The lesson for today: caring

The lesson for today: caring – Omaha, Nebraska high schools

Joanne Widner

Caring is part of the curriculum in two Omaha, Nebraska, high schools. While other classmates are playing sandlot ball or taking in a Saturday matinee, as many as 25 student volu nteers may be passing out USDA commodities to between 5,000 and 6,000 elderly and low-income clients,

Meg Jones, coordinator of the student community services program in Omaha’s Millard School District, says students participating in the volunteer effort receive a “very good learning experience ‘”As part of their civics or child development classes at Millard North and Millard South high schools, students receive academic credit for volunteering.

They get one credit hour for each hour of weekly service per semester, up to a maximum of five credits. They are required to contribute at least 10 hours of volunteer work per semester as part of the course. However, many go far beyond that requirement once they have a taste of volunteering.

Agencies benefit from volunteer help

The program has been a part of the Millard School District curriculum for 7 or 8 years. Jones is certified in volunteer administration and was trained at the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus. She has been the program’s coordinator since January 1987. She says the program offers high school students an opportunity to exert a positive influence in the community.

Many nonprofit agencies benefit from the assistance. The Nebraska Social Service Department relies on student help for the Food and Nutrition Service’s Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program, and for the extended child care program in Omaha, which takes advantage of FNS’ Child Care Food Program. In addition, some students act as unpaid aides at 10 extended child care-or “latchkey”-facilities, passing out snacks, playing with younger kids, and even tutoring older children.

The students also help with the annual Social Services foster family picnic, and visit the elderly in local nursing homes. One student was honored last year as Nebraska’s “Teen Volunteer of the Year” for developing a ballroom dancing program at a nursing center Others work through United Way agencies or their churches. Some organizations draw on the student program for one-time events such as bikea-thons or cleanup projects, while others use students regularly.

Teacher support boosts program

Jones credits the enthusiasm of local teachers for part of the program’s success. She says long-term benefits include some new ideas for students on careers in social services or early childhood education.

An April editorial in the Omaha World Herald lauded administrators, teachers, and students for their contributions.

For further information, contact:

Meg Jones, Coordinator Student Community Service Program Millard Public Schools 13270 Millard Avenue Omaha, Nebraska 68137 Telephone: (402) 895-8478

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