Family Pages: St. John Catholic school students make a difference with Empower Orphans partnership

St. John Catholic school kindergarten student Cayden Stover shows off his work.
St. John Catholic school kindergarten student Cayden Stover shows off his work. Photo provided

Service has always been a core value at St. John the Evangelist Catholic School in Bellefonte. In addition to schoolwide service projects and volunteering within the parish, our students learn how they can serve others within the scope of their daily lives.

A partnership that began last year between our school and the Penn State chapter of international nonprofit Empower Orphans is reinforcing this message.

Empower Orphans supports and advocates for orphaned and underprivileged children around the world. The organization was founded by Neha Gupta, a Penn State junior and 2015 winner of the International Children’s Nobel Peace Prize. Gupta and fellow Penn State students founded a student chapter in 2015 to aid children locally and across Pennsylvania.

St. John School in Bellefonte became the group’s first elementary school partner in the fall of 2015. Students and families at St. John collected hundreds of new coats and winter clothing items, which were donated by Empower Orphans Penn State chapter to the Centre County Youth Service Bureau. Students at St. John presented the items to Empower Orphans at a school assembly and were privileged to meet Gupta and learn about her passion and work for children around the world.

After the success of the winter clothing drive, Empower Orphans asked St. John students for their help to brighten the holidays for local children in need. Students and their families conducted a toy drive, filling the school’s auditorium stage with hundreds of new toys and games. Penn State’s Empower Orphans representatives visited again to describe to students the impact of their efforts and generosity.

This year’s visit from Empower Orphans was a little different: our students were the beneficiaries of the Penn State group’s efforts. Empower Orphans PSU students hosted an interactive educational workshop with our students with the goal of educating and inspiring the students on ways to become involved in community service and charity, to help better their communities from an early age. After learning from the Empower Orphans PSU members, the students created descriptions and drawings of themselves serving others at home, at school, at church and in their communities to be used as a guide to follow throughout the year. They worked on one of those items that day, cards for a local nursing home, and were then tasked to keep working on their lists and incorporate service into their daily activity.

As they follow their guides, St. John students are learning that even small acts of service can have a big impact on another person in their family, school or community. Together with Empower Orphans, we are creating a ripple effect that spreads the benefits of service across our community.

In addition to Empower Orphans, St. John Students Support:

  • American Heart Association
  • Pennsylvania Cystic Fibrosis
  • Father O’Malley Fund
  • Bellefonte India, Sister Parish
  • Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary missions
  • Centre County Citizens Concerned for Human Life
  • Christmas cards for inmates
  • PAWS
  • Faith Centre and Food Bank
  • Jared Box Project

Kristina Tice is the principal at St. John the Evangelist Catholic School.