Eighth-graders Anna Dreibelbis and Jake Koentopp were not at school the morning of Jan. 13. They and hundreds of other students from Faith Lutheran Jr/Sr High School were out learning much more valuable lessons.
About 600 middle school students from Faith Lutheran, 2015 S. Hualapai Way, participated in the school's annual service event. They were bused to more than 20 locations around the Las Vegas Valley, including at-risk elementary schools, senior centers, veterans homes and charities.
Anna and Jake were with a group of 21 students who visited Opportunity Village's Ralph & Betty Engelstad Campus, 6050 S. Buffalo Drive. Opportunity Village is a nonprofit organization that helps adults with intellectual disabilities, providing them with vocational training, employment and social recreation services.
Students were given a tour of the facility and split into groups to work with the clients individually. Some students worked alongside Opportunity Village clients in the Thomas & Mack Employment Training Center, chatting with them and about high school, lockers and iPods, among other topics of conversation.
Other students visited the Kitty Rodman Multi-purpose Center for Arts & Life Skill Enrichment and discussed with clients the meaning behind their original artwork.
Anna and Jake spent the morning working with the severely disabled clients. They said they have been on service projects in previous years but that this year's experience was the best they ever had.
"I've matured a lot, and I look at it differently," Anna said. "I don't see them as disabled. I see them as good people who want the opportunities that can be given to them. These people really aren't that different from us."
Both students are members of the middle school student council. Jake is the council president and is no stranger to service. For his birthday party a few years ago, he asked his friends to bring a stuffed animal instead of a present. He donated them to kids at a foster home.
"Sometimes you don't realize the things everyone goes through, and you're focused on yourself and all of your problems," Jake said. "When you compare it to someone else, you realize how fortunate you are and how much we need to help and care for others."
Faith Lutheran students also visited the Variety Early Learning Center, the Lied Senior Care Center, the Blind Center of Nevada, Boys & Girls Clubs of Las Vegas, Family Promise of Las Vegas, St. Jude's Ranch for Children, the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, the Desert Lane Care Center, the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, Three Square food bank, Helping Hands of Vegas Valley and Safe Nest.
The most humbling experience for Anna was feeding a young man who is blind and deaf and communicates only by touch.
"He can function without seeing or hearing," Anna said. "I can't even fathom.
"We're very lucky to be able to do this. It lets us serve our community. We're very sheltered. We have a small school. We don't really get to see other sides of people."
For more information about Opportunity Village, call 262-1550.
Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at firstname.lastname@example.org or 224-5524.