homeless while developing friendships with new classmates.
The overnight service trip has run for several years at the Woodbridge school.
“It’s something that has been a real staple of the school in recent years,” says Justin De Moor, TDChristian’s vice-principal of communications. “It’s part of the fabric of the school,” he says, noting the experience is a highlight graduates often recall.
The service trip is mandatory, as is a similar trip for Grade 11 students. The trip “demonstrates the school’s mission to educate students for service in their communities.”
“It shows the level of commitment we have to encouraging them to serve in communities and in different organizations, and it also is showing we’ve built that right into our curriculum,” says De Moor.
Though it may be uncomfortable for some students when meeting a homeless person, the experience is important, says De Moor.
“(We believe) that we are really laying a foundation,” he says. “Hopefully throughout their time at TD they will begin to investigate more ways that they can help and be of service in this world.”
This year 104 students and nine teachers went on the trip. Students were divided into groups, and all students visited two or more organizations.
Students who visited the Scott Mission, the Good Shepherd Center, Young Street Mission and St. Francis Table helped to prepare and serve a meal. Other locations visited included the Matthew House, Daily Bread Food Bank and Fudger House.
Student Stacey Kooy says the trip was her first time downtown Toronto, and it was an eye-opening experience.
“It was really neat seeing everyone we served,” she says. “They were really thankful.”
The students brought two pairs of socks with them from home for a sock and water run. In small groups with a teacher they handed out the socks and bottled water to people they met on the street. The students were encouraged to shake hands and talk to the people they met.
“We gave them two pairs of socks or two water bottles, and they really appreciated that,” says Kooy. “It was neat to see the smiles on their faces when they saw us and they would have a conversation with us … they were thankful that they could talk to us.”
While many students have visited Toronto, it is often to go to attractions and is quite different from the places they visit during the service trip, says De Moor.
“It’s a side of Toronto that is very real, and yet it’s something that most people do not know,” he says.
The trip was a unique way for students to spend their first week in high school and to meet their classmates in a different setting.
“It was really cool because you were put in groups with people that you didn’t really know,” says student Megan Broekema. “It was a good way to meet new people.”
De Moor says he would encourage other schools to look into running a similar introduction to high school. If you have any questions or would like some tips, contact TDChristian at (905) 851-1772.