Giving Thanks and Giving Back

During this week leading up to the Thanksgiving Break, the Oak Knoll community practiced gratitude and giving back to the community. Oak Knoll’s Parents’ Association kicked off the busy school week with a Thanksgiving Family Mass on Sunday, November 13, which was attended by LS and US families as well as faculty, staff, administrators, and their family members. Families brought donations to benefit the Pierre Toussaint Food Pantry in Newark, NJ. Donations from the Mass, together with an Upper School drive throughout the week, “will supply food for 400 families, the most ever, on Saturday, November 19 for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday,” said Michele Van Kalsbeck, Director of Campus Ministry.

Last week was Gratitude Week in the Lower School, where each day students participated in one activity of thanks. On Monday, they wrote notes of gratitude for faculty and staff. On Tuesday, they wrote thank you cards to members of the Oak Knoll facilities team. Wednesday was the gratitude challenge; students competed by homeroom to see who could create the longest list of things for which they were grateful. Thursday, they read a common prayer of Thanksgiving and then wrote on paper leaves which were affixed to a gratitude tree. They closed the week by writing notes on paper hearts to take home to their parents/caregivers.

“I think this week definitely prepared me for a more thankful Thanksgiving now that I know what I’m thankful for and what it means to be thankful,” said Zoe D. ’29. “I think the most meaningful activity was writing thank you notes for our teachers because it showed our appreciation for our teachers that we don’t show them everyday.” Julia M. ’30 added, “I really liked learning about the neural pathways and how if we think something negative it could become a habit, but gratitude helps us change that and think more positively.”

Students in grade seven traveled to GRACE Food Pantry in Summit mid-week to unload a truck full of food supplies that helped serve more than 641 families! Grade nine students went to Bridges Outreach in Newark to make and distribute lunches to the unhoused community there. 

Students will have a full week off from school during Thanksgiving break and ample time to say thank you to loved ones, friends, and family.