In this paper, we’ve covered PIGLETS students doing exit polling for Board of Education races, the students’ work in helping to set up New Paltz Day and several other novel projects.
Superintendent Maria Rice thanked the high schoolers involved in planning the festival last week. They helped set up games, entertainment and scheduled music for the festival. They also helped to get middle school students and their younger peers involved in New Paltz Day.
“I just want you to know what a huge influence they had on this day,” Rice told the school board.
Right now, the seniors-only class has about 21 kids enrolled, but they use their time in an interdisciplinary, real world study of how to make change in the community around them.
“PIGLETS is a service learning class,” explained Joe Dolan, one of the teachers in charge of PIGLETS. “It’s taught by an English teacher and a social studies teacher and it’s offered every year and satisfies two English credits (Senior Workshop and an elective credit) and two Social Studies credits (PIG and Economics). The course runs based on enrollment.”
Dolan believes that the course has become more popular with students lately because of the emphasis put on volunteerism in the country.
Along with Nick Crocco, who takes care of the social studies side of things, Dolan is helping to guide this year’s crop of seniors toward whatever goal they choose.
Since the class started in 2006, students have used their time to bring in Internet and child safety experts to speak at the middle school, they’ve worked to try to change local laws regarding water conservation, and some students have worked at Vassar Brothers Hospital in the pediatric unit.
“They’re all doing their own thing,” the teacher explained. For instance, although prior PIGLETS classes had gotten a lot of attention for doing exit polling, Dolan said he was hesitant to suggest anything to the current students. “It really is an authentic process.”
Helping veterans get to
the wheelchair Olympics
In the 2011 class, seniors Sybil Robinson, Tatiana Vinhas, Marquia McCaster and Mackenzie Quick are working to throw a banquet to benefit a team of U.S. military veterans, called the Hudson Valley Crusaders, who’d like to head to the Paralyzed Veterans of America games.
For Robinson’s group, they knew they’d like to do something to help soldiers.
“We were going to honor vets’ families,” she explained. “A girl in the group, her father was in Iraq.”
Other people in the group had veterans in their family -- and so it was decided. The girls got in touch with the local branch of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. They got the girls in touch with a longtime VA worker Ellen Varian, who coaches a team of vets in wheelchairs.
The Hudson Valley Crusaders team right now has eleven wheelchair athletes, who are also veterans from the Iraq and Vietnam wars.
“I’ve been doing this -- this is my 15th year,” the coach said. In that time, the team has lost some members and gained newer soldiers from the conflicts in Iraq. “The original team, there’s only two guys on from the original team.”
While many wheelchair teams tend to focus on one sport alone -- like the so-called “murderball” of wheelchair rugby, tennis or basketball -- the Hudson Valley Crusaders cover a broad range of sports. Some members bowl, some throw discus, some shoot air rifles, others swim and others ride the handcycle.
“It’s quite a few events,” Varian explained.
To get enough money to head to the PVA games in Pittsburgh this year, the team needs about $35,000 -- that’s where Robinson and her friends come in. They’ve planned a fundraiser banquet for the team at the Grandview in Poughkeepsie on June 7 at 6 p.m.
For the team of veterans, the help is much appreciated. Varian has run the team through fundraisers -- most of them just by word of mouth -- and kept things running. The team doesn’t have a website, they’re not on Facebook and most disabled veterans learn about them from a referral from the VA.
“It’s a non-profit thing that we do,” the coach said. “And we do all our fundraising on our own.”
Varian added that she was deeply grateful to the girls from New Paltz High School’s PIGLETS class. “They’re such sweet girls.”
What else is PIGLETS up to in the Hudson Valley?
While it might seem oxymoronic for a high schooler to rave about a certain class, Robinson -- like many PIGLETS students -- seem strangely protective of the class.
“The class is a great experience. I think the class should be offered as a permanent option,” she said. “It’s really great.”
PIGLETS teacher Dolan had a hypothesis for why students seemed drawn to the class -- ownership. Teachers in the course act more like guides and mentors rather than didactically going over points in a book. It also has a lot to do with interaction.
“A large part of this class is developing connections with people in the community,” he said.
To get a better idea of what PIGLETS has been up to this year, head to the June 14 final class presentation at New Paltz High School. Students will present the results of their projects in the audion at 6:30 p.m.
While mostly known by parents, this event is also open to the general public.