Kansas City, February 28, 2020: Sometimes a knight in shining armor looks like a high school girl with a get-it-done attitude and a broom.
About 70 Southeast High School seniors devoted a day of volunteer service on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at the Kansas City Habitat for Humanity ReStore in the East Bottoms neighborhood on the south bank of the Missouri River. They cleaned, restocked shelves, moved heavy building materials and assisted customers.
Regular classes were put on hold that day so that juniors could participate in the ACT testing that was happening across Kansas City Public Schools. The Southeast HS seniors decided among themselves to that they wanted to work at the store after being asked by their school leaders how they wanted to spend the day.
Senior class President NiEya Clay was dressed in black, with her hair up and her gloved hands gripping a red-handled broom. She swept the aisles and commanded classmates to relocate stray boxes and carts.
It was easy for the students to choose to do a day of service at the ReStore rather than fun somewhere else, Ms. Clay said. They recognized a need in their own neighborhoods and wanted to step up to help.
“We know that this is a great opportunity for us and for the people in our community,” she said. “We can help them have better opportunities in the community that we also live in. We share the same community, so why not help out.”
Southeast HS English teacher and senior class sponsor Katie Fleeck monitored the flow of students throughout the building, answered questions and did some work herself despite being 39 weeks pregnant. She smiled as she surveyed the swirl of activity.
“We have talked a lot about getting our students more involved in the community,” Ms. Fleeck said. “We asked them where they wanted to go and how they wanted to help. The big ask from them was to help the homeless population in Kansas City, so they decided to give their day today to Habitat.”
Fleeck had heard several positive remarks passing customers throughout the day. The students were both improving the store and the reputation of their school.
“This is valuable for the community members,” Fleeck said. “Anybody in here today is going to see a bunch of high schoolers working hard and they’re going to be like, ‘Wow, you gave your time to do this instead of just having fun.’”
Habitat for Humanity was created by former President Jimmy Carter as a non-profit dedicated to helping families-in-need build their own homes. ReStore serves as a drop-off warehouse for donated construction materials that can be used by the families and volunteers that are building Habitat for Humanity homes.
ReStore Assistant Manager Shivon Bullock was visibly thrilled to have the army of Southeast HS Knights at her disposal.
“It’s such a blessing,” Ms. Bullock said. “Habitat for Human has a huge mission to eradicate poverty and homelessness. We’re a non-profit and we have a small staff, so anything they do today helps tremendously. The end goal is, they’re helping us to put 22 families into homes this year, so it’s a blessing.”
The store might not look like a traditional classroom, but Bullock suggested that the students were still learning important lessons that will serve them well as they become young adults.
“I think it teaches them gratefulness. It also gives them a sense of philanthropy and belonging to Kansas City,” she said. “It creates value, it plants a seed and they will continue to come back and volunteer for years to come.”
The big takeaways for NiEya Clay were stronger bonds with her classmates and the understanding that even just sweeping floors can have a positive impact on the lives of others.
“We’re learning how little things go a long way. And we’re learning how to work together outside of school,” she said. “That’s all it takes to make a big difference.”
Visit the KCPS Flickr site to view more photos from this day of service.