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Learning by Serving Others  

Dr. Mike Ewton
December 3, 2023

A strong community begins with individuals who come together for the common good, placing the needs of others before themselves. Whitfield County has a wealth of actively engaged individuals and organizations that constantly work to strengthen our community and serve others.

I can think of no better example of this concept in action than the Gratefull celebration in downtown Dalton. Once again, neighbors from all walks of life came together for a Thanksgiving feast on a table the length of a city block. The incentive was not financial profit. No one paid a dime for lunch. The aim was simply to gather as a community to celebrate Thanksgiving. I enjoyed talking with many of my friends and meeting new ones. Working alongside volunteers on the serving line also reminded me of the importance of civic engagement and valuing service toward others.

Learning to connect with and serve others is more important than ever in a world that sometimes isolates people through remote work, electronic communication and social polarization. This holds true for adults as well as for the next generations.

Recognizing the importance of servant leadership, our schools strive to build a culture that encourages students to engage beyond the classroom. Students involved in service learning programs get the chance to align their classroom learning with real-world applications.

Some examples of service learning projects include organizing and managing food drives and providing resources for community members who need support. By participating in service learning projects, students learn empathy and experience the satisfaction of helping others. Additionally, our schools have student leadership groups that teach the importance of being a servant-leader and contributing to the advancement of our community.

Seeing student leaders engaged with community members inside and away from their schools makes me proud. During a recent event at one of our schools a young man greeted me and several other visitors at the door. He stepped up, looked me in the eye, shook my hand, introduced himself and welcomed me to his school. His group of student leaders escorted us and expertly narrated a tour of the school. This type of maturity and professional bearing is always impressive when demonstrated by a student of any age, but this particular visit was to an elementary school, and my host was a fifth-grade student leader. Student leaders model for others that leading is about more than being “in charge.” It is about service.

Local industry leaders consistently remind us that in addition to the need for technical abilities, employers need employees with “soft skills” like my young host already possesses. Student leadership opportunities provide these skills and so much more.

These service learning and leadership lessons are the seeds of civic engagement that a strong community needs to thrive. We can model service above self for the betterment of our community in many ways. We are blessed to have numerous organizations that focus on a wide variety of needs. They would welcome your contribution through volunteer work or donations.

No matter our age, serving others is a blessing to the receiver, the giver and the community. We are never too old to learn this lesson.