By Will Foster ’20
Sweetness Day is an annual Walter Payton tradition. The school namesake’s Chicago Bears number was 34 (and his nickname “Sweetness”), so every year on or around March 4 each advisory spends the day performing community service at a location they choose.
For freshmen, last Friday, March 3, was their first experience with the tradition. After a kick off rally in the new gym that included a teacher dance competition, students dispersed to locations throughout Chicagoland.
“I liked it,” said Siler Mericle ’20, who along with fellow members of advisory 008 volunteered at the Ruben Salazar Bilingual Center elementary school, which is located across Wells Street from Payton. “I felt like I was giving back to the community.”
He worked with first graders at the school, helping with grading and playing games with two children he described as “rambunctious” to keep them under control.
Elias Culver ’20 worked with fourth graders. “I was able to try to be a positive role model and to help them out when they were confused and lead them in the right direction,” he said.
Since the school is bilingual (English and Spanish), some Payton Spanish students had to pull out their skills in that language when working with certain younger children that did not speak English.
Advisory 001 went to a local Bright Horizons Child Care center.
“The experience I had helping toddlers there enhanced my understanding of how to demonstrate the four Cs, especially compassion,” said Magda Saliba ’20. “Not only was I able to spend time engaging the children in play, I was also able to learn about how the daycare staff handles helping others with grace and patience, along with compassion. These few hours I spent at Bright Horizons will have a lasting impact on how I treat children, and also adults.”
Meanwhile, advisory 013 traveled to Walter L. Newberry Math & Science Academy in Lincoln Park to assist sixth graders with their history fair projects.
“For me at least, it was a tad awkward working with pairs of students which knew each other well, while I, on the other hand, was a complete stranger,” said Steven Li ’20. “At times, there were moments where there was nothing to talk about, since they were busy working with my given advice, leaving me to have nothing to really work on. However, the overall experience was relatively nice, as it was a peaceful getaway from school in the name of helping children.”
Advisory 011 helped out at Cradles to Crayons in the Belmont Gardens neighborhood. The organization’s stated mission is to “provide children from birth through age 12 living in homeless or low-income situations with the essential items they need to thrive.”
The students worked to organize clothes for these children. “I thought it was really interesting,” said Molly Pfeifer ’20, “and I felt really good knowing that we helped so many kids across the city.”