One of the essential components of the International Baccalaureate Diploma is Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS), which reflects the IB requirement that students voluntarily participate in service to the community in which they reside. Alongside their academic studies, IB encourages students to be well-rounded and to pursue interests that are both enjoyable and meaningful. IB recognizes that every student has a different starting point, and our annual VHS field trip to CHOW serves as an initial opportunity for our diploma candidates to come together early in their junior year as they begin pursuit of this challenging diploma. It has become a Vestal tradition for our students to volunteer at CHOW during this critical time of year.
A total of 18 of our junior IB Diploma Candidates volunteered at CHOW on November 15, 2023. Cody Manning, Community Engagement Specialist for CHOW, first gave students an overview of the mission of the warehouse, providing some impactful statistics: Broome County is one of the most “food insecure” counties in New York State (in fact, once we returned to VHS, students engaged in a lengthy discussion of “food insecurity” and exactly what that meant). CHOW is the central warehouse for a network of food pantries in the Southern Tier. They have seen a 41% increase in distribution over last year and have distributed two million pounds of food in the first 10 months of this year. They expect to reach three million by the end of the year. Additionally, six new food pantries opened just in the last three months. Students noted that, while it is fortunate that donations and distribution have both increased, the inevitable conclusion is that the community’s needs have also increased significantly.
After the overview, students first listened to instructions about how to properly pick and organize orders from local food pantries. They were then sent off on their own to pull items from shelves and put labels on packages. Each student immediately took the initiative, working cooperatively to pick and arrange sometimes large orders for food. Students developed several skills during this process, not the least of which are asking questions and problem-solving how to best fill an order when there appeared to be no easy answer.
After students returned to VHS, they learned how to record and reflect on their experience. Diploma candidates are required by IB to keep a journal of their creative, active, and service-oriented pursuits throughout the two years of the diploma program. Mr. Dunham also provided an overview of the upcoming Extended Essay process. Students brainstormed possible research questions for this 4,000-word essay that they will write over the next 14 months under the guidance of a staff member. Best of luck to our diploma candidates as they begin these important components!