Cecilia Heddinger and Barbara Shue, Rosedale Center High School, Baltimore County, 410-887-0473
Project Hope is an experiential counseling girls’ group and indirect service-learning project. Young women create beautiful hand-stamped greeting cards, while learning about dangerous dating relationships and the plight of homeless women and children as a result of violence in their relationships. The proceeds from the sale of the Project Hope cards are donated to the Dundalk Crisis Center. The cards are marketed with the following message attached:
We are young women attending the Rosedale Alternative High School in Baltimore County, Maryland. We are on a journey together: to learn, to grow, and to embrace change in our lives. On our journey together our hope is to empower the lives of other women so that they will have an opportunity to be the best that they can be. The proceeds from Project Hope will be donated to a local domestic violence shelter.
“The world is full of suffering. It is also full of the overcoming it.”-Helen Keller
Over the past several years, in combination with other similar projects, the total donations to the Dundalk Crisis Center have neared $3000. The girls make their donations to the women and children in need with pride. The beauty of this project is that it provides the girls an opportunity to not only serve the community, but to enhance their sense of self because every card turns out to be a beautiful expression of themselves.
Best Practice 1: Meet a recognized need in the community
Project Hope addresses the community need of assisting the homeless by making contributions to the local shelter. The proceeds from Project Hope card sales are donated to the Dundalk Crisis Center, a homeless shelter for women and children who have been the victims of domestic violence. The shelter has come to rely on the funds received from Project Hope in order to supply the residents with some of the extras they could not otherwise afford.
Best Practice 2: Achieve curricular objectives through service-learning
At the Rosedale Center we have a well-coordinated academic and therapeutic program that recognizes the students’ needs from a holistic perspective. In addition, Project Hope addresses several areas related to the health curriculum:
§ Self Management-to practice health-enhancing behaviors;
§ Interpersonal Communication-to use interpersonal communication skills to enhance health;
§ Decision Making-to use goal setting and decision making to enhance health;
§ Advocacy-to advocate for personal, family, and community health.
Best Practice 3: Reflect throughout the service-learning experience
At the donation ceremony, Project Hope participants discuss with the shelter staff and school social worker the impact this activity has had on them personally and on shelter residents. With support, information and strength that they gain from this experience some girls will take the risk to make important changes in the decisions they are making in their current relationships. In addition, the girls not only develop an awareness of homeless issues, but also are afforded an opportunity to experience and reflect on the power individuals possess to effect positive change in their communities.
Best Practice 4: Develop student responsibility
Project Hope participants take leadership roles within the therapeutic group by initiating discussions of personal situations, encouraging others to engage in discussions and supporting each other in the disclosure process. Outside of the group setting, these young women also take a leadership role within the general school population by disseminating information and increasing awareness of homeless issues. The responsibility for designing, producing, and packaging the cards to be sold is equally shared by the Project Hope group members.
Best Practice 5: Establish community partnerships
“Stampin Up,” a private company provides supplies at a discount for making the cards. Towson University student interns volunteer time to assist in running the project. Dundalk Crisis Center staff comes to speak to students during the reflection stage and personally accepts the students’ monetary donation.
Best Practice 6: Plan ahead for service-learning
The Rosedale Alternative Center serves 9th to 12th grade at-risk students, many of who have been touched by domestic violence. The girls selected by the school social worker to participate in Project Hope are involved in dangerous relationships and/or are suffering from the scars of past traumatic events. Through therapeutic discussions, these young ladies not only begin to interrupt the cycle of violence in their lives, but also become empowered to take action and reach out to others in similar situations. After discussing the causes of homelessness and the needs of homeless women and children, the students begin to design and create greeting cards that express their awareness and compassion for the struggles of other women.
Best Practice 7: Equip students with knowledge and skills needed for service
1. Understanding the responsibility of citizenship: By developing an awareness of the effects of domestic violence and the social influences relate to abuse, students begin to understand the negative or positive impact that an individual’s actions can have on an entire community.
2. Social awareness and decision making skills: The mission of Project Hope (women helping women) is emphasized by developing a sense of awareness regarding their contribution to society in a very concrete way. As they become aware they become available to relate this experience in a very practical way to their own lives.
3. Group cohesion: The girls work together on a specified task with a common purpose which creates a bonding opportunity between the group members. This bond extends their awareness, compassion, and support to all women on a healing journey. The girls experience pleasure and a sense of achievement by participating in Project Hope.
4. Enhancement of confidence and self esteem: Project Hope helps students develop transferable skills that can be utilized in the classroom, in their social arena, as well as in their family and employment environments. Many of the girls have been given the message that they are “bad kids.” As a result, they lack the confidence and self-esteem necessary to move forward in positive ways both socially and academically. This creative group experience has provided the girls with the opportunity to successfully complete a goal-oriented service-learning activity in a supportive and therapeutic environment. They think that they can’t complete a beautiful and valuable project and then see that they can. They think they have nothing of value to give to the community and then they see that they do!