Somerset High School students are required to perform 80 hours of community service before they graduate.
It is now possible for SHS students to get them completed before they attend their first day of high school.
A new class started this summer through the summer school program that gives students a chance to perform some or all of their community service hours.
The idea for the class came from middle school teacher Kristin Flater. Flater had been looking for an idea for a summer school class she could teach. In discussing it with some students, the idea blossomed to offer a class where students could get some of their community service hours completed. Flater took the idea to summer school coordinators Brad and Sandy Nemec and it was met with enthusiastic approval.
Flater took the idea to eighth-graders who are making the transition to high school this fall. She said getting some of their hours done now made sense before they get busy with jobs, cars, extracurriculars, etc. Thirty-four students signed up for the class, many of them incoming freshmen.
The students can attend whenever it works into their schedule, so some are getting in a few hours, while others are taking care of a majority of their 80-hour responsibility.
The students have been able to experience a variety of jobs. There was work at Rainbow Tree Therapies, a camp for kids, where the students mulched, raked, split wood, cleared brush and made signs. For many of them, this was their first time doing this sort of manual labor. Flater grew up on a hobby farm, so she was in the middle of things, showing the students how to do the jobs.
"The reaction has been really positive. They enjoyed what they were doing, though some found it was more work than they expected," Flater said.
There were also a number of jobs the students did around the school grounds, ranging from planting a flower bed to clearing brush along the cross-country course. Later this summer there will be jobs like helping at the food pantry, doing painting around the school and possibly helping at an animal rescue.
Flater said that when the idea was approved, she sent a district-wide email asking for suggestions on jobs the kids could do. She said many of this summer's hours are already spoken for, but she's open to adding new suggestions anyone might have. She can be contacted at email@example.com.