Serving our Neighbors, Near and Far: LuHi Students Develop and Implement Service Projects

As a Christian School, LuHi’s vision is to “develop compassionate, educated leaders for the future.” One of our Core Values is Community, and the descriptor reads that through this core value “…The love of Christ is shared within the school, local, and global communities.” One main way that we develop these compassionate leaders, and share the love of Christ with others, is through the service project component of our Religion classes.

Religion courses are part of the student experience each year at LuHi. While part of the curriculum involves studying the Bible and learning about Jesus through coursework, a separate – and equally important – component is that of service to others. Mrs. Jessica Raba, LuHi’s Assistant Head of School | Principal, shared, “To me, service projects are an opportunity for our students to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community, serving both locally and globally. Experiences like these service projects are lived expressions of faith and also part of each student’s personal faith journey.” Ms. Jean Benincasa, LuHi’s Religion Department Head, also weighed in, sharing, “We repeatedly discuss in class the “why” of our service- as the hands and feet of Christ, we help others because we are thankful for God’s love and blessings in our lives.”

Recently, our several of our Spring Semester Religion classes have worked to support relief efforts in the Ukraine. According to Ms. Benincasa, the students originally had different service projects planned, but then requested to change their project to specifically support Ukrainian refugees. They chose to support the organization LIFE for Ukraine, spearheaded by Pastor Justin Vetrano and his wife Neina. Pastor Vetrano is the lead pastor The LIFE Lutheran Church in Old Westbury. He is also involved with Campus Ministry and LuHi, and directs LuHi’s drama productions each year. “Interestingly enough, the students felt that supporting LIFE for Ukraine was the direction they wanted to go in after discussing how sometimes, when we donate to organizations, ALL of the funds don’t always go to help the people intended directly. Since some of the students know Pastor Vetrano, and they watched the News 12 clip and read some of Pastor Vetrano’s blogs, they felt confident that funds raised would go directly to the Ukrainian refugees,” explained Ms. Benincasa.

The students have developed some creative ideas to raise money. When planning the project, they try to think outside the box and also try to develop projects that will engage their peers. Some examples of projects include:

  • Religion 11 (Block 5) – This class planned a pizza sale on a half day of school, as they knew the cafeteria would be closed for lunch and that students would be hungry on the way home! They raised over $300 thanks to support from students and staff, and donations from Mario’s Pizzeria Oyster Bay, Superstar Beverage of Oyster Bay and the Longo Family.
  • Religion 11 (Blocks 3 and 4) – These classes organized a campaign to get LuHi students to write letters and send pictures to refugee children in the Ukraine. This idea came up after they spoke to Pastor Vetrano and Neina about how to support Ukrainian children. The students have decorated “mailboxes” for students to deposit their letters in, and then letters and drawings will be sent directly to the refugee shelter in Ukraine.
  • Religion 9 (Block 6) – This class is selling “I Stand With Ukraine” rubber bracelets. They felt that the awareness bracelets are something that students could purchase to support financially, but also wear each day as an outward sign and reminder to keep the people of Ukraine in their thoughts and prayers daily. Students researched the best website to order from, designed the bracelets, and then we ordered them. Together, with their TA, we came up with a schedule for each lunch day- which students volunteered on each day of the month of April to sell bracelets at lunch time. Funds raised will also go to support “LIFE for Ukraine” fund. 
Students at a pizza sale for charity

The service projects benefit those in need, but they also tend to benefit those that are serving. Ms. Benincasa shared, “As we develop these student selected projects, many students recognize there are many people in need in our world today, and they want to help others. It sometimes shifts their focus from what they want or don’t have, to all that we do have, and recognizing the blessings we have. I also have heard in the past few weeks while running these service projects that students are recognizing how generous other people are. For example, when they don’t take their change, or donate without a purchase, they see that other people want to help others too and recognize the generosity of others in response to their service.” Students realize that their service motivates others to serve, and that is an incredible lesson for them to take with them as they continue to develop into compassionate, educated leaders.

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