Fifty-eight youths recently participated in Works of Mercy, a program of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in which — grouped into seven crews — they performed volunteer work for homeowners and organizations across Lancaster County. And, in another story recently highlighted in LNP’s Schools section, 53 teens from Conestoga Valley High School helped 700 students from Fritz Elementary learn more about science, technology, engineering and math during “STEM day” in May.
It’s been too long since we wrote a “today’s kids are cool” editorial, so let’s get right down to it.
You read about them in our Faith & Values section, our Schools section and elsewhere in the paper. We don’t need to tell you that many young people are doing great or compassionate or smart or creative things — and at an age that just blows us away.
What we should remember is that these kids are not the exception, they’re the rule. They’re your children, your grandchildren, your neighbors’ children, the youngsters who attend your house of worship.
The youth of today are as aware of the world around them as any previous generation, and they want to make it a better place.
For them, it’s never too early to start.
During the worst of the heat wave, Works of Mercy volunteers Mary Grace Sober and Joanne Cybulski pulled weeds between the pavers at Jack Lachonic’s home in Millersville, while Evan Hart dug a 6-inch trench to place a brick border, and Sam Ellis was trimmed bushes.
For students attending Lancaster Catholic High School, the week helps them meet their required service hours, LNP’s Earle Cornelius reported.
For five days, the teens put in long hours as part of the program. Youths fanned out to sites to do yardwork, recycle, and clean church classrooms and bathrooms.
They came from seven parishes around Lancaster County. Each morning, St. Mary’s youth leader Bob Cybulski assigned students to chaperones and sent them off. They returned for noon Mass and lunch, and then headed out on another assignment. After dinner, they did things as a group.
One morning, some teens ended up at a nursing home, others at a church, a recycling center and a residential home.
Lancaster Catholic students Gabrielle Kambouroglos and Quinn Richardson cleaned classrooms and painted walls at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Manheim Township.
This is Richardson’s third year in Works of Mercy. “Initially, my mom forced me to,” he said. “I (said), ‘This is the one time I’m going to do it; I’m never going to come back’ and I ended up loving it. I look forward to it every summer because of the people who love me.”
Evan Hart has been a part of Works of Mercy since 2014. “It’s one of the highlights of my year,” he told LNP. “It’s good to help the community. It’s a special experience being with everyone and going for a common goal.”
Chaperone Bernadette Weaver said people who question today’s youth need to see what groups like Works of Mercy are doing.
“These kiddos are phenomenal,” she said.
Bob Cybulski told Cornelius a limit of 50 kids had been established in the past, but “if there’s a teenager who wants to take a week in the summer to help, I’m not going to refuse that person.”
He added: “I can’t believe these kids want to do this in the heat, but they do.”
Today’s young people also are happy to serve as teachers and mentors.
As reported in Tuesday’s Schools section, Fritz Elementary students spent May 17 learning about the STEM factors behind bridges and buildings, airplanes and drones, germs and static electricity. With guidance from Conestoga Valley High School students in the Science National Honor Society and Technology Student Association, they explored levers, gears, balloon cars and stream critters. They even made ice cream.
“The goal was to give our elementary students a meaningful and unique day full of all things STEM, and the resulting collaboration with our high school students was a perfect fit for that vision,” second grade teacher Suzanne Reed stated in a news release. “It was evident in the student smiles, dialogue and engagement that could be seen and heard all day long. It was truly amazing!”
A few hundred hours of planning were required to make the inaugural STEM day a reality. Seven stations were led by high school students who created unique experiences for Fritz students, including hands-on experiences in crime scene investigations, robots and chemical reactions. Fritz teachers hosted and advised the high schoolers.
The event was planned by Reed; James Hovan, a high school science teacher and adviser to science honor society; and Matthew Maisano and Thomas Thomas, high school technology education teachers and Technology Student Association advisers.
“Our (high school) students showed such a high level of enthusiasm that I knew that we needed to find a way to make this work,” Hovan said.
Works of Mercy and Fritz’s STEM day are just two of the programs illustrating youth’s positive impact. There are many others — too many to count — that will never get any publicity.
We applaud all the young people, and the organizers/leaders who guide them, for everything they do. It matters — a lot — and we’re noticing.