On Thursday afternoons, Oriole Park eighth-grader Ryan Rodriguez and his classmates work on service projects that are helping people both across the street and around the world.
The Assistant Coordinator of Operation Oriole Park - a student-led volunteer organization focused on service - Ryan helped to create several projects this holiday season, including the building of a giving tree.
“My peers and I were able to generate $1,100 for our school’s giving tree fund, which will go to help families in our community who need some help celebrating the holidays this year,” said Ryan. “Every student who donates gets an ornament made and put up on our giving tree.”
The group also coordinated “Project Phil” – a fundraising drive for the township of Santa Rita, which was devastated by recent typhoon activity in the Philippines.
“Several of our students had family members who were severely impacted by this tragedy,” said Anne Poland, faculty sponsor for Operation Oriole Park. “By mobilizing their classmates and school community, our students were able to raise $1,200 and send eight carloads of food, clothing and other supplies to this struggling region.”
The students have also been busy making polar fleece blankets for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Lurie Children’s Hospital and the pediatric patients at Lutheran General. This in addition to their typical work of cleaning up neighborhood parks, planting flowers around their school, and several other service projects.
“It’s nice to see kids from different grades and backgrounds and with different abilities working together as a team,” said Poland. ““Experiences like this help create a well-rounded, compassionate student.”
In addition to instilling strong morals and ethics, Operation Oriole Park is designed to teach students how to create and implement a successful business model.
“The students brainstorm their own projects, then present their ideas to the administration,” said Poland. “They’re responsible for creating a business plan, including a marketing and public relations overview and a strategy for how to achieve the most results while using the least number of resources. It’s an excellent training experience for their futures.”
For Ryan Rodriguez, who also acts as Student Council president, Operation Oriole Park is all about giving back.
“It’s so great being able to help and knowing that you’re doing something good,” he said. “We try to make a large difference, not only in our community, but in our world.”