With the end of the school year nearing, students are starting to plan out their busy summers filled with festivities. Most people fantasize of sleep, work, play, and socializing galore. Not many think outside of their personal interests, and even the few who consider volunteering usually do so in the prospect of completing mandatory community service for National Honor Society, or to fluff up a section of their college apps. However, there is an outlier walking the halls of High School West. Sophomore Rachel Shuster has expressed a genuine desire to help her community, and through GenerationOn’s Kids Care, she been able to stir up change.
Rachel created the Long Island sect of Kids Care upon entering sixth grade at Candlewood Middle School. While most of her peers busied themselves with adjusting to their new environment, Rachel began a club that extensively showed kids the benefits of community service.
Consisting of about 40 students from Dix Hills, Melville, and Commack school districts, Kids Care has been an effective medium for these compassionate teens to aid others.
Over the past five years alone, the variety of projects Kids Care sponsored or organized have benefited needy not just locally, but across the world. Kids Care has sponsored and participated in numerous events that include preparing meals for the residents of the Long Island Ronald McDonald House Children’s Hospital, managing a carnival for residents of local shelters, helping in recreational activities of an assisted living facility, and holding a fashion show in 2009 that raised over $2,000 for the Sunrise Day Camp for underprivileged children.
All this change catalyzed by one individual in our school. Rachel accounts the inspiration of Kids Care to her Bat Mitzvah project:
“When I was looking for a cause to donate money towards for my Bat Mitzvah project, I couldn’t pick just one thing because I had a passion for so many causes. I ended up finding Kids Care, a organization that encourages youth and adults who want to start a community service club. I thought it’d be a great idea to give it a Half Hollow Hills branch as a way to help me help my community and get my friends involved. Kids Care is a great organization that works for many different causes, not just ones limited to just the environment or just children or just the underprivileged.”
One of Rachel’s most admirable missions carried through Kids Care HHH happened earlier in the year, through OneVillage, an organization dedicated to providing schools, clean water, and other commodities to African villages.
This event, dedicated for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and held at a Michael’s craft store, was one of Kids Care’s first time doing something for a community outside of the United States. At Michael’s, Kids Care set up different booths and ran craft activities for young children to write letters and make bookmarks, friendship bracelets, and puzzles for the targeted 100 children in Ghana. It was an open house, but money was raised through optional donations.
Rachel is even given credit for running this project on GenerationOn’s website, alongside seven other teens across the country who also organized other events for various humanitarian causes. You can see her picture and mission statement here.
Kids Care HHH is made up of about 40 kids from 5th to 10th grade. The organization advocates its cause primarily through word of mouth and Facebook and is usually arranged solely by these young members, led by the Kids Care HHH executive board of more 10th grade students here at Hills West.
Just this year, Rachel, in an effort to expand the Kids Care club partnered with her first grade teacher to bring it into the elementary schools. “I felt there was a gap in the community service world. There were things for very little kids, adults, and teenagers to contribute. But there was little for Elementary school-level kids. I wanted to show them different things they could do and ways they could help out besides the standard monetary donation.” She says, taking pride in witnessing the children go home with a motivation to continue the lessons they had learned through her help.
With this sphere of the club called Forest Park Cares, Rachel instills her compassionate, altruistic, and humanitarian values in the hearts of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. The kids hold meetings after school where they and Rachel decide what kind of community service they want to do.
“When people say their hobbies are playing sports or music, I say that I really enjoy doing community service and leading others, too. I was just supposed to do a Bat Mizvah project, and did not think Kids Care would continue for 5+ years after the BM project, but it’s much more than that to me now.”
Rachel Shuster hopes to continue to motivate the youth and make a difference in their communities. She truly hopes to spread the mentality of Kids Care HHH, that doing community service with friends is not only rewarding, but great fun as well. We encourage her to persist in her humanitarian efforts to inspire and aid others, changing people’s lives both in our community and across the globe.