Students learn lesson by helping others
Before her senior year of high school, Eagle River’s Anna Ripp didn’t pay much attention to what was happening in the world outside her hometown.
“I don’t think I was socially aware of the issues happening in the world,” Ripp said in a Monday, Nov. 27 interview.
That changed when Ripp and her classmates in Karen Acklin-Williams’s English class began their Social Justice unit, which includes readings from texts such as Richard Wright’s “Black Boy,” Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed” and Adam Shepard’s “Scratch Beginnings.”
In addition to the readings, Acklin-Williams said assigned students a research paper and community service project.
Ripp chose the plight of refugees around the world as her project emphasis, and said she came away a changed person.
“It was pretty impactful for me,” she said.
Rather than simply fulfilling her community service hour requirement, Ripp decided to do what she could to help refugees in Alaska. She reached out to Catholic Social Services, which runs the Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services (RAIS) program in Anchorage. The organization gave her a list of things needed by its clients, and Ripp got to work.
With the help of some of her friends and classmates, Ripp started a donation project at ERHS. She posted flyers around the school and solicited help from teachers, who placed donation boxes in their classrooms. Useful items poured in — dish soap, laundry detergent, toilet paper, hand warmers, socks, gloves, jackets and more.
“I didn’t expect all the donations we got,” she said.
When the donation drive was over, Ripp and her fellow students had gathered enough donations to fill two vans full of goods.
“Eagle River High School really pulled together,” she said.
Acklin-Williams said she was thrilled with the effort by her students and the community.
“I couldn’t be happier as a teacher for so much support,” she wrote. “I honestly believe that you should always want to expose yourself to altruistic ways and always give your best to assist others.”
It’s a message that has clearly resonated with Ripp. Before the project, she said she had no particular desire to live a life of altruism. Now she’s thinking about joining the Peace Corps after college.
“It just made me want to help people more,” she said.