MARION — What if an entire high school took a day off from academics to help out in the community?
That’s what 400 students at Marion High School set out to learn Monday with their second “One Day in May” day of service.
Lots of students volunteer their time around the community, but this event is an example of deliberate service learning, said Becky Herman, a Marion social studies teacher who helped originate the idea. Through their tasks, Herman hopes her students get a better idea of what makes the town tick.
“It helps them to see the things in the community that could use a boost,” she said.
Students provided assistance to more than 22 local community groups. The largest single group of more than 100 students went out to Indian Creek Nature Center to help give the grounds a spring cleaning.
Junior Lexie Rael, 17, was part of the Indian Creek group last year and enjoyed the experience so much that she signed up to help lead this year’s excursion.
“It’s a big place, so there’s a lot of ground to cover,” she said.
Landscaping work was very much in demand from volunteers, who also planted trees along 22nd Street and helped the Granger House Museum start a new garden area out of what once was a shaded spot behind the house where trash cans were kept.
Senior Kelsey Wieneke, 18, chose the Granger House site to volunteer because she drives by it often and has never gone inside. That was fine by museum director Barbara Feller, who hoped some of the youth would be interested in becoming long-term volunteers to help maintain the garden.
Getting the volunteer effort together required no small amount of preparation and planning; about 35 students organized the service day, starting work at the start of the school year.
Students such as senior Caitlyn Wolfe, 17, approached various groups for both project ideas and financial support to help purchase gloves, tools and T-shirts for the event.
“We dressed up in business attire and went before the City Council to ask if we could do this,” she said.
The city of Marion agreed and ended up as the beneficiary of several of the projects, such as a mural-painting effort on a city ground water storage tank.
Student organizers said the most important aspect of the service day was that the entire school was in it together.
“This isn’t about us,” Wolfe said. “It’s about helping the community.”
List of organizations students volunteered with:
Bickford Assisted Living
City of Marion
Valley Humane Society
Crestview Care Center
Indian Creek Nature Center
Milestones Care Center
Squaw Creek Park
Summit Pointe Care Center
Willow Gardens Care Center
Winslow House Care Center