Breaking Bread: Students Volunteer with Local Service Effort

Some people in our local community struggle to have enough to eat and many go without. Recently, several Mount Madonna School (MMS) students and teachers volunteered to reach out to these people, and to share food. High school Spanish teacher Jenne Miranda Rodrigues helped to facilitate this outreach.

“Six of our students volunteered with Food Not Bombs, an effort that collects food from grocery stores, produce stands and bakeries that would otherwise be discarded,” explained Rodrigues. “They prepare vegan meals to share with those in need, many of whom are homeless. Our students, myself, and teacher and parent Cassia Laffin shared food with about a hundred people. Some students also engaged with the community in conversation, listening and learning about Santa Cruz residents who often have to sleep on the streets. It was heartening to see our students jump in without reluctance to share food with people and many even stayed afterwards to scrub dishes and help clean up. Cassia and I were so proud of these young women.”

This service outreach was also supported by the Community Connections effort, a new project undertaken by the school’s Spanish teachers, to engage students in the broader community.

“We brainstorm ways to bring together our school community with the communities where many of us live,” Rodrigues explained, “and offer those opportunities to student groups at various grade levels.”

“It was a really great experience to interact with the unhoused people of Santa Cruz and it made me especially happy to share food with them,” commented sophomore AnMei Dasbach-Prisk “The people at Food Not Bombs were very nice and welcoming. It is definitely something I want to help with again. If anyone wants to help, it is every Saturday and Sunday in Santa Cruz.”

“This was my first time working with Food Not Bombs,” added sophomore Lillian Wayne. “The people we were sharing food with were incredibly kind and grateful. I didn’t expect the large numbers of people who showed up. This was an extremely eye-opening experience and I will do it again when I have the opportunity.”

Cassia Laffin, MMS first grade teacher and the parent of one of the student volunteers, said she found the experience very moving and worthwhile.

“Watching the girls serve was heartwarming. I was happy to see them sharing their time so joyously,” shared Laffin. “After set up and sharing food, it was clean up time. People were very gracious, and several made a point of thanking us for our help.

“Prior to serving, we saw the very people waiting to be served helping in each and every capacity possible. Crates were being spread out for people to sit on to enjoy the meal,” she continued. “Several people from the homeless community were helping to hang the Food Not Bombs sign on an erected partition. When the food van arrived, many of those waiting for food jumped up and assisted with unloading and setting up. It all seemed like a well-oiled machine. You could see rich connections between the volunteers and those who were there to eat, and the lines were somewhat blurred; were they there to help, to eat, or both?

“As a mom I felt very grateful to Jenne for organizing this activity so that my daughter could step outside of her own life and have a glimpse into other less privileged lives,” Laffin added. “I want my daughter to develop a heart for giving to others, continue growing in compassion, and to nurture her desire to envision solutions to change. As a teacher I felt great pride that these students had dedicated a chunk of their weekend to work and find the meaning in giving.”

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Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.