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SHMS Students Called to Action in Recognition of the National Day of Service

“Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great
because greatness is determined by service… 
you only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.” 
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr read by Ms. Jennica Viera

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the National Day of Service, SHMS students attended a school-wide assembly and presentation by Jay Sampiao, founder of a non-profit organization called People Helping People NY. Mr. Sampaio, spoke about his organization, which provides support for people in need, and encouraged the students to spread kindness and  donate their time and energy to help others.

Ms. Caroline Doran, the Equity Team Advisor, explained to the students that the MLK Federal Holiday and Service Act was signed by President Clinton in 1994. She also spoke of how Dr. Martin Luther King was a huge proponent of people getting involved with service in their communities and his philosophy that, “ No matter your color, religion, or level of education, everyone can make a difference in their community.”

Mr Sampiao is both a community member of the Tarrytowns and graduate of Sleepy Hollow High School, enrolled in the district from Kindergarten through senior year. Ms. Jennica Viera was a senior at SHHS when Mr. Sampaio was a freshman, and have stayed friends since high school.  

Mr. Sampiao comes from a legacy of helping others, as his parents taught him from a young age the importance of helping your neighbors, and those less fortunate than you. He grew up witnessing their dedication to help in less fortunate communities, fundraising and then building a school in Mozambique, funeral home in Portugal, and a senior center in Portugal among many other projects.

Growing up with parents so dedicated to service it was only natural that the former Horseman would continue on that path of service. Mr Sampaio illustrated to the students how his organization has helped people, and that there are many ways to help but the biggest way students can help is by volunteering their time. 

Mr. Sampaio’s response to a student's question “what makes you keep going and helping people?” led to cheers from the Middle Schoolers.  He explained that coming from the resilient communities of the Tarrytowns, and growing up in a “melting pot where he didn’t see the differences amongst the community members he felt and continues to feel compelled to help others when he sees people in need.” 

Mr Sampaio’s message resonated with the students as many had questions that demonstrated their sincere engagement with his and Dr. King’s messages.  One young student asked what made him decide to give of himself in a bigger way than just helping his parents with their efforts. He explained the precise moment in which he decided that this was his calling, when as a 13-year old he was visiting Lisbon and encountered a young homeless girl who was begging for money to feed her baby brother. Mr. Sampaio had money to buy his cousin an ice cream but instead gave it to the young girl because he was so moved by her plight. The telling of this story led to a rousing round of applause from the SHMS students. 

Created in 2017, People Helping People NY organizes Adopt a Family at Christmas, Thanksgiving Dinners for families, Easter baskets, birthday celebrations at Boys and Girls Club for children who otherwise might not get a gift, Midnight Runs into New York City to provide homeless with clothing and hot meals and many other services.  Last spring, People Helping People secured 150 new prom dresses, as well as help with ticket cost, hair, tux rentals for the benefit of SHHS and Ossining High School students. 

During the Covid shut down, Mr. Sampaio was at SHHS daily helping to hand out breakfast and lunch to families and students.  “You never know how someone might be struggling,” said Mr Sampaio. “The person sitting next to you right now might only get a meal when they are at school. So put your arm around your neighbor, and help them.”

The presentation ended with Ms. Viera thanking Mr. Sampaio, and sharing with the students that the inspiration and spark to help people can come from anywhere just as it did for Dr King. “Hopefully hearing Mr. Sampaio speak resonates with you today, tomorrow, or someday. Maybe you will carry the message of this assembly with you in your life and will think what else can we do to help?”