Raymond Gabaldon Elementary students learn about giving back to their community


Children are the jewels of any community, and what they learn early on will form the citizens and leaders they become.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Raymond Gabaldon Elementary students are learning through community service project. Pictured, in front, from left, are Student Council Vice President Juan Quevedo, School Representative Yasmin Valverde, Secretary Alison Stubbs, President Isaiah Garcia, Treasurer Trinity Pairett; on top, from left, Student Council sponsors Jennifer Gaerlan, Courtney Begay, Dolores Martinez and Michelle Sanchez.

The students at Raymond Gabaldon Elementary School are learning a lot through community service projects, and they are eager to do more.

Through a partnership with the school’s Renaissance program, the student council and their sponsors, Dolores Martinez, Courtney Begay, Jennifer Gaerlan and Michelle Sanchez have organized a series of community service projects that help people within the community.

The service projects make the students feel awesome, they said.

“It makes me feel like a hero,” said 12-year-old Isaiah Garcia, president of the student council. “It feels better to give than to receive.”

“It makes me feel like I did good, and that I’m helping other people,” said Alison Stubbs, student council secretary.

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, they invited Los Lunas High School freshman Gabriela Ramirez, a young cancer survivor, and other cancer survivors from the school community to share their stories at a Renaissance assembly, said RGE Principal Barbara Carrillo.

“It was nice to see familiar faces … community members that actually live here in Valencia County — people that students know,” said Sanchez.

“Some of the kids were coming up after the assembly, and just saying, ‘That’s what my grandma had.’ ‘My aunt’s going through that, too,’” said Gaerlan. “So they made a real life connection with something that we’re learning about here at school.”

Students with family members suffering from the disease were particularly moved by the talks.

“I’ve had loved ones that have gone through the pain of breast cancer,” said Trinity Pairett, student council treasurer. “My auntie had breast cancer.”

Yasmin Valverde, student council representative, first learned about breast cancer through activities with her mother, who works for Ambercare, she said.

In one of the community service projects, the students met Eliana Alderette, a third-grader in Los Lunas Schools with pulmonary hypertension disease.

It is basically high blood pressure in the lungs, and is a chronic disease that can lead to heart failure if left untreated.

The student council presented her with a check of nearly $600 they raised for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association in Alderete’s honor.

“Whenever you have that kind of disease, it’s not that easy of a life,” said Stubbs. “You can’t do as many things.”

You can’t tell she has a disease, she looks healthy and happy, the students said.

“But it was hard for her to walk around, even a short distance was like a mile for her,” said Garcia.

Fundraising for causes, collecting food donations and visiting retirement homes are all activities that fortify the students, rather than fatigue them.

Last December, the young people sang Christmas carols for the elderly at Sierra Springs Assisted Living.

“When I saw someone dancing, it just made me happy to cheer up someone,” said Juan Quevedo, student council vice president. “One of them was singing, also.”

The exposure to the larger world and its realities has changed the students, making them more aware and compassionate.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” Quevedo said.

“Helping others is good, because some people don’t even have food to eat, or clothes to put on, or even shoes,” said Valverde. “You have all that stuff, but some people don’t.”

The service projects have even inspired new vocations. Some of the students now want to be doctors and nurses.

“I wanted to be a scientist — a paleontologist,” said Valverde. “But now I want to be something in the medical field.”

-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.