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Students' HOPE focuses on service

Lynette Schamber sees a lot in her students.

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Lynette Schamber of South Meadows Middle School's Helping Others Persevere Everyday leadership students (back left to right) Jonathan Escobar, Brian Flores, Cyrus Cotten (front) Kaytlyn Shaw, Trista Bishob, Chris Catlan, Elizabeth Rosas, Ciza Merida, and Tania Tavera (not pictured Dellana Contreras)

The veteran teacher at South Meadows Middle School knows her eighth graders are big-hearted and full of compassion for others, despite the challenges they face in their own lives.

So last year she worked with the school counselor to recruit 10 eighth-graders for her “service team” — she doesn’t call it a club, because they can’t get kicked out for failing a class or messing up in school.

“I tell them we’re not choosing the typical leadership kids,” she says. “The message to them is, it doesn’t matter what’s going on with you — you can contribute, you can make a difference.”

The students came up with the name on their own: HOPE, which stands for Helping Others Persevere Everyday. Their mission is to give back to the community through three hands-on, face-to-face opportunities.

They help out at the Blanchet House in downtown Portland, serving meals to the homeless, bussing tables and whatever else is needed.

They work with cats and dogs awaiting adoption at the Oregon Humane Society, helping to socialize them so they can find loving homes.

And they work with the elderly at the Hillsboro Health and Rehabilitation Center, playing bingo and lifting their spirits with conversation. They visit each of the three spots twice a year.

The school and district cover the costs of transporting the students and other expenses.

Schamber thinks it’s more than paying off.

Some of her students from last year have asked to come along on trips this year, even though they’re in high school. Schamber would love to see a similar group start at the high school level. She knows each of her students is impacted in a different way by the experience.

At the homeless shelter, for example, one boy who’d been prone to bullying before said he would never think of bullying the homeless now that he’s seen them as real people, face to face.

Another said he wanted to work harder in school to get a good job, so he wouldn’t end up homeless.

The students said as much in their journaling exercises, which they do at the end of each visit. “I want them to get their own thing out it for their own personal epiphany,” she says.

Schamber, who teaches science and social studies, said the idea for the group came to her when she heard a superintendent speak, saying something to the effect of, “education is turning mirrors into windows.”

“I thought that is so cool,” Schamber says. “I was trying to put that into practice.”

There are so many services, like counseling, that focus on a student’s problems and issues, she says. “I thought it would be good to focus on someone else.”