Students at Cretin-Derham Hall, a private Catholic High School in the Highland Park neighborhood of Saint Paul, have been regular volunteers at the Wilder Child Development Center in Frogtown for nearly 20 years. Each month, a group of 8-10 students come to the center for tasks that vary from chores around the building and grounds to spending time with toddlers and preschoolers – even assisting with naptime.
The long relationship has been a good way to maintain a connection to the local community, says Peter Gleich, a Campus Minister who leads groups of students to volunteer at Wilder. “I tell our kids, be prepared,” he says. “These kids at the Child Development Center are going to want nothing but to have you be their human jungle gym. They’re not going to care about your GPA. They don’t care what team you’re on. They just want to love you for who you are.”
Time at the center provides high school students with the opportunity to explore their gifts, talents and interests in a new environment. After volunteering, some students have been inspired to pursue a career in early childhood education, Peter says. Some have returned to the center as classroom aids.