My name is Conor Kelly and I am a senior at Rockhurst High School. I have been volunteering at St. Mark Center for three weeks. I’ve had a great time, and I’ve learned a lot. I chose St. Mark Center for my senior service because I am interested in making a lasting impact on my community, even in a small way.

St. Mark Center is not like any other preschool. They incorporate art into their classrooms and use conscious discipline to redirect their students. They have created a community where students can express themselves through art and can work out conflict through communication. These students have used these skills to teach me life lessons that I will take with me.

Being a mischievous and curious child, I recall being scolded by teachers and hating school. A lot of the time adults are so caught up in correcting children that they miss out on the opportunity to teach them. This is not the case at St. Mark Center. Teachers here use conscious discipline to help students learn that their actions have consequences. Instead of simply scolding students, the teacher and the students talk it out. They discuss what is happening, why it is happening, and how to work it out. I want to continue that type of communication in my life.

I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a lot of different art activities with the students. The school had a yoga instructor come in the month of January so I practiced different poses with the students during our weekly yoga classes. I painted, colored, and built alongside the students in the classroom. I also performed my guitar for each of the classrooms. I was a little worried as I don’t know a lot of songs, but the students were grateful and sang along with excitement. They use art to tell the world who they are, and they are proud of what they produce.

St. Mark Center is a space where the students feel safe to learn by doing. I work in a classroom with students who are four and five years old. Every morning during breakfast there is a student who volunteers to pour the milk for his peers. The first day I was here, the student spilled the milk and splattered it all over the table. I expected the student to be embarrassed by the spill and no longer volunteer. Instead, the student has continued to volunteer every single day. He knows you have to make mistakes to get better and he embraces the opportunity to do that every single day.

The students have taught me more than I ever expected. I can wholeheartedly say that I chose the right place to volunteer. I wish the students and the teachers the best. I hope to come back to St. Mark Center to volunteer in the future.