MOUNT VERNON — Children are often told that they can make a difference. Friday, students at Mount Vernon Middle School were given the opportunity to do just that.
Students and staff spent the morning volunteering at more than 30 locations throughout the community. Some helped their former teachers at Mount Vernon elementary schools, others were outside picking up litter or planting trees. One group of students washed cruisers for the Mount Vernon City Police Department. Others did landscaping work at places like New Directions, the Salvation Army and East Elementary School.
“Everywhere I went I saw kids engaged in what they were doing,” said Jeremy Ketterman, an instructor at the middle school “That was one of the things we were specifically trying to impress upon them is it’s not about what you’re doing. It’s about the fact that you’re giving back and making the community a better place.”
Brittany Sivewright, a seventh-grade social studies teacher, took a group of students to The Laurels of Mount Vernon. Students talked, played cards and even gave manicures to nursing home residents.
“It was amazing,” said Sivewright. “They all seemed to have a really good time and they’re already planning their next visit.”
“The residents enjoyed getting to spend time with the students,” said Hayley Simpson, administrator at The Laurels. “It was great for us to see such excitement and joy between the two generations.”
Eighth-grade student Marianne Watkins helped students with math and reading at Columbia Elementary.
“I learned that patience is everything. Just being with the kids, showing that you’re there for them,” said Watkins. “You can help make the change that the world needs.”
Another group of students held a charity car wash at Advance Auto Parts. In two hours, they raised more than $300 for Healthy Soles, a fund that provides shoes to students in need at Mount Vernon Middle School.
Eighth-grader Mack Hanna, who helped start Healthy Soles, said he enjoyed being a part of the car wash — despite an unexpected turn in the weather.
“We got, like, frozen, because it was really cold,” he said.
When asked if it was worth it, Hanna and his classmates, Griffin Reeder and Ethan Woods, all said yes.
“Giving back feels good. That’s what I learned today,” said Hanna.
This was the middle school’s first day of service, but school principal Darin Prince said he hopes to make it an annual event. The day’s activities were organized by a committee of teachers.
“We have almost 900 students and close to 100 staff members, so trying to coordinate places where we could go and serve throughout our community was a challenge, but a committee of teachers really ran with it,” said Prince.
Teachers said that in addition to instilling a love for community service, the event is designed to bolster students’ pride in their community and in themselves.
“I hope they get out there and see ‘Oh, I live in a really great place,’” said Ketterman. “I hope they see that kids can make a difference. They’re an important part of the community and they have the power to bring about change in town.”
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