YMSL joins forces with United to Learn and Jill Stone Elementary to care for children who need it most

Dawn Zierk, who chaired the University Park Chapter Young Men’s Service League’s (YMSL) Ultimate Gift this year, expressed that they chose to work with United to Learn to directly impact the children in Dallas who need it most.

This fall, Dawn gathered mothers and sons from their chapter to pour resources and support into United to Learn Schools with a special focus on Jill Stone Elementary. At Jill Stone, about 20% of students are from 24 different countries and speak more than 15 languages. Many come from war-torn countries and environments filled with fear–Afghanistan, Cuba, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico. 

Dawn led the group to first understand the “why” behind the work. They did a loss simulation exercise, where the moms and sons listed people they loved, things they were thankful for, activities they enjoyed and roles they played. Then some or all of these things had to be left behind, or were taken away, both by choice and randomly. Some participants were left with nothing.  Dawn described the exercise as “incredibly impactful”. “It made us realize what it might feel like to lose what you hold most dear, as a refugee, or a child suffering from systemic inequities.”

“Also of note,” Dawn adds, “the affluent and the destitute exist side by side within our city. Most of our volunteers live less than ten minutes away from Vickery Meadow, where Jill Stone is located. We are so proximate to causes that need our support and it is our passion to help where we can.”

The group focused on four goals:

  • Develop or increase empathy for refugees. Put yourself in their shoes.
  • Extend compassion for all children who come from difficult circumstances – poverty, abuse, neglect. These children are like all children – they want to play and be happy and feel safe.
  • Recognize that everyone can make a meaningful contribution. Kids find joy in the slightest acts of kindness.
  • Make a significant impact on the community we serve!

On two different days in October, Dawn led YMSL to throw a carnival for the 400 students attending Jill Stone Elementary and participate in United to Learn’s Community Campus Day, where 120+ volunteers blanketed the campus with support. 

They installed a leveled library to promote literacy skills at every level. They enhanced the playground and outdoor environment with a sensory path, storybook walk, new picnic tables, and stenciled games like hopscotch and a map of the USA, to bring joyful play into students’ lives. The value of these projects exceeds $30,000! They also distributed turkeys and meals to designated families the Friday before Thanksgiving.

United to Learn is grateful for the support of Dawn, YMSL, and all our volunteers who donate their time and talent to improving education for our children–the future of Dallas.

Check out Dawn’s MySweetWish piece published on My Sweet Charity!