Julie White, 45, came to her current role as a specialist teacher at the Edward Everett Elementary School in Dorchester, Massachusetts, with a background in community service. But her love for giving to her community — and to her fellow human beings — extends much further back.
“I’ve just always had it in my heart to give back and to make a positive change, ever since I was a kid myself,” she explains. “I’m just passing on what’s always been in me. I’m the dinosaur now,” she laughs. “The kids I work with are the little eggs.”
“The kids” Julie works with are the entire student body of Edward Everett Elementary School, a kindergarten to grade 5 school of about 300 children, located in the heart of Dorchester, Massachusetts.
As a specialist teacher, Julie’s job is to involve every child in at least one outreach or community service project throughout the course of the school year. “They all participate,” says Julie. “It empowers the kids to know that they have a project — and a deadline — and if they don’t finish, it’s going to affect people who are depending on them.”
Her voice warm — and filled with pride for the little ones she leads — it’s easy to understand how they respond to her. Julie encourages the children to come up with their own ideas for projects, or provides structured activities. One kindergarten class decided to raise money to purchase summer treats for children who live in a local shelter. “Pennies for Popsicles” was such a success, they now repeat the fundraiser every year.
She’s also implemented both the One Hen and The Good Garden programs offered by One Hen Inc., which offers activities for educators like Julie. And she’s watched — like a mother hen — as the children grew in compassion and self-esteem.
“It’s really empowering for kids to realize that it doesn’t take money to make a difference,” she says. “We pick up the trash on the lawns of our elderly neighbors, or do little potted plants for them in the spring. It all makes a difference.”
Julie’s work is all the more remarkable when you learn that 80 percent of the children in the school come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
“It’s been amazing to see how she cares for — and teaches — those kids,” says Sarah Harney, program coordinator at the St. Ambrose Family Shelter, where Julie and countless groups of children have contributed innumerable volunteer hours over the past decade. “She is a great asset to us. She shows the children the difference they can make; and they make a huge difference. But she also teaches them that if they should ever fall on hard times — l like some of the families at the shelter — there’s still hope. It’s not the end of the world.”