Student project gives warmth to community

MANCHESTER — Students in the PASS (Program Alternative to Secondary Schools) Program at the Manchester School of Technology are used to project-based learning.

So it was a small step to partner with students in the Community Leadership class at UNH Manchester for the Warmth from the Millyard project this year.

And judging by the success, not only in the number of garments collected but also by the intellectual curiosity and self confidence it developed in the PASS students, it will continue.

“This was just truly the beginning,” PASS program director Kevin McDonnell said Friday after a Warmth from the Millyard Partnership Celebration at MST, 530 S. Porter St.

Attended by a variety of public figures, including Gov. John Lynch, as well as students and faculty from both the MST PASS program and UNH Manchester, the event celebrated the project’s accomplishments and successes, its academic connections, and the next steps.

This was not the first time the PASS students had worked on the five-year-old warm clothing project developed by UNH Manchester students. McDonnell said the high school students sorted clothing three years ago.

But this was different. This was a partnership between the PASS students and the UNH students, starting with planning and carrying all the way through to completion.

Kate Hanson, professor of Community Leadership at UNH, said: “One of our goals is to use this project as a basis for leadership development.”

McDonnell, who is also the educational opportunities director for the Manchester School District, said he was struck by some of the student reactions to the program and the self-awareness and confidence that developed.

He said one girl wanted to rent a truck and drive through poor neighborhoods to give warm clothing to poor people. When asked why that delivery method, McDonnell said the girl told him a truck drives through her neighborhood giving food to poor people and she wanted to take the clothing truck through to show them that she was doing something.

The warm clothing project involved all the courses taught at MST. Among them: logging each item by location of manufacture, fiber composition and manufacturing company fitted into world geography and global economics; polishing public speaking and writing skills to present the project to groups and reflect weekly on what is being learned fitted into English; developing a website as well as a block and a wiki to communicate with the UNH students fits into business and computer science.

Participation was educational for the teachers as well. Only two clothing articles out of almost 2,500 were made in the United States, said McDonnell.

For the teachers, watching students become curious and start questioning as a result of their involvement was exciting. “This was all driven by them,” said McDonnell. “We have generated an entire curriculum based on their own experiences.”

From the student point of view, it was the wonder of community.

UNH junior Danielle Gauthier, worked with the PASS group, utilizing wiki and skype. Gauthier, who is from Danville, said: “It definitely taught me a lot about the community.”

Some 47 PASS students participated in the project.

Seventeen-year-old Manchester resident Mark Nunez’ first love is music, but he said: “I was really looking for stuff to get involved with.” When he did, he was surprised at his own reactions. “This has been a roller coaster of emotion … helping, serving. It made me feel part of something,” he said.

Leuh Diaz, 18, was part of both the project’s communications and data groups and said: “It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun.” Saying many people working together can be a reward in itself, she said: “We made it fun.”

Diaz, who is part of an anti-bullying organization that reaches out to people, liked the idea that Warmth from the Millyard is also a project “that’s reaching out to people.”

The clothing collected by the Warmth from the Millyard project is distributed to 18 organizations, including Ark Church, New Horizons for NH, Families in Transition, the International Institute of NH, the Boys and Girls Club of Nashua, Wilson School, the Rape and Domestic Violence Center of Concord, Somersworth Youth Safe Haven, The Way Home, VNA Family Services, Liberty House and YWCA New Hampshire/Emily’s Place.

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