The Como Connection Returns in Middle School

After nearly 18 months, FWCD’s Middle School students are back volunteering at Como Community Center in Fort Worth. ANY student in grades 5-8 may participate in this service-learning opportunity guided by Middle School Spanish Teacher Debby Arnold. “We play with the kids at the Como Community Center who are part of the after-school program,” Debby said. “While assisting the teachers, we help with homework, literacy, various games, arts and crafts … every day is a new adventure!”
Students may earn volunteer hours for National Junior Honor Society and do NOT need to be a part of Middle School StuCo to take advantage of the opportunity. Volunteering typically takes place on Mondays from 4:15- 6 p.m. unless Monday is a holiday. Then the date shifts to Tuesday.  View the Como Service Learning link for details and sign-up information for the 2021-22 academic year.
 
Check out the service-learning videos released in past years to see FWCD service in action:
 
 
 
Read the full story of how the Como connection was made. 

When Middle School Spanish Teacher Debby Arnold began advising the Middle School Student Council in 2017, she had a desire to get these young leaders involved in community service. One night, while taking a walk with her husband, Bill ’86, she verbalized this wish. “He looked right at me and said, 'I know exactly where you should go. I’ve been going there for the past two weeks,’” Debby shared. “He then told me about the Como Community Center.”
 
Hearing her husband’s excitement about the students and volunteers at this community center, Debby looked into the idea of Student Council members giving their time to the community center, serving as volunteers and friends to the young children in the after-school program.
 
Throughout the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years, on Mondays from 4-6 p.m., Debby took an average of five members to the Como Community Center to befriend and work with first-graders in the center’s after-school program. Knowing the FWCD Middle School students’ busy schedules, Debby asked the Student Council members to volunteer a minimum of once a month to ensure a meaningful, dependable commitment to the children in the program and to the Como Community Center staff. Many gave even more of their time as the relationship between the Como Community Center team, their students, and FWCD’s team began to grow. Since then, Debby has expanded the opportunity to include ALL Middle School students, and they will have a broader reach – assisting in various enrichment activities with students in pre-K through second grade. Interested students can learn more by reading the Como Service Learning Information.
 
The after-school program at the Como Community Center, one of the largest in Fort Worth, has been in existence for more than 20 years, with 120-140 students participating each year. While the Como community is more than 100 years old, the community center building, the heart/hub of the neighborhood, was built in 1970 on Horne Street near West Vickery Boulevard. Of the 21 community centers in Fort Worth, Como is the only community center with a track and field team and pee wee football and cheerleading leagues.
 
One of the School’s strategic goals is to play a more integral role in Fort Worth and the greater community. “My goal in bringing this service opportunity initially to the Student Council students was to show our young leaders how they can help their neighbors,” Debby said. “The community center is literally in our backyard. After being at the community center for a year, I can see that there is so much more we can accomplish with more volunteers.” During their time together, Middle School students connect with the after-school program students through arts and crafts activities and reading, as well as simply playing together.
 
This service-learning program helps to expand FWCD student learning experiences beyond the classroom walls by providing the students formalized interactions with community leaders, like Clara Kirby, who runs the center, and other Como community members.
 
For the past two years, Debby and the students volunteered in Ms. Chaka’s classroom, which had 15-20 students. “The afternoon consisted of a little bit of everything,” Debby noted. “We read with the students; we did crafts together, sometimes helping when Ms. Chaka’s students needed guidance; and we simply played together.”
 
Friendships forged fast, and soon Ms. Chaka’s students were anticipating the FWCD students’ visits.
 
Now that FWCD has been visiting for two years, Ms. Chaka’s students are older and have moved on to a new grade, but FWCD students are still regularly working with them and the other grade levels at the center.
 
For Debby, the experience has been both an eye-opening and a growth experience. “My goal was commitment. I wanted our students to understand that their presence is important to these kids,” she said. “We also were learning and assessing how we can best help each other. That’s when I realized that more volunteers would make this experience more impactful both for the Como children and for our FWCD students. This is a two-way street.”
 
Service-learning opportunities for young students are mostly limited to those where a parent can volunteer alongside their student. This opportunity allows many more students to be involved. The National Junior Honor Society is also getting involved. “I love that all the students are connecting with one another,” Debby said. “All in all, this is about being good neighbors and just having fun together. Who doesn’t want to be involved in a fun activity like that?”
 
To be a Middle School Como Community Center Volunteer, contact Debby Arnold or sign up with the SignUpGenius today. Remember, those Como students are counting on seeing you each week. Sign up for as many sessions as you can!
 
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4200 Country Day Lane, Fort Worth, TX 76109
Phone: 817.732.7718
Fort Worth Country Day (FWCD) is a JK-12 private, independent, coeducational, nondenominational college-preparatory school located on approximately 100 acres in Fort Worth, Texas. The mission of Fort Worth Country Day School is to foster the intellectual, physical, emotional, and ethical development of capable students through an academically rigorous college preparatory program that integrates the arts and athletics.