By Jackie Nelson
Monday morning, Hesston Middle School students could be seen across the community participating in volunteer service.
The annual Service Day is an event which engages middle school youth in the community by giving time and talents to local organizations in need of a helping hand.
Hesston Middle School Counselor Jillian Toews said the day is a way to not only benefit local organizations, but help students find a sense of pride in their community.
“We want to teach youth how to be a good citizens. We need to take care of not only the places in which we live and work, but the people as well. By serving the community in some way, we are hoping to spread a ripple effect of kindness. If that core ethic value is instilled in our kids, and modeled, it will then be continued,” she said.
Toews said not only are students able to gain a new perspective on the community, but adults had the opportunity to get to know middle school youth as young adults learning more than just academic skills.
“It affords community members an opportunity to get to know students in a different manner and become familiar with character values that are being taught as well as the academics,” she said.
Service Day is not limited to one day of community interaction. Toews said there are weeks of preparation for students.
“The entire month of April is dedicated to the term Service - What it means, what it can look like on a small or grand scale, and ultimately, what it does not only for others, but for ourselves when we give back. That reflection and growth allows students to see, take pride in, and work diligently to keep Hesston "home,” she said.
The projects taken on by Hesston Middle School students spanned the entire community.
“Projects included everything from weeding and planting at the Arboretum to cleaning up the grounds at the Villa. Other locations of service were: The fire station, Hesston Elementary, Hesston Senior Center, The Hesston Police Department, Harvey County East Lake, Hesston Food Market, et cetera,” said Toews.
Toews said businesses and organizations for service projects can regularly change, but the impact of Service Day remains the same.
“Basically the projects were chosen by need and the benefits of service. Each year we look at people or places that could use some extra help in some way, and do our best to give back. And, although the people we serve and the locations may change, the basic theme of "service" does not,” she said.
After the work-day concludes, students return to the Middle School to discuss their projects.
“Typically teachers visit with students about what went well, what was enjoyable about the service being provided, what challenges the day brought, and how those challenges could be handled differently. It gives everyone, teachers and students alike, to look at things from a different perspective and learn outside of the classroom,” said Toews.
From start to finish Service Day requires a huge amount of support from students and adults.
“The entire student body and the entire staff participated in some way to make the day at HMS a success,” said Toews.
Ultimately, Toews said Service Day is about gaining appreciation and perspective.
“Learning can and does take place every moment that we live (and give). Giving back is a way to honor the community, but also take pride in themselves.”