For hundreds of Queens students, feeling good about themselves has meant helping others this year —whether in the form of raising money for the Ronald McDonald House charity, financially supporting a child in the Philippines or collecting funds for an organization that helps puffins.
About 400 students at PS 23, a special education school based in Bellerose that operates five sites in northern Queens, exhibited the community service projects on which they have been working since September during a fair outside one of their sites on Commonwealth Boulevard last Thursday.
“It really has built up the self-esteem of our students, who come to us with different disabilities —being in wheelchairs, being depressed,” PS 23 Principal Jacqueline Jones said of the students who are in kindergarten through 12th grade. “We wanted them to know that despite their circumstances, they can make a difference in the world.”
This is the second year that the students have participated in a community service project. Throughout the year, teachers incorporate the initiative into various classes, from Social Studies to math and English.
“We wanted to make the connection between the real world and academics,” Jones said.
Jon Schierenbeck, 7, said members of his second-grade class raised about $200 for a group that aids puffins, penguin-like birds, which are not technically endangered but are increasingly rare in places they were once abundant.
“I didn’t even know what a puffin was, so I was happy to learn more about them,” Schierenbeck said. “We held a bake sale to raise money.”
Eighth-grade student Mia Kozarac said her class collected food cans for the food pantry at Our Lady of the Snows Roman Catholic Church in Floral Park.
“We wanted to help the community and be more involved in organizations like Our Lady of the Snows,” said Kozarac, who lives in Whitestone. “Our class really came together to collect cans, which get were able to get more than 100 of. It was a good feeling.”
Students said they inspired by each other’s projects, including one that entailed pupils writing to incarcerated individuals.
“We learned it’s easy to do,” Kozarac said. “Everybody can help their community.”