Joliet Catholic Academy senior Sam Martyka feels strongly about the Tradition of Service that has been passed along to him through family members and at school. So much, that instead of completing his minimum 15 service hours for his junior year of high school, Martyka spent an entire week this summer at St. Leo Catholic Church in Bonita Springs, Florida as part of a community outreach program.
Martyka said, “my uncle is a former teacher at Brother Rice High School, and they invite kids down to work with the church’s outreach program. It’s a $5-per-day daycare for migrant workers to keep their kids out of a trouble, and allow them to see different entertainment options in the community that they otherwise may be unable to afford”.
The Juan Diego Outreach Center at St. Leo is currently the home of the St. Leo Food Band and Catholic Charities of Bonita Springs. They specialize in positive youth development, human trafficking victim’s assistance, substance abuse counseling, youth mentoring, and supplemental nutritional assistance programs (S.N.A.P.). Maryka was able to work with younger kids from kindergarten to fifth grade, and also 13-18 year olds in English as a Second Language classes.
“Some of the kids I worked with were from Ecuador and had no paperwork, and another kid I tutored in English is 17, doesn’t attend school and hangs sheet rock full-time. It was an eye opening experience”, Martyka said.
Besides tutoring the young adults, Martyka chaperoned the youngsters on trips to go rollerskating, miniature golf and arcade games, and to the movies. “It keeps the kids off the streets and out of trouble. My goal every day was to see how I could put a smile on their faces, and that in turn made my day that much better”.
Martyka is very busy as a student at JCA, while also serving as the team manager in the baseball and basketball programs. This summer, he worked twelve hour days for a landscaping company. When he had a one-week vacation, he chose to spend it in Bonita Springs.
“My mom asked if I was sure about spending “vacation” time down there, but it really wasn’t work. To me it’s the little things that matter”, Martyka said.
The JCA senior is not alone among his peers concerning his penchant for service. The Class of 2016 performed over 15,000 hours of community service during their time at JCA. Maryka said, “I hope that stories like this can get out in our community and to my classmates, so that more kids will get involved either on service trips or just in our community.”