When the pandemic virtually shut down face-to-face interactions between people last spring, it looked like the volunteer program in a central Ohio suburban school district would be paused for the year.
But it turns out that with some tweaks to the annual program, not only were students able to participate, but in a way, they became even more connected to their community.
“The students who were really determined, made it happen,” says Jeanne Gogolski, a service-learning coordinator in Ohio. In the past, students have built houses around the world, worked with orphanages in Africa, and raised money and awareness for the Lost Boys of Sudan.
This year, students read books over Zoom for elementary students, ran errands for house-bound neighbors, and decorated a local park with inspirational messages, in addition to making masks for residents.
Community service “is part of the DNA of our community. It’s one of the reasons people want to live here,” Gogolski adds.
Last year, the state of Ohio changed its graduation requirements for all students, starting with the class of 2023. Students will now need to earn one of three locally defined “diploma seals.” Students can meet this requirement through sports, extracurricular clubs, work-based learning, or a community service project.
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