January 23, 2015

Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Students grow in service, leadership through Maley Foundation

As part of a Joseph Maley Foundation Service Day activity, Holy Spirit students make Christmas cards on Nov. 13, 2014, for members and families of Down Syndrome Indiana. (Submitted photo)

As part of a Joseph Maley Foundation Service Day activity, Holy Spirit students make Christmas cards on Nov. 13, 2014, for members and families of Down Syndrome Indiana. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

Two years ago, Christine Williams, principal of Holy Name of Jesus School in Beech Grove, decided she wanted to do less talking and have more action when it came to promoting the concept of service for the school’s middle school students.

“I wanted something to remind [the students] of our larger purpose outside of what they see every day,” she said. “Every day they’re learning about our Catholic faith, but I wanted an opportunity for them to put it in action.”

But where to begin, how to organize such an effort and how to help the students process their experience were a challenge.

Enter the Joseph Maley Foundation, a non-profit started in Indianapolis by St. Monica parishioners Vivian and John Maley. Their son, Joseph, died of leukemia at the age of 18 in 2008.

“Joseph was born with a lot of different disabilities,” said Vivian. “Joseph had four brothers, so my husband and I were used to teaching others how to work with and accept others with disabilities.”

In 1991, Vivian started a disabilities awareness program at St. Monica School in Indianapolis, where her four other boys were students. That program started as the launching point for the Joseph Maley Foundation in 2008.

In just six years, the foundation has grown to offer 11 different programs that range from raising disability awareness, to developing a spirit of servant leadership in youths, to serving families suffering from infant loss.

“We created a broad mission statement on purpose so as the foundation grew and more ideas came about, we could do other things that would serve children of all abilities and not focus just on children with disabilities,” Vivian explained.

While the Joseph Maley Foundation offers its programs to any school, it started in Catholic schools and the word spread from there. The foundation recently added a few businesses to its list of clients.

Williams utilized the foundation’s Service Day program to get the Holy Name middle school students active in serving others.

“They work with your culture and your vision,” said Williams, who wanted the students to volunteer particularly at Catholic organizations.

The staff at the foundation found three Catholic nonprofits in the Indianapolis area—Anna’s House, Hearts & Hands of Indiana, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. They then divided the students into three groups. Teachers and parents drove the groups to their assigned organization, where they spent half a day volunteering.

“When they came back, the leaders from the Joseph Maley Foundation led the kids through a reflection on the day,” said Williams. “The kids loved it. They all left on a positive note.”

She was so impressed with the outcome that she asked the Joseph Maley Foundation to organize a day of volunteering for the entire school, from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

“They designed a curriculum that included the academic standards for each grade, and had lessons that connected to the service project that students were doing, and were even able to tie service points into what the teachers were covering in their instructions,” Williams said.

“It was a really neat initiative and incredible to see all of our students participate in service at the same time.”

Not far away at Holy Spirit School, students for the last five years have participated in the Service Day program and other Joseph Maley Foundation programs to instill the values of service and leadership into the youths.

“Until students are actively engaged and actually seeing the places they’re going and doing the work, they’re not really going to understand service,” said principal Rita Parsons. “By giving them that opportunity, you’re empowering them to go on serving in the future.

“We’re seeing [Holy Spirit graduates] in high school becoming involved in service, going to St. Vincent de Paul on Saturdays or joining their high school service club. They take initiative now because they know what it’s like to pay it forward, and they know service makes them feel good.”

Students from Holy Spirit have also become involved in the foundation’s disabilities awareness programs, including Disabilities Awareness Week and the Kids on the Block puppet troupe, which puts on puppet shows at schools to teach children about disabilities.

“With the Kids on the Block program, the kids went out for a week of training during the summer,” Parsons explained. “It really developed the leadership of the students. They had to create and build the stage, know their roles, act out their parts, then lead a question-and-answer session. And it’s all done by the students.”

Both disabilities awareness and leadership are outcomes of the foundation’s Disabilities Week program as well, said Amy Moran, a counselor at Holy Spirit School who helped coordinate the program.

“The most amazing thing of that week is not only awareness, but how friends and peers come to the help of the students who have been assigned a disability,” she said. “Kids will ask, ‘Can I eat lunch with you? How can I help you?’ It’s fabulous to see them step up as the leaders and role models we know they can be.”

As with Williams of Holy Name School, Parsons has seen graduates of Holy Spirit School continue with volunteering. One graduate now serves on the Joseph Maley Foundation Junior Board.

That one graduate is how Vivian Maley sees the foundation working: “One little bit at a time, making the world a better place,” she said.

“The Joseph Maley Foundation is a continuation of Joseph’s legacy. We’re all about planting seeds and growing miracles.”

(For more information about the Joseph Maley Foundation, log on to www.josephmaley.org.)

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