The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

Inspired by Franklin, Junto Aims for Educational Service

Junto may sound like a mixed martial arts group, but its mission is anything but combative.

Junior IB student Evelyn Ting dreamed of starting a club at the high school since her freshmen year. She founded Junto in 2011 in hopes of increasing emotional engagement in community service projects.

“When I was doing community service with other groups, I didn’t feel connections with the people.” Ting said. “No one explained why it was important or what the specific facts were. I was looking for an emotional tie through more information on a project.”

Ting created Junto to fulfill the Creativity Action Service requirement for the IB Diploma Programme, which requires students to complete 150 hours of community service over two years.

Junior Alexander Freidman, also an IB student, joined Junto for reasons other than completing his CAS requirements.

“Junto is never a waste of time,” Freidman said.

Ting found inspiration in Benjamin Franklin’s Junto club. The Spanish word was first used in the early 1600s and means a group of men joined together for a similar cause. Franklin created his Junto group in 1727. It lasted for 40 years and helped generate ideas about how to improve society. The group eventually became the American Philosophical Society.

“I was inspired by Benjamin Franklin and his ideas of self-improvement and coming together,” Ting said.

Junto has completed three projects this year.

Their first was a trip to the Shaker Lakes Nature Center, where members cleaned the marsh and planted seeds of native species, increasing the plant diversity.

Brandon Henneman, a volunteer coordinator at the Shaker Lakes Nature Center, explained the importance of the effort to Junto members. He said that a higher population of native species other than cattails (a common wetland plant with a long stem and a brown flower on top) would increase the biodiversity of the marsh.

Junto also organized an elementary school clothing drive and collected 40 bags of clothing from students, teachers and the community. The clothes were donated to Bhutanese refugees, the largest groups of refugees in America.

By mailing fliers, Junto members recently helped the Beachwood Alzheimer’s Center promote an educational meeting to help raise awareness about the disease.

Ting wants Junto’s projects go beyond raising awareness and donations. She wants members to recognize the impact on both members and those who are receiving their help.

Ting arranges for experts in related fields to inform members about their projects. For example, members met Bhutanese refugees and learned their individual stories rather than just collecting and dropping off the clothing.

“It is an interesting way to learn more about an issue and respond to it,” Freidman said.

Junto attracts nine regular members but usually has 16 members at each meeting. The club is open to all students, not just IB students.

The future of the club doesn’t concern Ting at the moment. She hopes the club will continue after she graduates.

“I haven’t really thought about who will lead the club after I graduate but it will be a democratic process,” Ting said.

A version of this article appeared in print on 28 February 2012, on page 12 of  The Shakerite.



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