Sue Kiesewetter reports:
Kings High School student Luke McLelland started his senior year with all 75 hours of his required community service hours finished.
But it didn’t stop the teen from joining his school’s Community Service Club, where he lines up service projects for classmates.
And that willingness to keep giving, said Superintendent Valerie Browning, is what the goal of the service requirement is all about.
“When I first came here I was really surprised – you don’t see that too often in public education,” Browning said. “As I became more and more exposed to it I realized how important service is for the kids, their growth and development.”
It also allows the community to see teenagers in a positive light.
“All too often we get into that mode of ‘Kids these days …” Browning said. “This allows people to see the positive side of our students.”
McLelland lined up three Habitat for Humanity houses his classmates could volunteer at during the senior class’ participation in the National Day of Service and Remembrance in September.
His was one of nine projects planned by seniors for seniors, who began the school day with a brief assembly before leaving for their work sites.
“The goal of community service is teaching kids the value of being active members of the community, not passive,” said Tim Guilfoyle, service club adviser. “I want kids to have the opportunity to lead other kids.”
Another service day – this one open to students in all grades – is being planned for spring by the service club.
“We spent the day building walls – hammering nails. We had 10 kids in each of three houses in Hamilton,” McLelland said.
“I love it. It’s super fun. I would much rather be outside spending time with my friends working than inside the classroom learning.”
That wasn’t always his attitude toward the service requirement – which students can begin fulfilling in the seventh grade – McLelland said.
“In seventh and eighth grade I wasn’t too concerned about it. I discovered I was passionate about (service) in junior year. I still am. It opened my eyes and I’ll continue to do it.”
Guilfoyle said it isn’t always simple for students to find projects for which to volunteer. It’s one reason why the service club was formed.
“They don’t know where to start, they have no experience,” Guilfoyle said. “It sounds like it might be an easy thing to do, but it’s not – it can be really hard for some kids.”
Projects developed by the service club also give students a broader perspective of service and allows them to volunteer at more places instead of doing all 75 hours with one group.
In just one day, students framed walls in Hamilton, packed eyeglasses in Mason, prepackaged donated goods for Matthew 25 ministries in Blue Ash, planted trees at their high school and ran a bingo game for senior citizens in South Lebanon.
Nick Handorf got his father, owner of Sharon Nursery, involved in designing a landscaping plant to improve the grounds of the school’s junior-senior high school campus.
Jake Caito, who works with him doing landscaping outside of school, helped with the project, giving advice to classmates who had never done the work.
He was still surprised at the amount of physical labor involved.
“There was a lot of rock and rough dirt,” Caito said. “With all the rain we had I was expecting the ground to be softer.”
Both he and Handorf were proud of their group’s efforts and how much better the school grounds looked when they finished.
“Mr. (Principal Doug) Mader talks about having your legacy. This is one,” Handorf said. “We get to put our little stamp out here.”
Mader was pleased with the students’ efforts and the community service requirement: “We try to teach the whole studen. Part of that is teaching them to give back to their community now and in the future. At Kings the high school, the junior high, are the heart of the community.
Kings defensive football player Brady Vanover also completed his community service hours before senior year – he helped coach youth football, and worked with special needs students. But, like McLelland, he plans to continue his effort throughout the year. “I’ve lived in Kings all my life,” said senior Vanover. “It feels good giving back something bigger than me.”
Besides completing their service hours, Kings seniors must complete a capstone project in the spring, reflecting on their service projects.
They go before a panel of three or four adults – educators, parents, community members, business, or civic leaders – where they make a presentation outlining their work, what it meant to them and how it changed them.
“It’s a moving night – I leave there so inspired. One young man – not the most stellar of students – told about how he worked with the multi-handicapped class,” Browning said.
“He showed pictures of each child and talked about them. He told us his experience made him want to go to college and get an adaptive physical education degree.”
Kings High School requires students to complete 75 hours of community service before they graduate.
Students can begin projects in seventh grade, but no more than 25 hours of service in grades 7 and 8 together can be counted toward the 75 hours. Fifty hours must be completed in grades 9-12.
Seniors must complete a Capstone reflection project where they make a presentation before three to four adults. The presentation must include what projects the students completed, what it meant to them and how it changed them. The presentations often include posters, pictures, or Powerpoint shows.