Harbour School students fight hunger, poverty with community service

Students at the Harbour School Baltimore are on a quest to fight hunger. In just three years, they’ve completed over 10,000 hours of community service and donated over 5,000 pounds of food to people in need. And as winners of the Lead2Feed Leadership Program competition for the third time in a row, the Harbouring Hope team has raised $75,000 for Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland.

This is the only school that serves students with disabilities to win this award.

Students at Harbour School are among the million-plus students engaging in the Lead2Feed Leadership Program–a free, Common Core-aligned resource of comprehensive lessons for teachers and advisors who want to cultivate leaders and promote service learning in their clubs or classrooms. At the conclusion of the 10-lesson or 6-lesson track, students are given an opportunity to hone their leadership skills by completing a team-based service-learning project that challenges middle and high school students to take action to solve hunger or address a need in their local or global community.

Siri Llamas, a high school English teacher at Harbour School, serves as program advisor for Harbouring Hope, a team of high school students participating in the Lead2Feed Leadership program and competition.“Lead2Feed is a really awesome program. It’s service-based learning, and it’s student-centered and it’s leadership–all the things we believe in here at Harbour School,” she said.

This year’s challenge released students to address needs in their community besides hunger.

“We saw that students were championing child abuse, human trafficking, and all kinds of issues in addition to hunger,” said a Lead2Feed representative. “And then the Harbour School entry came in and I said, ‘Wow.’”

Harbouring Hope submitted a community-service project that concentrated on advocacy and raising awareness about poverty, illiteracy, and hunger–of course. Drawing from leadership lessons learned in the classroom, Harbouring Hope members rallied the entire school to participate in a social action month. The team hosted speakers from local organizations, held cross-curricular lessons around the school and conducted leadership seminars at local schools on these topics.

The students published three children’s books entitled, “Harbouring Hope for Hunger,” “Harbouring Hope for Literacy,” and “Harbouring Hope for Poverty.” These books have been translated into seven languages and made available to schools around the world.

In 2015, the team donated a clean water tap, irrigation supplies and medicine to a struggling community in Africa and organized a food drive in partnership with Golden Ring Middle School that yielded 2,000 pounds of food that was donated to the Maryland Food Bank. The year before that, 12 schools in seven countries and 36 schools in the states benefitted from action packs on hunger, literacy and poverty, that included a student created healthy food cookbook, nutritional comics, vegetable seeds for creating a community garden, and a board game designed by Harbouring Hope,

Nina Pendleton is a junior at Harbour School and says her experience in the Lead2Feed program has inspired her to launch a non-profit organization that empowers individuals with disabilities with the resources and support they need to meet with success in life. She’s named it “The Nina Project.”

Sarah Schriefer, a recent graduate, has participated in the Lead2Feed program at her school since the beginning. This year she was inspired to come back and give her peers a hand.

“I’m really proud of what the whole group has done,” said Schriefer. “It has been a big inspiration to help others in need.”

The Harbour School is a Maryland State Department of Education approved non-public special education school serving students ages 6-21. The Baltimore campus serves students from nine school systems. Over 95 percent of the students are funded by the public schools. Students at the school have been diagnosed as having learning disabilities, high functioning autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, other health impaired (primarily ADHD) and multi-disabled.

“This is beyond the best thing that I’ve ever been a part of,” said Llamas about working with her students in the program over the last three years. “They’re just such an inspiration and I could not imagine not working at this school or working with these students.

“Not only are they changing the lives of others, they’re changing their lives–they’re changing my life.”

Lead2Feed is a national initiative created by The Foundation for Impact on Literacy and Learning and the Lift a Life Foundation, with assistance from the Yum! Brands Foundation. Over 3500 schools across the country have adopted the program.