Light is a symbol of hope, intelligence, beauty, and truth. At this time of year, streets, homes and yards are adorned with lights with candles lit in celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the winter solstice. The lights are a remembrance that spring will soon follow the darkness of winter and of all that is good in the world.

At the eulogy for President George H.W. Bush, his son said his father “recognized that serving others enriched the giver’s soul. To us, his was the brightest of a thousand points of light.” This reference to a thousand points of light was utilized by President Bush during his presidency in recognition and encouragement of volunteer organizations.

As we support our students in Regional School Unit 5 to achieve their best, we strive to create opportunities for students to be points of light. We’ve found that students benefit greatly – academically and emotionally – from volunteering their time to their community.

There have been many recent points of light in RSU 5.

The Durham Community School Student Council, under the leadership of Nick Lyons, collected and donated 400 food items at Thanksgiving to the food pantry. Older children connected with younger students to load the truck that delivered the goods. The Joy of Sharing is a whole-school assembly where gifts are donated to the town of Durham, which coordinates with the Lisbon Area Christian Outreach to provide gifts to families in need at this time of year.

At Freeport Middle School, students planted trees near Interstate 295 to help beautify the area and to create a buffer to the road noise. The Jobs for Maine Graduates class also recently conducted a blood drive.

Many of our students at Freeport High School volunteer on a regular basis. Some work at the Freeport Community Center Thrift Store. Others often volunteer at Wolfe Neck Farm’s community events. One example is the Night Tree event inspired by Eve Bunting’s book, “Night Tree.” Her story is about a family that feeds the forest animals. Our students help younger children decorate pine cones with bird seed, stringed popcorn and dried fruit, and then place the ornaments on a tree to provide treats for the animals in the woods. Taking care of the environment is one of the many ways to give back to the community.

Our students also volunteer for Furniture Friends in Westbrook, an organization that provides donated furniture to people in need. Our students assist in picking up the furniture, moving the furniture, and setting up the apartments – turning houses into homes. There is no better gift to give someone than helping to create a home.

Our students’ volunteerism empowers them to become responsible citizens, responding to their community’s needs.

The recent passing of President Bush highlighted the importance of living life to its fullest and in service to one’s community and country. As the cold, clear nights of winter descend upon us, let’s celebrate and encourage others to be points of light, while always supporting our students in realizing their unlimited potential.

Becky Foley is superintendent of schools in Regional School Unit 5 (Freeport-Durham-Pownal). She can be reached at [email protected]