Harvest Hope


Lake Forest Academy helping set food on the table. Photo Courtesy of smugmug

Angelina Chan, Managing Photo Editor

Among the many activities that LFA does as a community, the Service Learning programs of the Interact Club stand out as some of the best opportunities for students to connect with others outside of our comfort zones.


  One of those is Harvest Hope, a yearly event in conjunction with North Shore Community Partners, which includes projects both with the kids and the families of A. J. Katzenmaier Academy (AJK) in North Chicago. It includes three main activities: a pancake breakfast, Fun with STEM, and the pop-up grocery store-all events right before the Thanksgiving holiday break rolls in.


  Every year, 55-60 student volunteers and 15-20 parent volunteers participate to make Harvest Hope a success. As one of the participants myself, I could see that it really was a fun learning experience for the AJK kids; their excitement and energy helped make it a great experience for everyone.


  “I think the curiosity these kids show for anything STEM is really fun, and they make learning entertaining and fun,” said Mrs. Sarah Collins, Director of Service Learning and School Counselor, who was in charge of the student volunteers for Harvest Hope. She also mentioned the significance of the LFA students working as mentors and learning from people with vastly different circumstances and perspectives on life.


  This year’s Fun with STEM was a pumpkin stand activity: using popsicle sticks, plastic lids, straws, paper, and tape, the AJK kids designed and tested a stand that could hold a pumpkin. This tied with the “Engineering” aspect of STEM. It was the most hands-on, and one of the most entertaining, activities of the day, but also the one that required a lot of volunteers to help and guide the kids through each step. However, it’s well worth it.


  Junior Sophie Waimon, the LFA Student Leader of Harvest Hope, agrees. “Just doing the STEM activities of the kids- it’s just the most fun and you get to help the kids and see them use their creative ability, to make a project,” suggested Waimon. “Their school doesn’t necessarily have a fundamental science program, so by doing the Fun with STEM activity and Harvest Hope, we hope that they get some basis for what the scientific method is or how you design something.”


  The third activity, the pop-up grocery store, is especially important, since many of the kids in AJK live in an area of a food desert: there is a lack of fresh foods readily available, or their parents may not have enough time or are unable to purchase goods. As well as LFA’s donated goods (corn, green beans, brownie mix, boxed stuffing, canned fruit, and boxed mac and cheese), Northern Illinois Food Bank donated boxed and canned goods as well as fresh foods, such as meats and vegetables to help the families in need of produce over the holiday.


  About 1 in 5 children in America live in food-insecure households, so there really is a sense of relief “knowing that some of their decisions over the holidays are made a bit easier by two or three extra bags of groceries,” noted Collins.


  Paired with the STEM enrichment and pancake breakfast, this year’s Harvest Hope was a success- but it’s not just with the activities themselves.


  “The kids just get to have some fun, like building a tower,” observed Waimon, “but hopefully that they take away some scientific reasoning skills and the ability to create these things on their own.”