Neel Singh

Features Editor and Photographer

22 March, 2023

As the bell rings and the sound of feet shuffle through the hallway, fourth period begins. When the hallways fall silent, the real work of incredible altruism and diligence begin in room C-156.

The Student Service Leadership class was formed for students who either transferred, moved, or were in various other situations and needed to gain the service hours for graduation. From the year’s onset, students wanted to impact the community directly surrounding Atholton and eventually established a partnership with the nearby Grassroots Crisis and Intervention Center.   

The Grassroots Crisis and Intervention Center plays a vital role in responding to the homeless, addiction and mental health crises in Howard County.  In addition to providing safe shelter, food, and access to laundry facilities, the Grassroots Crisis Center offers walk-in opioid counseling and career counseling services.  

Grassroots initiatives and donations from Atholton prior to COVID were common. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Atholton’s donations, and donations at large, were severely limited and challenged Grassroots ability to provide services such as bagged lunches, foods for the pantries, etc.  

The Student Service and Leadership Class’s initiatives with Grassroots were some of the first established in the 2022-2023 school year.  Grassroots volunteer and donation coordinator Ms. Monteith Williams explained that, “I was really excited [to hear from the Student Service and Leadership Class] because we haven’t had a really concrete relationship with Atholton since before COVID.”

The Student Service and Leadership Class established a food drive at the beginning of the year, collecting hygiene products and canned foods. After seeing the fruits (or cans) of their labor, the Student Leadership Class launched the bagged lunch initiative which aims to provide 30 to 35 lunches bi-weekly for the nearby Grassroots Crisis Center. After working with Atholton’s Student Government and JROTC the leadership class was able to buy needed supplies like gloves and sandwich bags in bulk to provide for the nearby community.  

Even after the basic supplies were met, the Leadership Class faced the tough challenge of providing hundreds of dollars of lunch meat, snacks, and drinks to Grassroots.  In an effort to both provide for the community and demonstrate that the incidents at Giant were not representative of Atholton, the Student Service and Leadership Class contacted Giant management to see if they would provide the lunch meat and bread for Grassroots. The partnership has provided seven rounds of nutritious meals to Grassroots and in April the Atholton’s Good Neighbor Club is set to take over the initiative.  

While the class is strictly for students who need 75 hours to graduate, the Good Neighbor Club is open to anyone willing to help provide for their nearby community.  The club’s founder and president Maddie Carter, “was inspired to start the Good Neighbor Club because I volunteered at Grassroots and loved the experience.  I noticed that there was no club here at Atholton [that coordinated with Grassroots] and I went to Ms. Chaudhry with the idea.”  She holds firm optimism about the future of the club explaining that, “I feel the impact the Good Neighbor Club should have on its members should invoke a heartwarming feeling knowing they did something for the community around Atholton and I hope they make new friends in the club.” 

Ms. Chaudhry’s role in the partnership cannot be understated. While the students were responsible for reaching out to Grassroots and Giant to form the initial partnership and are responsible for making the sandwiches, Ms. Chaudhry handles all of the daily logistics. She drives to Giant and offloads the materials into her car in the morning, and when the students take their lunch, Ms. Chaudhry delivers the sandwiches to Grassroots.   

Nationwide, Howard County is one of the richest counties in the nation, and despite the relative ease for many students to care more about themselves and less about their communities, the Atholton Student Service and Leadership Class and Good Neighbor Club serve as a reminder of the incredible spirit of charity and service.  Their diligent work and attitude is best reflected in Ms. Chaudhry’s sentiment about the class, and the community working to provide for those in need: “[Their impact has been] 100% positive. I cannot tell you how positive everyone’s been. I go to any place. I mean, I went to Giant and I just said, this is what we’re doing […] [and] no questions asked [they wanted to help]. It’s incredible.” 

Posted by Neel Singh

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