Mullen freshmen and administration continue to get first-hand looks at such struggles as the school’s commitment to community service remains ongoing and is staffed by a growing diversity of volunteers. As the first school in the state to require donating time for local causes in order to graduate, Mullen’s recent batch of volunteers helped to prepare, serve and clean up after lunch at the Denver Rescue Mission, a prime target of the Mustangs’ community efforts.
And everyone in the most-recent wave of volunteers got up close and personal with Denver-area citizens who needed the help … and all that came with it.
“Some people were actually nice; others were mean, but it was pretty cool to help,” freshman Dominik Flores said. “I think it’s a very good thing to do. It’s helping us as people to help others.”
Another Mustangs freshman, Kylie Morgan, agreed: “It was really fun and I was open to a new experience and it was really cool. It’s nice to do this for other people and I would do it again. I just think it’s a great experience for all Mullen students.”
Multiple Mustangs and staffers headed to the mission’s building in Lower Downtown on Nov. 1. They were drilled in preparing food for service, watched a video that stressed the sanitary handling of the food, equipped with appropriate gear such as aprons, hairnets and gloves, and supervised in terms of how to serve it to a group that can be cautiously squeamish. Others checked in the hungry through a card system.
Also, while there was a fairly steady stream of clients who wished to be fed, mission officials indicated that because it was the first of the month – when those in need are supposed to receive their checks from disability or Social Security – and the weather was good that the traffic for the meal wasn’t as heavy.
But the effort was and mission personnel appreciated it.
“We’re putting a smile on and making sure they’re welcome,” hospitality chef Alex Lugo said. Anyone who shows up for a meal is a guest, he said, and “we’re called to serve people, which is really important, especially in a season of difficulty. They need that. They need that life.”
In recognizing the necessity of it as the first step, the Mustangs’ Connor Warren said he “was taken back. I was shocked. Honesty, (a lot of) these people don’t look like they need help for this, but they do. Helping them was an amazing experience and just showed you what Mullen is about.”
And in truth, he said, “without Mullen having me do this, I probably wouldn’t do this a whole lot. But I enjoyed doing it.”
Mullen director of marketing and communications Ami Zach said each Mustang must perform 70 hours of community service. However, they are far from simply putting in the time. Today’s prep volunteers remain consistently generous for causes, she said, and “the kids were into it with open eyes.
There’s poor, the working poor and people coming from their jobs to eat … they saw a lot.”
Another Mullen freshman, Ethan Douglass, agreed the exposure remains necessary, but the rewards can’t be measured.
“They seemed so happy to get them and it was good for my heart to see,” Douglass said. “To serve people food, the ones who can’t do it for themselves … I could see they were glad we were here.”
Elliot Gray, Mullen’s director of service learning, said “I believe in it, I’m passionate about it and it’s why I’m a teacher.” It’s a big opportunity for
teenagers, he added, “and it’s what I love about the Denver Rescue Mission. It really gives an opportunity for kids to get into the thick of it, talk with the guests and get into the mission … they get their hands dirty with the service.”
Service is what the Denver Rescue Mission runs on, said Eric Korb, volunteer coordinator, and “what we’re trying to accomplish as an organization is to just be here and provide shelter and meal service for for our guests. We also meet them at their spiritual and physical points of need. We need staff and volunteers on a daily basis.”
On site for two years, Korb said “sometimes a football team comes or a DECA group … Mullen is the only one we have regularly and on a consistent basis.”
As for the benefits all around, Korb said “it can be kind of life-changing as in redirecting where I thought it was. It’s eye-opening to people in many ways. I always tell people and try to let the kids know to never minimize what you’ve done today. You can change people’s lives. You help turn their lives in a different direction and that’s what we do here. All of the volunteers, regardless of who they are, are part of that.
”It is, Flores said, “helping us as people to help others.”
The commitment to service by high-schoolers should continue to grow, Gray said, as “they find service authentic and it’s not just to add up their hours. We need to keep doing this. And we will not stop any time soon.”