Toronto students called to ‘ACCTS’

By 
  • October 14, 2012

TORONTO - The Toronto Catholic District School Board, through its A Catholic Call To Service (ACCTS) program, is looking to expose students to the true meaning ofservice.

“It’s a program in which our students get an opportunity to witness, in action, their faith,” said Deb Gove, the board’s secondary resource person forreligious education. “It is a totally unbelievable experience for boththe students and the people (they help).”

ACCTS, which launches Oct. 17, will see 35 Catholic secondary schools across the city send 10 students into the downtown region to help out at a varietyof social assistance agencies. These agencies include shelters, missions and food distribution groups.

On the day of service, students meet and are divided into groups before heading off to the appropriate location. Everything is wrapped up around 7 p.m.following a liturgical service. But there is more to it than just a single day of service.

“It’s not just a day, it’s a taste of what service is like,” said Gove. “It’s life-long learning.”

Lasting about 10 hours, the day does not count towards the students’ compulsory 40 hours of community service for graduation in the Catholic system. The focusis on teaching students about the importance of helping others without any personal gain.

“If we’re just out there looking after each other and not looking after those who need it we’re not doing what Jesus asked us to,” said Gove.

“It’s important that we take care of the poor and vulnerable.” That’s a message which stuck with Raffi Degralstanian after participating in ACCTS last fall.

“I hadn’t actually had a good idea of what service was until I was actually there,” said the Grade 12 Brebeuf College School student. “It definitely opened my eyes to when people need service and how I should give it to them.”

Degralstanian was one of the students who helped clean up Mary’s House, a downtown women’s shelter, after it suffered significant damage from a fire.
The experience touched him so much that when the opportunity to participate in this year’s 15th anniversary program came, Degralstanian immediately wentonline to register.

“It was like wow, I did something here, I was able to contribute my physical being and apply it to this place and it made a difference,” said Degralstanian.
“Giving your sweat and being there physically doing something is much more meaningful than donating five or 10 bucks.”

When the group of 10, which included Degralstanian, returned to Brebeuf the following school day from their various assignments they instantly becamepivotal figures in establishing the school’s own Street Patrol program. Details of the school’s program, which is independent from ACCTS, are still beingdeveloped, but the objective is feeding the homeless at least once a month during the school year.

“It speaks a lot to the meaningful experience they receive on this given day,” said Robert Gregoris, Brebeuf chaplaincy team member.

“For a lot of them it is an eye opener. A lot of them don’t see the difficulties and the challenges that the human spirit goes through.” Although Gregoris said he understands the importance of the day’s message of unrewarded service he does think the students receive something in return — a closer connection with God.

“It’s a real tangible way where young people get to experience the message of Christ and the face of Christ,” said Gregoris.
“It gets to their heart, it gets to their soul.”

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