At Knox Christian School in Bowmanville, serving the community through the Good Neighbour Campaign is integrated into the classroom and the school’s values.
The idea of linking students with the community is something that the school has in its mission statement, says principal George Petrusma. The mission statement is “to provide each student with opportunities to grow and develop within a community of learners to be equipped to serve God and others.”
This mission statement was created a year and a half ago, when the school was in a strategic planning phase, says Petrusma.
The school’s vision statement also relates to the campaign, which is “to live as responsible citizens and compassionate community-minded Christians.”
The campaign encourages schools to organize and participate in events that serve their local communities. Teachers at Knox Christian School in Grades 5 to 8 choose a Good Neighbour Campaign activity to do with their class.
An annual event is a community leadership day, when the students invite local leaders into the school. The event, which is around three hours, is run by the Grade 5 class and includes student presentations, a tour of the school and a meal.
The leadership day grew out of a pastors day, which became a pastors and politicians day, and now includes leaders from all kinds of community agencies. The day is an opportunity for students to thank the leaders for the work they do, says Petrusma.
One story Petrusma recalls is when he drove four Grade 6 students to different places of work to invite people to the leadership day. The students brought some baked goods and an invitation to one particular office, and the secretary they talked with called her co-workers out of their offices because she wanted them to also hear the student’s invitation.
“That kind of warmth that comes back certainly is encouraging for our students,” he says.
Another class at the school wrote postcards with thanks to war veterans around Remembrance Day. Some classes went to a senior’s home to visit and sing for the residents. The Grade 8 class partners with the town for a garbage clean-up day in the spring.
Both the students and the recipients of the Good Neighbour Campaign benefit, says Petrusma. The school often receives positive feedback from the events. “There is this mutual appreciation society going on when you enter into a way of serving and connecting with community,” says Petrusma.
In the future, Petrusma says he would like to extend the Good Neighbour Campaign activities into the younger grades, so each class is learning about serving the community. He says he heard of the Good Neighbour Campaign activities at Brantford Christian School and looks to their model of partnering each class with a community agency.
“When I heard about Brantford’s model, I think what they do a nice job of is partnering with a certain agency, bringing someone in to talk about it, and that’s the part that we haven’t done at all, and I would certainly like to do that,” he says.
The Good Neighbour Campaign is supported by the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS). Both Knox Christian School and Brantford Christian School are members of the OACS.
Petrusma says advice he would give to other OACS schools looking to participate in the campaign is to have it as part of the school’s identity.
“I think it’s important that people build it in structurally, so that it is part of who you are; that it is a way of training children that says this is who we are as a school and it’s very important for us to have community-minded students here.”