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St. Hugh students learn from partnership with Barnyard

St. Hugh students pose for a photo after their training session at The Barnyard, aimed at helping them gain a more profound outlook on poverty. Pictured are:  Bella Pennekamp, Maria Cardano, Olivia Samur, Isabella Gonzalez, Emiliana Antelo, Alexa Martinez, Helen Lobree, Chelsea Pennekamp, Sofia Rivero, Isabella Camargo, and Solange Aguero.

Photographer: COURTESY PHOTO

St. Hugh students pose for a photo after their training session at The Barnyard, aimed at helping them gain a more profound outlook on poverty. Pictured are: Bella Pennekamp, Maria Cardano, Olivia Samur, Isabella Gonzalez, Emiliana Antelo, Alexa Martinez, Helen Lobree, Chelsea Pennekamp, Sofia Rivero, Isabella Camargo, and Solange Aguero.

COCONUT GROVE | Why are you here? That was the question a group of students from St. Hugh School had to answer during a two-hour training session at The Barnyard, a neighborhood community center in the heart of Coconut Grove.

As part of Kids4Kids, an organization developed by St. Hugh students Chelsea and Bella Pennekamp, students at the school have been helping children who attend The Barnyard's reading and homework assistance program.

Katie Oxenhorn, the director of the reading program, organized a training session Jan. 28 so that St. Hugh's students could become more familiar with the needs and struggles of their Coconut Grove neighbors.

"The training was a great success," said Gloria Perez, After Care director and coordinator of after school activities at St. Hugh. "The St. Hugh students came with positive attitudes, a willingness to help and a desire to make a difference. The students left with a more profound outlook on poverty and what it looks like in the West Grove."

After the training, one of the St. Hugh students' response to "why are you here" was this: "I am here so that I can get a better understanding of what other kids' lives are like. I hope to teach them and learn from them at the same time."

The students who attended the training have committed to serving the children as mentors; to encouraging, modeling and inspiring critical thinking in their reading buddies; to assisting them with vocabulary development; and to helping them build more confidence in reading.  

"Our main goal in the training was to help the students from St. Hugh to understand the difference between coming to The Barnyard to volunteer, and contributing in a meaningful way that will benefit both The Barnyard and St. Hugh," said Perez. "We are really looking forward to continuing the meaningful work we are doing with The Barnyard together."

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