PORTLAND, Ore. — At Portland’s St. Clare School, the classroom isn’t just for learning.
“Service is at the core of who we are as a Catholic school,” said middle school religion and social studies teacher Cathy Kollars. For her 6th & 8th graders, there’s a lot to unpack with current world events. In Mrs. Kollars' 21 years at St. Clare, she sees the potential at each desk.
“When you can connect with them like today, they were on fire,” Kollars said. “They were just so interested and involved in wanting to think about things and share ideas, and that's what's really exciting.”
Thursday, March 31 was "Sunflower Day" at St. Clare. It wasn’t a signal of summer, it was something more.
“When you come into the entryway of St. Clare School,” Kollars said. “You will see six large sunflower paintings that were created by students in our class several years ago. Sunflowers are symbolic of our Patron St. Clare…sunflowers are the flower of Ukraine.”
It was a logical connection the middle school student council decided to take advantage of. Kollars is also the student council advisor. “We were looking for something to do in the spring anyway, and this was just the natural need that came to mind,” Kollars said.
“A small group of people or just a single person can make a difference in something no matter if it's like big or small. Just a difference,” said 8th grader and student council leader Hadley Falken.
For "Sunflower Day," students were invited to fill out prayer cards for Ukraine and wore yellow and blue, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. In the afternoon, the school gathered for a prayer service. The school has also raised over $2,000.
“We also suggested a modest donation that we would give to Catholic Relief Services which is on the ground helping people in Ukraine and refugees from Ukraine,” said Kollars. “Much more important is to teach children compassion, empathy, and a feeling that we are not helpless in the face of despair in the face of overwhelming tragedy,” she added.
Seventh-grader Lauren Grant is also a student council leader, she echoed the sentiments of her classmates. “We're the next generation,” she said. “So we're the next people to help. I think learning this now will help us in the future.”
For the staff at St. Clare, this is what it’s all about, by planting perspective, they’re growing compassion.
“Hope for the future doesn't mean there won't still be hurdles and even sadness and great strife,” Kollars said. “But I am a history teacher, and I see that after strive comes renewal, and I am a Christian and I see that there is always resurrection. And that's what we live for.”