St. Teresa of Calcutta said in her book, Love: A Fruit Always in Season: “Faith in action is love – and love in action is service.” And while it may take many of us until we are older to make this discovery, many of the youth in the Palm Beach Diocese have learned this at a far younger age. Students throughout the Diocese of Palm Beach are encouraged to volunteer and share their time and talent with others to help promote the lived reality of action in service. Four students who are particularly active as volunteers include Josh Boyd and Ethan Priest of John Carroll High School in Fort Pierce and Gabriella Treutle and Jack Keogh of Cardinal Newman High School in Palm Beach.
According to Jennie Capezza, director of Campus Ministry at John Carroll High School in Fort Pierce, “At each grade level, students are required to meet a base standard of hours in each of the following categories: Core Service in, Support Service and Church/School Service.” Capezza says it is the school’s sincere hope that students begin to see their Christian service as an extension of their faith lives and find a personal passion for service and respond generously with their time and talents.
Cardinal Newman Principal Katie Kervi says the goal at her school is very similar. “Cardinal Newman High School has as its purpose the holistic education of each student in light of the Gospel values taught by Jesus Christ. Service to others and personal sacrifice were very important to Jesus and therefore, are an integral part of preparing our students for becoming positive role models in the community. Through successful completion of the program,” she explains, “the student not only helps others but also gains invaluable experience through working with a wide variety of non-profit organizations and in-school activities. Some students even return to work for the organization at which they volunteered.”
For the youth, the opportunity to explore and experience projects of passion through volunteerism has helped enlarge their world view and learn about themselves in the process. Cardinal Newman senior Gabriella Treutle said, “As a Cardinal Newman senior, I have had many different avenues of volunteer opportunities, and I have grown so much as a person through them all.” Treutle’s first big project involved LEGO building blocks, and she felt it helped her build connections with other volunteers, too. “My project began because of the COVID shutdown, when I came across a couple boxes filled with all my childhood LEGO sets and pieces I had collected. I remember my friends and I always wanting the latest and greatest Lego sets as kids and how much fun we had trying to see who could build their set the fastest. I realized there must be another method of reusing all these colorful little bricks, and I discovered the Bricks Busting Boredom Foundation. BBB Foundation collects, sanitizes, and redistributes used Legos to children in hospitals, and various childhood care facilities to encourage a creative environment and ultimately bust boredom.” The project helped Treutle learn to be organized, detail-oriented, and persistent. “I would say that if you have an idea, a passion, or want to make a difference,” Treutle said, “you cannot wait for someone else to come around and do it. Do it yourself. It does start with you. Go after it, and never stop until you reach your goal. It may be hard, but you always have to keep in mind, who you are impacting and whose life you could be a light for.”
While Treutle focused on building connections and warming hearts through LEGOs, her classmate Jack Keogh was busy digging and cleaning and giving new life to a place of prayer. The senior chose to refurbish a prayer garden at Cardinal Newman and worked tirelessly to refresh and clean a statue of Mother Mary, add benches and trees, and restore the garden to its original beauty and serenity. For Keogh, working on the project helped him build leadership skills and taught him a lot about vision and communication. “It definitely helped me in a lot of ways,” Keogh said. “I learned a lot about organization and how to communicate with people, and generally felt better about myself after doing the work. When I saw it come together in-person, I definitely felt happy and a little proud that I had accomplished something of such significance. You will find volunteer opportunities everywhere. The most important part is taking that first step. I learned that volunteer work is great for meeting new people I wouldn’t meet otherwise.”
Fort Pierce senior Joshua Boyd, chose a similar project to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, beautifying the John Carroll High School Grotto in Fort Pierce. He says the project taught him a lot, including how to appreciate the value of a dollar. “I was in charge of the whole project, meaning finances, materials, donations, etc.,” he said, “Having to budget and purchase materials and supplies was difficult because I could not just pick. I had to pay attention to prices and compare to other products. I had groups of people on different tasks, and group leaders who made sure the tasks were getting done according to my plans for everything including landscaping, adding benches, and adding an altar.” For Boyd, “The biggest challenge I faced was taking a step back and leading instead of trying to do everything myself. I was the only one who knew exactly what I wanted to do, so it was difficult to see things not going together the way I planned, then having to improvise or replan.” When the project was completed, Boyd experienced the ultimate volunteer high. “I stayed behind for a few minutes after everyone else left, and just admiring the great amount of work that had been done in a short period of time was the most rewarding moment.”
Boyd’s classmate Ethan Priest chose to learn a new skill and give back to his church community by building six large, hexagonal tables to be used at his parish, St. Bernadette Church in Port St. Lucie. “The biggest challenge I encountered while working on the project was exploring carpentry, an area that I don’t have much experience with,” he said. “It was a great experience for me, and I learned a lot from it.” Like Boyd, Priest’s most rewarding moment came when the project was completed, and he knows that he’ll experience that same feeling of accomplishment and joy when he goes to church and sees people enjoying his handiwork. His advice for other teens who want to explore volunteering is simple. “Don’t hesitate; go out and take the first step to make a difference because volunteerism will help you realize how much we can help our community and how rewarding it can be.”
There are countless volunteer opportunities for all ages, and the benefits of volunteering extend far beyond the warm and fuzzy feeling it produces for the volunteer. Ghandi suggested what these four student volunteers learned through their experience. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
To learn more about our Diocese of Palm Beach Catholic schools, visit www.DiocesePBSchools.org or follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.