Volunteer Spotlight: The Calhoun School

April 5, 2022

The Calhoun School has a longstanding relationship with Homeward NYC, having volunteered at our UWS site since our founding.

Calhoun students volunteer, making Valentine’s Day cards for the kids to color

Calhoun students (masked and vaccinated) were excited to return to in-person activities with our youngest residents, making Valentine’s Day cards for the kids to color and give to their moms.

Calhoun upper school students have volunteered for the young families’ birthday parties, hosted spa days for the mothers, decorated for holidays, and hosted breakfasts for the seniors. A student club, Calhoun Harmony, has played music for the seniors at a Soup & Song where seniors have a communal meal.

Most of the student volunteerism is organized by Debbie Aronson, director of Calhoun’s Community Service Learning Program since 1994. She says of the school’s relationship with Homeward NYC: “Our partnership is invaluable, and we really treasure the special relationship with our longtime neighbors.”

In the Community Service Learning Program, students raise awareness, write elected officials, conduct surveys, and present their learnings to other students. There’s usually a creative piece where they make flyers, a video or other artwork.

Calhoun students with CEO Jeannette Ruffins via video

When in-person activities paused for the pandemic, Debbie reached out to CEO Jeannette Ruffins about participating in virtual sessions with the students.

CEO Jeannette Ruffins has been a virtual guest speaker for Calhoun’s Community Action, Hunger and Homelessness, and Students Teaching Students classes.

In one session, they discussed permanent affordable housing, mental health, and domestic violence.

Says Jeannette of her time with the students the past two years, “Some of them are basically policy wonks, asking very informed questions. But they’re not interested in just gathering information. They are activists. They want to know ‘How do I get involved?’”

Ninth-grader Olivia says of volunteering, “I was able to see the positive environment Homeward NYC provides. The kids were polite, outgoing, understanding, and extraordinarily positive towards one another. They had formed friendships in the short time they spent with one another.”

Olivia also interviewed Chief Program Officer Kimberly Marshall and West Harlem LGBTQ housing Program Director Mildred Ramirez and notes:

“Through the dedication the staff put into their work, strong bonds and friendships are formed between staff and residents. And speaking to them about the more technical aspects of Homeward NYC was educational and stimulating. I’m so glad I was able to work with Homeward NYC and I look forward to working with them again.”

Thank you, Olivia, Debbie and The Calhoun School for your activism and volunteerism!