Lincoln Academy students will soon be gearing up to chuck some wood for Boothbay Region Community Resource Council’s Woodchucks. LA’s Individually Designed Education for All Learners (IDEAL) program links students struggling in a conventional classroom to volunteer work.
LA teacher Janna Civittolo said it is service-based learning for students who often struggle with social skills and concentration.
“They are kids who have been identified as having challenges being in regular classroom settings … They learn best when they can move their bodies and work with their hands,” said Civittolo. “We call it 'going out in the field,' doing volunteer work. We have other organizations we work with in addition to (Woodchucks) to help support them so they're learning some job-readiness skills as well.”
In its fourth year, IDEAL has 11 students. It has worked with Damariscotta River Association, Meals on Wheels and Miles in Motion Thrift Shop. Students are expected to participate for two years and eventually earn high school credits through the hands-on work experience.
Woodchucks member Ben Borkowski began working with the students when the Woodchucks were looking for extra hands and the students were looking for ways to help the community. Finding a calling to help the younger generations discover the benefits of outreach, Borkowski said the match could not have been better.
“So far it's working out great, the kids seem to enjoy it even though it's hard work and been nasty cold out. They do it, truck along with it, and don't seem to need as much insulation as we do,” Borkowski laughed. “I just hope they're getting something out of this as I am – the comfort of helping people in the community and also helping the kids grow.”
Aside from the occasional calls for a cord of wood, the Woodchucks group is dormant in winter. So Borkowski, also involved with other outreach efforts through Boothbay Region Community Center, found some more work experience for LA’s IDEAL students which included things like helping shovel snow and cleaning houses.
They understand once they're making good impressions, while people might not hire them, they might know somebody who will, so it builds connections for them.
Boothbay Harbor resident Joan Stark, founding member of the Visually Impaired Persons (VIP) program, was one such recipient of the students’ generosity. Stark said that as an older person with sight issues, the students’ work and company was a gift.
“I was very glad to have the kids come, to have them in the house. It's a good program,” said Stark. “They shoveled around the generator, in front of the barn, and then they came inside and vacuumed the house.”
Civittolo said one of the great byproducts of the IDEAL program is what the hands-on experience can potentially lead to. Out cleaning homes during a morning session of the program, a student was able to showcase skills which rewarded her with extra paid summer work.
“It built connections for her to possibly gain more clients for her summer job to clean houses. So, the opportunity sort of showed off her skill set and made her feel good because that's an area she feels confident in and good about. She’s building that network – it's possible future employment for some of these kids.”
That is not an isolated case, said Civittolo – Miles in Motion Thrift Shop has hired two students just from witnessing their dedicated volunteer work. Borkowski said he could not stress enough how hard the students work and how eager they have been to help others in need.
Said Civittolo, “(Generosity) is something we really hammer home when we get back – that you should really feel good about the work you've done and that that is really where a sense of pride is developed.”
There is always room for more help, and those in need should not hesitate to call, Borkowski said. For information on how to link up with the Woodchucks or other outreach, contact Borkowski at: firstname.lastname@example.org