A Special Moment of Giving and Receiving

An Interview with Emily Marotta and Lily McDaniel

Students sat in a banquet style fashion on this particular day instead of sitting in their usual cliques.

Students sat in a banquet style fashion on this particular day instead of sitting in their usual cliques.

Emily Marotta and Lily McDaniel are second year college students at The Institute for G.O.D. They volunteer as tutors in our Art Lab after-school program at DuPont Hadley Middle Prep (DHMP). This is their second year volunteering their time and services to the youth enrolled in our after-school programs.

Both Lily and Emily have a strong conviction for the youth to experience unity during program hours as the youth spend two hours a day four days a week with other students that they may not normally hang out with during school hours! Both Emily and Lily believed sharing a Thanksgiving style meal was a way to create a unifying moment for the youth. To do this, they put out a request for people to donate different dishes to create a full Thanksgiving meal.

Through the contributions of their college professors and friends, they were able to serve the students a special meal. Emily noted, “I was shocked with how many people, my teachers and others, helped prepare a dish for this meal.” They described the day as one where ‘unity filled the atmosphere.’ “They usually sit with their cliques but this day, they decided to all sit next to one another, not prompted by us,” Lily said.

As the students excitedly ate their homemade green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, broccoli cheese casserole, rolls, pumpkin surprise and more, they asked who made the food. When they learned that not only the after-school staff had brought items, but also others that didn’t know them participated, they were surprised. “These people that don’t know us did this stuff for us?” students asked.

One student quickly and excitedly inquired, “How can we thank them?”

All were impacted by such generosity. As the students ate and finished their meal, Emily and Lily led the youth in the song “Lean on Me.” Songs from the staff and youth filled the room as their meal time concluded.

This meal impacted Lily giving her even more hope in how her work and the work of others involved with the youth is softening hearts and expanding perspectives. Lily added, “It gave me more hope. It gets difficult when they argue, don’t act unified, have a rough day at school, don’t like an activity, or are just being [opinionated] middle schoolers. It gave me hope and taught me that they want to engage with each other and us. They want to be there.“

Emily and Lily lead the youth in the song, “Lean On Me.”

Emily and Lily lead the youth in the song, “Lean On Me.”

Youth and after-school staff were impacted by the generosity that went into planning and organizing the Thanksgiving-style meal. They felt loved not only by the after-school staff, but by the others who had given their time and resources to ensure such a moment was created for them. And sure enough, unity was displayed as youth sat together, shared a meal, and sang lyrics filled with themes of generosity and love, “Just call on me brother when you need a hand, we all need somebody to lean on…”