by Joe Bollig
What a group of students from St. James Academy, Lenexa, did was enough to make Donna Kelsey cry.
Tears of joy, that is.
On April 4, a group of approximately 50 students, three teachers and three parents invaded the Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic, at 3021 N. 54th St. in Kansas City, Kan., for an intensive three-and-a-half-hour cleaning and painting session.
“I was moved to tears that day, because of the attitude of the students and their concern for what they were doing, “ said Kelsey, clinic director. “They had fun, but they were also eager to learn about our clients. [The students] had a huge impact on our clinic. It was a beautiful day. We were very blessed.”
The clinic was just one of 10 locations where approximately 420 St. James Academy students volunteered for their all-school service day.
“Hopefully, the students learned that serving and helping others in every way we can is a part of our every-day lives,” said Terri O’Neill, administrative assistant in St. James’ faith formation department. “We want our students to see that there are so many people in need, and even doing little things can make a big difference.”
There is also a spiritual dimension: showing Christ’s love through their work, said O’Neill.
When the students first arrived at 9:30 a.m., Kelsey briefed them on the mission and operations of the clinic, a not-for-profit, ecumenical social service agency that seeks to encourage women in crisis pregnancies to choose birth, not abortion.
“We let them know that we had saved 50 babies, and their mothers, during the clinic’s first year,” said Kelsey.
Then, after receiving their assignments, the students scattered.
Some of the teens did light housekeeping, such washing windows inside and out, vacuuming or dusting. While others cleaned the kitchen, a group of five boys tackled a bathroom — including a long-neglected bathtub that had taken on a shade of brown. By the time they were finished, it was a gleaming white.
The students did a lot of painting as well — most notably a playroom that now boasts a bright design that incorporates letters, numbers, flowers, and an undersea scene.
Those rooms that didn’t require a fresh coat of bright paint, still usually required some serious reorganization.
One such area was Julie’s Room, named for an early client, which serves as a mother’s shopping room. Another was Elijah’s Room, named for the first baby the clinic saved, which serves as a baby’s shopping room.
“The students had the door to the counseling rooms closed until they were finished,” said Kelsey. “When I went in, I saw that they had taken a lot of our brochures, which were outside of the rooms, and set up displays in the counseling rooms.”
In addition to organizing the brochures, the volunteers also photocopied and organized material for the Women of Worth program, Project Rachel, and Baby Bottle Boomerang fundraisers. The students were free to read any materials they wanted, and this led to several spontaneous conversations, said Kelsey.
“We had some information about sexually transmitted diseases on the wall, but not in the counseling rooms,” said Kelsey. “That was the information I heard the students talk about the most throughout the day. They were sharing it with each other, saying, ‘You need to see this,’ and they had group discussions.”
The students also showed a lot of interest in the clients served by the clinic, said Kelsey, some of whose photographs are displayed on a picture board in the center. So she shared with the students some of the clients’ stories.
One was that of a 15-year-old girl who had become pregnant after a rape, but decided to not abort her baby. Another was an account of a struggling single mom who already had two children and wanted to abort her third child, but didn’t. Yet another was a young mom who took four months to decide to carry her child.
“So, the students did get an idea of where these women are coming from — what their lives are like — and that they did choose life for their babies,” said Kelsey.
Kelsey hopes the St. James students will make a return visit soon.
“We’d love to make this a yearly event,” she said, “and we’d like to invite other high schools to work at the clinic as well.”
“There’s always something to do here, and it’s a great way to inform high school students about choices and consequences,” she added, “as well as giving them opportunities to serve.”
For more information about the Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic, call Kelsey at (913) 287-8287.