ORLEANS -- Rebecca Doucet is a freshman this year at Lake Region Union High School. Like all incoming students, she is required to complete 80 hours of community service. Unlike other students, Doucet has already completed this requirement.
During eighth grade, Doucet learned about the community service requirement. "I thought it was a lot, so I started thinking of a plan," she stated. She didn't want the requirement to hang over her head to her senior year. Plus, if she broke it down to about 20 hours a year that made it seem easier and less of a huge commitment.
Doucet made this requirement work for her and her family. She looked at places she could get to without transportation. This landed her volunteering at the Barton Library over the summer. "It was not a bad experience," she said of giving up her summer time. "I mean, we were serving ice cream!"
She had her friends join and they earned hours as well, which also made the time more fun. The Barton Library needed other help and Doucet agreed to stay. Suddenly, she was at 83 hours. She had not set out to complete the community service requirement, only to do a big chunk of hours "since I didn't have as many other activities taking up my time as I would during school," she shared.
"I wish I could clone Rebecca," said Sarah Elliott, the community service coordinator. Elliott, an LRUHS alumnae, accepted the position because she is an active member in the community and has a good network in the area, both values she felt would benefit LR students. Elliott admits the requirement could seem like a lot. After assisting students in the past year, she sees it as achievable when students spread the hours throughout their four years at LR. "There are a lot of in-school opportunities and events that provide transportation," Elliott said, knowing transportation can sometimes be the biggest hurdle in getting students to complete hours. "There's help in the lunchroom, recycling with the Green Team, tutoring other students -- I could go on," she added.
Elliott wonders if students and families are unsure of why this is a requirement. Elliott said that students gain a "better understanding of our community" and understand what it means to be part of this community. "You don't have to go outside of the country or even the state to give back or help someone." Looking close to home and doing small things for people could have a huge impact on students and their communities. Life-long relationships, future employment partnerships, quality of life improvement, a memorable life experience are just a few of the potential benefits Elliott sees for LR students. "You just never know if there may come a time when your community could help you."
Elliott knows this personally. She is a little person and spent most of her early years receiving free medical care from Shriner's Children's Hospital in Springfield, Mass. She knows the power of giving back and helping others. "I had the advantage of seeing others in need getting what they needed to inspire me, whereas students may not have a personal connection," Elliott said. "But you don't have to be helped in order to help others," she was quick to add. LR is trying to develop these students as active and connected community members.
"Community service is not a punishment," Elliott clarifies. She sees it as a way for students to meet people in their community they wouldn't otherwise meet. "No matter where you live, here in the Northeast Kingdom or somewhere else, you'll always be part of a community" and as the old proverb says, "the more you give the more you get." This is the educational piece that Elliott hopes students take from their community service experiences.
"Why wouldn't you want to help people if they need help?" Doucet asks. She plans to continue volunteering beyond her 103 hours. "Now I'm refereeing my sister's junior hoop games," Doucet said. This takes little effort since her family is already doing this activity. "Win win," Doucet says. And she knows employers and colleges will see she is the kind of person "who does more than just the requirement." Elliott beams. "See? This is why I want to clone her!"
For more information on current volunteer opportunities or for any questions, contact Sarah Elliott at email@example.com.
Article submitted by Erikka Adams, library media specialist, MSLIS