TCA students volunteer to boost Norwood Park neighborhood

Six students at The Career Academy (TCA) gave a helping hand to many people this fall during Habitat for Humanity’s Rock the Block in early October. 

Sapphire, Mohamed, Chance, CadiJohn, Evan and Gracia joined TCA teacher Stephanie Howell for multiple projects throughout the day. They helped with everything from pulling weeds to replacing plumbing fixtures in northeast Lincoln.

“I learned that my knowledge and skills can be used to help others more than I thought I could before,” Sapphire said.

Howell said it was inspiring to watch TCA students spend their Saturday helping others. She felt Rock the Block was educationally valuable because it taught them about hard work, cooperation, generosity and confidence.
“I feel as if they learned how important it is for the community to come together to help our neighbors,” Howell said. “A couple of the students who volunteered attend Lincoln Northeast, and the block we were working on was located in the Norwood Park neighborhood. In addition, one of the student’s families who volunteered was the recipient of a Habitat home.”
“I think they saw that they each had talents and skills that they could offer to help out and that they felt really good about it. At the end of the event they were all excited and volunteered to participate when we go to the Center for People.”
Sapphire, CadiJohn and Mohamed said they came away encouraged from the experience. They said it was fun to work with their TCA classmates to accomplish their goals.
“Not only did I learn the joy of helping others, but I made community,” CadiJohn said. “My peers and I all had the opportunity to use our skills to help those in need, and I got to bond with others that have like-minded goals as me. Helping others is such a beautiful thing. I think everyone should experience it.”
“Volunteering for ‘Rock the Block’ taught me the joy of coming together as a community to construct homes and create a better and brighter future for families,” Mohamed said. “As you may already know, my family’s house was built by Habitat for Humanity, and this showed to me the immense amount of teamwork, compassion and hard work that went into constructing our home.”
The Career Academy is a joint venture between Lincoln Public Schools and Southeast Community College. Juniors and seniors can take dual-credit courses in more than a dozen academic areas. More than 150 business and industry professionals provide them with real-world connections.
Howell, who chairs TCA’s social studies department, said TCA Director Joshua Jones and other building leaders wanted to increase community-service opportunities for students and staff. They set a goal of working with at least one charitable event or organization each quarter of the 2023-24 school year.
TCA leaders contacted multiple agencies last spring and asked if they would be willing to include students in their projects. They received an enthusiastic response and began to build a schedule of volunteering opportunities over the summer. They arranged to help Habitat for Humanity this fall.
The TCA students helped with many projects both inside and outside homes in the neighborhood near Norwood Park. They pulled weeds from landscaping, removed overgrown brush from yards, laid mulch around trees and flowers and filled cracks in driveways. They also replaced plumbing fixtures and outdoor faucets, leveled a front porch, replaced doors and tightened loose railings for people.
Jones said he was proud of the TCA students for their willingness to give others hope with their helpfulness.
“TCA students and staff were absolutely stars and were crucial to projects getting done,” Jones said.
Howell said Sapphire, Mohamed, Chance, CadiJohn, Evan and Gracia have already penciled in their names on the volunteer list for future projects. TCA will partner with Center for People in Need and Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach Center later this school year.
Center for People in Need is a Lincoln-based agency that provides area residents with food, diapers and other basic needs. Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach Center helps the homeless and near-homeless in Lincoln in many ways.
Mohamed said donating his time to Habitat for Humanity was a decision that will pay many personal dividends for years to come.
“It was amazing seeing individuals from diverse backgrounds joining together to make a difference in that neighborhood!” Mohamed said. “Seeing people come together and enjoy themselves was truly heartwarming. This experience has inspired me to continue volunteering!”
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Published: November 3, 2023, Updated: November 3, 2023

The Career Academy teacher Stephanie Howell smiles with TCA students Sapphire, Mohamed, Chance, CadiJohn, Evan and Gracia in early October. They volunteered with Habitat for Humanity’s Rock the Block program in the Norwood Park neighborhood. Howell said the experience was educationally valuable because it taught students about hard work, cooperation, generosity and confidence.