‘Student leaders’ organize sock drive, learn life skills

Oct 19, 2023

MATTAPOISETT — For Old Rochester Regional High School senior Mars Castro Colaj, 18, leadership means being able to “not back down” and “push through” obstacles.

Along with volunteering at the Mattapoisett Museum and Sippican Elementary School, Castro Colaj is a student leader with the Community Service Learning Club at the high school.

“It’s really nice helping out the community because some people … don’t think about who’s actually doing the work,” said Castro Colaj. “It’s really nice that our community service club is making people aware of that.”

Every October for the past six years, the Community Service Learning Club has held a “Socktober” drive where they collect socks to donate to the New Bedford Women’s Center.

This idea was brought to the school by Andrea Moniz, a special education teacher and co-advisor for the club.

“I never knew that there was a need for socks, it’s something you don’t think about. You think about hats, gloves, coats, winter gear and things like that — but you don’t think about socks [even though] everyone wears them,” said Moniz. “They usually give them to the women who come to their shelter or their families.”

So far, the group has collected enough socks to fill an 18-gallon container. Most of the donations, said Castro Colaj, have been from students.

Old Rochester Regional High School students who made a donation to the sock drive got a $5 discount off $25 homecoming dance tickets “as a little incentive,” said Moniz.

But Castro Colaj wasn’t the only student leader who had a hand in the sock drive.

Fifteen-year-olds Addie Crete and Olivia Thompson are freshman at Old Rochester Regional High School. With only two months under their belts, they have already taken up leadership positions with the Community Service Learning Club.

Crete designed a flier promoting the “Socktober” drive and Thompson, successfully, contacted local media about the event.

According to Crete, helping with the sock drive has been “a cool experience.”

“It’s really lovely to have this community [at the high school] and to help other communities surrounding us,” said Thompson.

Castro Colaj, who will graduate this year, said she is happy that new students are picking up the community service mantle at the high school.

Old Rochester Regional High School math teacher and club co-advisor Karen Browning, hopes that experiences like these will serve students throughout their lives.

“We don’t run the projects, we want student leaders,” said Browning. “It’s all teaching them the steps that need to take place … we’re here as a support [and] as a guide.”

According to Moniz, the Community Service Learning Club isn’t just about giving back to the community.

“The leadership part is great. It gives them the things they need throughout life that will benefit them going forward,” said Moniz. “They grow [to become] seniors who are confident and can be that leader.”