YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. Briarcliff High School junior Chloe Jacobs and Ossining High School senior Adam Woodley credit the BOCES Walkabout community service program for giving them positive energy and new career ideas.
"I wasn't really considering Special Education as a potential career, but this has been a great learning experience and now I am definitely thinking about it," Jacobs said after spending three weeks helping students and staff in the library of the BOCES' Learning Center at Walden that serves disabled students from kindergarten through ninth grade.
Woodley spent a month helping out seniors at the Atria Senior Living community in Ossining. He played guitar and piano for them during happy hour, gathered information for games and ran a theatrical class called "You're the Actor."
"I love Walkabout. There's a whole attitude of positive reinforcement," he said. "The seniors appreciate everything so much. It's been a great experience."
The BOCES Walkabout program was founded in 1977 to help college-bound high school students gain motivation and direction for the future. Students spend two weeks backpacking as a group to gain confidence and build a sense of community. They then spend four weeks in a "service learning" project and 10 weeks in a career internship.
In addition to their community service activities, students also attend classes at BOCES one day a week during one school year, and they are required to complete academic assignments. They earn a full year of academic credit.
"The sense of community among the Walkabout students is incredible. It's like we were all friends from the start," Woodley said.
Jacobs said working at the Walden center for the disabled gave her an opportunity to "help an organization out" and to gain a "new appreciation for education."
Woodley plans to study music production and business in college next year. He already books his own gigs and performs professionally, and he credits Walkabout for fueling his independent creative spirit.
"I'm expanding myself spiritually and mentally," he said. "If you think positive things will happen, they will. There's no reason why you can't succeed in doing something that you love."
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