Sixth grade buys holiday gifts for Mercy Center families

Lucas Glickman and Patrick Stinebaugh

This past week, in their annual partnership with Mercy Center, the sixth grade traveled to Target to buy holiday gifts for Mercy Center families, as well as hosted a bake sale to raise funds for the trip.

The Mercy Center is a community center located in the Bronx that promotes a higher quality of life for women and families.

About two months ago, underprivileged families aided by Mercy Center completed of their wants and needs for the holidays. Families partnered with different sixth grade advisories from the school , and those advisories were given the wish lists as well as around $50 per family member to purchase the items.

The sixth grade also held a bake sale on Tuesday, November 13th, to raise money to make up for the cost of the trip. On Thursday, November 15th, they, accompanied by their advisors, boarded school buses at the start of their advisory periods and headed to Target. 

The purpose of the trip is to introduce the sixth graders to service learning in a way that is fun and hands-on, but also to teach them how to do good acts even when others may not be looking. “They don’t get to actually meet the families, they just have to know that they have done something in a fairly altruistic manner,” Service Learning Coordinator Caitlin Hickerson said.

“The second purpose is the experience of budgeting, which some students may have never really experienced before.  If you have never been given a limited amount of money and had to figure out how to spend it, then this may be a new experience,” Hickerson said.   

“Maybe they wouldn’t buy the most expensive toy, but they could get three that are cheaper so there’s more for [the kids from the families] to play with,” Dean of Class of 2025 Michelle Amilicia said.

Another part of it is the skills of collaboration – how are the advisory groups going to figure out as a team what they’re going to be buying, and how are they going to execute this project together, Hickerson said. “Service learning is not only about the service, it’s also about the learning,” Hickerson said.

The conversations around [the experience] have become deeper and more thoughtful, Hickerson said.  For improvement in the future she “certainly would want to create more specific activities around the preparation and reflection, the reflection in particular,” she said. The post-trip reflection is new this year, and Hickerson and Amilica both believe it will have a positive effect on what sixth graders take away from the experience, they said.

“I am most proud of the gifts we gave them.  I feel that they were very useful and could provide [the Mercy Center kids] with comfort,” Ayesha Sen (8) said, reflecting on her own trip in sixth grade.

Several sixth graders looked forward to the experience as well. “It’s really fun to work with my advisory and do budgeting,” Owen Banks (6) said.

“I like knowing that I can be able to help someone that is in need of help, and it’s good to do it because we’re more fortunate in some ways than them, and it’s good to give back or do stuff for them,” Amelia Hisch (6) said.