Thursday, for the second year in a row, the students of Riverwatch Middle School participated in a day of service called Panthers Pay it Forward, helping out charities and organizations and teaching students about the nature of service.
During the day of service, more than 1,500 students, staff and chaperones from Riverwatch Middle School spread to over 30 charities and organizations throughout the Forsyth County community, learning and helping where they could.
“It’s great because we are always trying to teach kids to be respectful, kind and generous, yet we rarely give them specific opportunities where they can practice serving others, or going out and volunteering,” said seventh grade teacher Sarah Stream.
Stream and nearly a dozen of her seventh graders spent their day of service helping out at local Cumming organization SAFFT, an organization that supports foster and adoptive families — Decorating the building’s lobby with shamrocks and other St. Patrick’s Day ornaments, organizing games and toys, and making handwritten notes for kids who come to SAFFT.
“This is the perfect opportunity to actually give them a real world experience of what it’s like to do community service, and show them how good it feels when you know you are helping someone,” she said. “Otherwise they may not get that opportunity.”
“I’m really glad that our school does this. It gives us a chance to give to our community and see what it’s like for people who actually struggle,” said Riverwatch seventh grader Tvisha Annem.
Another seventh grader, Dharshan Rajan, said that while they were working at SAFFT, its director of operations Rebecca Rusk, explained to them what SAFFT does for kids in the foster system.
“It makes me empathize with them. We all have able families, so I just feel like I should do everything in my ability to make them feel that comfort,” Rajan said while sorting through the pieces of a board game in SAFFT’s waiting room.
Another group of sixth graders from Riverwatch spent the afternoon moving and organizing boxes at the United Way of Forsyth.
According to Andrea Preston, Director of Resource Development for the United Way of Forsyth County, the sixth graders moved and organized 20 pallets of donated school supplies that will be distributed to in-need families in the fall.
“They did a tremendous job, and they worked well together,” Preston said. “Really, this is the best group we have had in here, as far as working together and teamwork goes.”
Sixth grade teacher Amy Hitch said that Riverwatch staff particularly liked the day of service because it lets them see the kids using teachings in the real world.
“It’s our favorite day of the year, because it gets kids out of the classroom and shows them real life and they get to participate in the real world. That’s great to see,” Hitch said.