It’s not often you can help the hungry while filling your belly.
On Thursday, Feb. 11, students in Payson High School’s brand new service learning class will hold a soup kitchen in the school cafeteria from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Fabulous chicken, broccoli cheddar and tortilla soup are on the menu.
The soup kitchen is one of many projects the service learning class is completing.
Tickets are now on sale, and can be purchased through students in the class. The suggested donation is at least $2, and proceeds will support Payson’s food bank.
With so much enthusiasm building for the soup kitchen, organizers aren’t even sure they’ll have enough bowls to feed everyone.
“If you buy a ticket, you’re assured a bowl,” said student Jamie Riggs, although tickets will be available at the door, too.
PHS’ culinary class is cooking the soup, and a choir will sing. Every 15 minutes, students will make a speech about the need in the community. About 370 children within the Payson Unified School District are considered homeless, which means they live in shelters, are doubled up living with other families because of economic hardship, or are living unsheltered in the forest. Most of Payson’s homeless students live doubled up with other families.
The event’s purpose is to raise awareness, as well as raise money to help local families.
However, “if someone is in need of a meal, we’ll definitely feed them,” said PHS teacher Shelly Camp.
She added, “Realizing that there’s so many kids within our school district that are considered homeless has been a real eye opener for our students.”
Student Jacquelyn Oesterblad wrote in an e-mail, “We feel it’s important for our schools to create intelligent students, yes, but also active and compassionate leaders.”
Oesterblad is working on the homelessness committee in Camp’s service learning class. Students in the class, which is new this year, have separated into committees that pursue various projects.
Camp received a $15,000 grant to fund the ventures, including the soup kitchen. With the food paid for, all proceeds will help local families.
Camp’s grant proposal centered around four issues — hunger and homelessness, literacy, the environment and teen driving safety. The school’s Project Ignition, which focuses on safe driving habits, ranked in the top 10 nationally this year and last.
Projects paid for with the grant have to involve service to the state of Arizona. Camp said students can complete other projects, but must find separate funding.
For the fall semester, the entire class worked on Project Ignition. This semester, students have separated into committees including hunger and homelessness and Stand Now, which heightens awareness about genocide, especially in Sudan.
Even students not taking the class are completing projects. Some girls are working with the Humane Society to promote animal adoption, other students are forming a team for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, and another student concerned about endangered species has recruited speakers to educate other students about habitats and food chains.
“I came from a service learning magnet high school in Tucson, so service is ingrained in what I do,” said Camp. She’s using the money to help fund service projects across the campus, and her attitude is infectious.
“The science department is getting really excited and they’re actually applying for a grant to help with one of their projects,” Camp said. The department hopes to expand a watershed quality project.
Most students in the service learning class are also in student government, which Camp advises. Consequently, the class and student government intertwine. Student government students were given the first opportunity to take the class, which has 25 students.
“I think next year it will be even bigger and stronger,” Camp said.