20 Years of giving back to the community
CASTLE ROCK – After two decades, a food drive organized and executed annually by students at Daniel C. Oakes High School is still going strong.
Every November the students from the Douglas County School District (DCSD) high school help to stock the shelves of the Women’s Crisis and Family Outreach Center in Castle Rock.
Students are completely responsible for making the drive a success from start-to-finish.
In fact, in the days leading up to the drive, students go door-to-door in neighborhoods across the county leaving door-hangers. They circle back a couple weeks later, collecting donated items and then delivering them to the Center, where other students work to sort everything and then organize it all in the pantry.
“The community has come to expect this each year,” explained Joye Miller, Principal’s Assistant at D.C. Oakes. “Historically the food drive has brought in approximately 5,000 pounds of food and goods,” explained Joye Miller, Principal’s Assistant at D.C. Oakes.
While there was a bit of a dip during the recession, this year the drive brought in 5,356 pounds of food.
“The food that is donated goes towards our out-client program where we’ll give food boxes to individuals and families, and then most of it gets used at our shelter program,” said Jody Curl, Director of Programs for the Women’s Crisis and Family Outreach Center. “The food that we get from Oakes lasts us almost the whole year.”
For many of these students, this is an opportunity to give back to the community after experiencing hardships themselves. D.C. Oakes is an alternative high school program for students who have fallen off the traditional path towards graduation due to a transition in their lives, crisis at home, or other obstacles that put them at risk of dropping out of school. The school focuses on personalized instruction, with only 12 students in each class, and uses a combination of hands-on education, outdoor education, and exposure to the arts in order to help students successfully reach graduation.
“A lot of them have needed help at one point in time too, so it’s a good chance for them to pay it forward and give back,” said Mary Hoffman, the school’s Professional Learning Specialist.
The students attending the school are there because they choose to be. It is a second chance for them to learn in a nurturing environment and safe, encouraging space.
“I come to school everyday and I feel like I’m at home,” said Ashleigh, a student at the school. “It has given me an opportunity to grow with my knowledge and to expand my mindset. It’s helped a lot of people in many ways.”
For the school’s principal, Derek Fleshman, watching how motivated the students are year after year for the food drive has been inspiring not only for the activity itself, but also for how it changes the community’s perception of these students’ contributions.
“It’s absolutely fantastic. For them to be able to give back to the community is really great. It shows them that they’re worth something,” Fleshman said. “A lot of our kids have been in places of need before, and this really allows them to give back and give help. It also shows the community that these kids do have worth, and not to judge a book by its cover.”
“We received a note from a family in the area that really summarizes how I feel about our students and this food drive,” he added. "It said ‘children learn early to care about others not just themselves! Thank you for nurturing and teaching the act of love and sharing.’"
VIDEO: Learn more about D.C. Oakes High School, below