How one high school in Utah is teaching kids an invaluable lesson about community service.
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For one week each year, the students and staff of Juan Diego Catholic High School don't show up to the campus at all.

It's not a vacation, and it's not a school trip.

They're spending the week volunteering with an organization of their choice as part of a service program made to teach kids about community, hard work, and the value of helping those in need.


Juan Diego Catholic High School. Photo via Sydney Barnes/YouTube.

Juan Diego is showing firsthand the value of service for students and the community.

Over 200 seniors at the school choose to spend a week volunteering at one of the 27 service agencies involved in the program — all of which are organizations that help serve marginalized communities.

"We have everything from students going to the Utah AIDS Foundation and dealing with HIV prevention and awareness to Saint Vincent de Paul soup kitchen," Director of Campus Life Dave Brunetti says over the phone.

Photo courtesy of Mickelle Marston/Juan Diego Catholic High School. Used with permission.

While volunteering, students get experience with real service work, and they help uplift the community — and themselves — in the process.

"Our school's motto is Spiritus Donorum, which translates to 'the spirit of giving,'" says Brunetti, adding that schools don't often give their students a vantage point to think about marginalized communities, let alone a specific opportunity to help them.

Photo courtesy of Mickelle Marston/Juan Diego Catholic High School. Used with permission.

"When you put a student in an intensive week such as this, our experience has been that it is completely transformative," he continues.  

While community service is a standard high school extracurricular, Juan Diego approaches it a little differently.

"It goes beyond volunteering," says Brunetti. Since the program is about helping marginalized communities like the homeless, it provides one-of-a-kind learning opportunities. "When you are the person assisting [a homeless woman] — coming in and getting food for her and her children, it changes the way you look at things."

Photo courtesy of Mickelle Marston/Juan Diego Catholic High School. Used with permission.

While anyone in high school can volunteer to fill out an obligatory requirement or college prerequisite, building the program this way ensures that students come face to face with people less fortunate than them.

"It's eye-opening and it will benefit everyone," Apiak Gai, a student at the school, told news station Good 4 Utah. "I'm learning that not everyone is the same and not everyone has the same opportunities. We shouldn't shut them out; we should give them a helping hand."

The school also believes that service is essential to a well-rounded education.

"If we just graduate students that are smart but we don’t give them a sense of compassion and empathy about how to show up in the real world, then we have totally ripped them off," says Brunetti.

Photo courtesy of Mickelle Marston/Juan Diego Catholic High School. Used with permission.

While there aren't many schools that build volunteering and community service directly into their curriculum, perhaps there should be.

As the Corporation for National & Community Service notes, volunteering can be incredibly beneficial to your community and even your health. One study found that volunteering led to improvements in stamina, memory, and levels of depression. And if you volunteer once, you're more likely to do it again, according to another study (PDF).

Most of all, though, Juan Diego's service program is about creating a better world for all of us.

Photo courtesy of Mickelle Marston/Juan Diego Catholic High School. Used with permission.

Juan Diego Catholic High School has committed to service not just because it helps teach their students unique lessons, but because it uplifts their entire community, helps provide a more well-rounded education, and goes a long way toward making the world a better, more selfless place.

"When you give them the opportunity to step up, there are some wonderful, wonderful students that are just waiting to become responsible, contributing adults," says Brunetti.

"And that's the reason I do what I do."

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

Terence Power / TikTok

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It was filmed before face masks were required, so you can see the boy's beautiful reaction to the song.

Power uploaded it to TikTok because he had just joined the platform and had no idea the number of lives it would touch. "The support on it is unbelievable. I posted it on my Instagram a while back and on Facebook and the support then was amazing," he told Dublin Live.

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True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

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via Ken Lund / Flickr

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