For high school students, the first day of classes usually involves a semester overview and maybe a brief assignment to get the ball rolling.
The staff at Bishop LeBlond High School bucked that trend Friday morning, as students and teachers hopped aboard four buses to volunteer at various locations across town as well as in Savannah, Missouri and Atchison, Kansas.
It was all part of LeBlond’s Service Day, an event usually reserved for seniors that now includes the entire school.
As the first official day for all students at LeBlond (freshman and new students were welcomed on Thursday), 13 separate groups helped at 12 organizations, including the YWCA, Habitat for Humanity and Second Harvest Community Food Bank, to name a few.
“There are so many organizations in St. Joe that really can use that extra little help with all kinds of things,” Rick Weiser, a business instructor at LeBlond who organized the event, said. “(Students) will be painting, building shelves, cleaning. The way the diocese has put that schedule together, it was going to be difficult getting the kids in from summer break on a Friday and start academic schooling. And since we do know that our community does need help in certain areas, we decided today would be a great day to do a service day.”
A few students were taken to the Sisters of St. Francis in Savannah by Principal Jeff Sullivan to assist with a community garden.
Sophomore Olivia Yarnell said the experience was enlightening, and she appreciated the emphasis placed on helping others.
“It’s just about being a good person,” she said. “Do stuff for other people, because it’s not all about you, and it’s good to go out and meet new people through all of this.”
And those were the exact lessons Weiser was hoping students would come away with during the school’s service day.
“Not only do you have to work on your academics in high school, but you also have to work on your community,” he said. “So many times, students of this age don’t really realize how a community really relies on volunteerism. Especially in a community like St. Joe, we have so many organizations that need that extra little help. They can’t just hire people to come in and do everything. Some students don’t see that very often.”
Sullivan, who traveled to a few other volunteer locations after dropping students off in Savannah, said he appreciates beginning the year with such an event.
While students are required to have a certain number of service hours prior to graduating, opportunities like this allow them to get a better understanding of why and how they’re helping, he explained.
“We have academic scores and we have what’s in the classroom, but there’s this holistic part of the student that we want to push. Some of that is not paper and pencil and not your test scores. You can still be a good person and have a low test score. It’s what you’re doing for others (that’s important).”