It is my privilege to share this month’s blog with a member of our Student Government and Publications team this year. Ms. Oluwagbemisola “Gbemi” Olarewaju ’24 is a leader of our Student Government group and writes about the ways our students demonstrate global engagement through
A Student's Perspective on Global Engagement
Each year, I am honored to turn over the reins of my monthly blog to a student. It is my privilege to share this month’s blog with a member of our Student Government and Publications team this year. Ms. Oluwagbemisola “Gbemi” Olarewaju ’24 is a leader of our Student Government group and writes about the ways our students demonstrate global engagement through their daily actions.
As you will read, our Student Government is a very active and engaged team. Much of their work is service-oriented, with projects undertaken to help our immediate community as well as people across the country and the globe. Indeed, the efforts led by our Middle School Student Government enact our mission to “prepare students to lead and succeed in a world of global interconnection.” We are incredibly and rightly proud of these fine students and all they do each day to learn about and aid in improving their world.
On behalf of the Wardlaw+Hartridge Middle School Student Government, Oluwagbemisola “Gbemi” Olarewaju serves as guest blogger this month…
As a school and community, Wardlaw+Hartridge not only educates their students, but also teaches them to become better citizens. Teachers and administrators try to teach about different communities and what we can do to make the world a better place. Our Middle School initiates and takes part in many services, events, and fundraisers to help organizations globally and locally.
One recent example is our awareness and fundraising effort to support the Thirst Project. The W+H Middle School sold $1 candy grams, which are small lollipops with a note attached, for students to purchase and give to friends. Proceeds benefited The Thirst Project, a non-profit organization with a mission to end the global water crisis by building fresh water wells in developing communities worldwide. The organization is student-led and believes that youth can change the world. So do we.
In some developing communities, women and children walk about 3.75 miles to fetch unsanitary water for their families. This prevents women and children from getting a job or going to school. Carrying a 44-pound jerry can, daily, takes an extreme toll on the human body. Chronic fatigue and dehydration are only some of the issues it causes. One of the Thirst Project’s major plans is to provide clean, safe drinking water to every person in the Kingdom of Eswatini, also known as Swaziland, by 2022. Eswatini also has the highest HIV/AIDS density out of any country in the world; this shows us just how dire the situation is for the population of that country! The people in Eswatini need help and the Thirst Project is trying its best to give it to them. Learning about the Thirst Project and its ideals helped us to better understand what other people go through on a daily basis. This led us to want to make a difference; the W+H Middle School raised a total of $308 for the Thirst Project.
Our Middle School also holds an annual local event called the “Giving Tree.” This is when students can purchase gifts for children in the Crossroads School located in Westfield, New Jersey. The school serves children on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. The school is publicly funded with many students coming from low-income families. We put a small tree in our alcove with children’s names and a few gift ideas for what they want. The gift each child receives may be their only holiday gift, so we know it means a great deal.
Student Government and Publications tries to work globally and locally; no matter how far away, we know our outreach can still make a difference. Eighth-grader Sanya Sidhu ’24 explains that, “We give the kids (at Crossroads) something they don’t get every day. Honestly, even if we don’t get to meet the kids, I know that by the end of the day they’ll have a smile on their faces.” Even personally, I can say that it warms my heart to know that these kids will have a holiday gift waiting for them on Christmas Day. This shows the impact that can happen when you give just a little, even for someone you may never meet.
Many W+H Middle School parents and students take part in Service Learning trips led by Dr. Crafton on Saturdays throughout the year. We go to the Hillside Food Bank, the Ashbrook Reservation, and other locations to learn and to serve. At the Hillside Food Bank, we sort and package foods that are given to people in need all across New Jersey and places far away, such as Houston, Texas and Puerto Rico after devastating hurricanes left thousands without food or water. At the Ashbrook Reservation, we clear trails of storm debris and fallen trees while learning about the ecosystem and the history of the area. Eighth-grader Kayla Martel ’24 says that with service she has “learned that no matter where you came from, we all have different struggles and we should learn to appreciate others do for us, even if we don’t know them.” She also says that at the Ashbrook Reservation, “I learned the real meaning of hard work and dedication because our guide works hard and is dedicated to keeping the trials sustainable and helping the Earth, and his spirit and passion for the environment is contagious.” I would recommend going on a Service Learning event to anyone who is interested!
It is very important for us to take part in these various events because it not only helps us to become better people, but deepens our understanding for other lifestyles, cultures, and struggles. It is also important for young people like us to realize what’s going on in other parts of the world and what we can do to help. If we can get involved and make a difference, the world will be a better place. It is very important for the youth in this generation to learn about issues in other regions of the world to gather an understanding for other people. Different people live different lifestyles and it is very important for us to be able to empathize with experiences that are different from our own. It is great for the youth to experience and be aware of other people and cultures. As a young person myself, I can say that taking part in these events has led me to become a better person and has helped me learn about communities on a global level.
-Gbemi Olarewaju ’24 for Student Government & Publications