By Carina Morroni ’20
“Ta-ta-titi-ta,” repeats the class, as junior Gigi Pacheco taps a drum to the rhythm. Gigi spends the two weeks of service projects at Richard T. Castro Elementary, working with minority children, many of whom are from poor, immigrant families. She helps the music teacher, Ms. Forester, teach kids from Kindergarten to eighth grade everything from rhythm and songs to piano and recorder.
Meanwhile, half an hour across town, Emma Oakes ’19 eats pizza with the elderly men at Chelsea Place, enjoying the monthly “nonalcoholic beer and pizza day”. These two weeks, for Emma, are spent at a home for elderly with Dementia. Besides just spending time with the elderly – talking, doing crafts and puzzles, and watching television – occasionally, volunteers get to participate in organized activities, such as racing in wheelchairs for an Olympics day. Emma hopes to take part in an upcoming Valentine’s Day sock hop.
In both places, Gigi and Emma give up two weeks of their busy lives to serve others. They impact the lives of those they serve, without a doubt. But in each interaction, the girls’ lives and changed as well.
Gigi, after only one day at the school, already feels a deep connection with the kids she serves. “I see so much potential in them, and they inspire me by their resilience, joy, maturity, and authentic love in their hearts,” she says. These kids, many of whom have rough family lives, little to no food, and a major language barrier, show Gigi what it means to have joy and purity even amidst the struggles of life.
For Emma, it was the openness and acceptance of the elderly at Chelsea Place that struck her the most. “It didn’t matter that they had known us for two seconds, they just dove in and told us about their lives,” she comments, amazed at their willingness to talk to her.
This school and elderly home are just two of about 65 sites at which Regis Jesuit boys and girls serve. For over 20 years, our students have been serving at schools, elderly homes, organizations for homeless, and even therapeutic horse riding facilities.
“The primary reason for service projects is not for the students’ own benefit, but to continue forming men and women with and for others,” says service director, Brendan Love. Amazingly, though, the more students give of themselves in service, the more they receive in return. What they receive, as Gigi and Emma experience, is not money or praise, but a sense of fulfillment and love. More than anything else, the juniors and seniors express their excitement for their fellow freshmen and sophomore sisters to experience this same love.
“I can’t wait for you to do this! I love it! The people here are so sweet, my heart is bursting,” Emma concludes.