MINNEAPOLIS – Tiny dynamos tear through the indoor playground at Northside Child Development Center in Minneapolis. Teachers keep a watchful eye on their pre-schoolers, and for two weeks – they’re getting reinforcements – six students from Visitation School in Mendota Heights.

“There are 84 seniors at Visitation,” said Claire Kranz, who oversees the school’s service program. “There are 31 service sites across the Twin Cities. We have six seniors here in North Minneapolis, and they come to Northside Child Center every morning to start their service.”

Students stay with nuns at Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis, who act as a bridge between the suburban high school and the urban community they serve.

In addition to working with younger children at the child center, Visitation volunteers also work at a senior center, Cookie Cart, and other community programs.

Senior Annie Schoonover chose to come to North Minneapolis for her senior service project, in part to get out of her own comfort zone. “I’m not a super extroverted person, so sometimes it can be hard to get to know people,” Schoonover explained. “I get nervous so it’s been good being here and getting to do that.”

“This is a time where I’m not focused on myself,” said senior Katie Bina. “I’m focused on others and the community- and in that process, I’m learning about myself.”

Kim Osborn, Program Director with Catholic Charities, says the students are read hands on help for the teachers at Northside. For students, it’s a break in routine, and in some cases, a new friend.

“We have a lot of students that come back to visit and watch the kids grow up,” Osborn said.

Annie Schoonover says it’s a chance to put her Catholic faith into practice.
“I have the chance to actually go and do something meaningful and actually learn something about people.”