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Class urges community involvement

Teaching students the value of community service is the goal of Farragut High School teacher Brenda McGrath’s Senior Project Independant Study class.

“They have to do 100 hours of community service per semester in this class. I know this is a lot, but I demand a lot from them in this class,” McGrath said.

The class, which is available to 70 students per semester on a first-come-first-serve basis, is an elective and the students have the choice of doing a research project on which they are required to produce a product at the end of the semester, or the 100 hours of community service.

“Over the years I have had some wonderful research. Some boys a few years ago did research on how to teach handicapped children. Then they did a clinic on teaching soccer to handicapped children. They put out the pamphlets, they organized it, and they went to the ladies from their church and asked them to make refreshments. They had to take pictures of what was going on. They did such a wonderful job on that and to this day, the father of one of those boys continues that program,” McGrath said.

The students go out into the community and find the program or organization they work with.

“The students who volunteer with a church, it cannot be their church. I tell them they are expected to do work at their own church anyway. If they choose a volunteer organization, it cannot be an organization their parents are involved with. I want them to stretch, to go out and ask for this,” McGrath said.

Participants in the class, Nathan Rathgeb and John Geissberger, volunteer with Campus Operations department of First Baptist Church, Concord.

Nathan said he initially took the class because it woud look good on his college transcripts.

“But once I realized what I was actually doing, it was not just for that reason any more. There was more of a moral factor involved,” he said.

“It turns into something you enjoy,” John added.

Jonathan VandenHurk, the boys’ mentor at FBC said, “They have really gone above and beyond just helping. They really do their best at everything you give them to do.

“Sometimes they have been more valuable than the paid employees.

“We had a time period when we were understaffed and they picked up all the slack and helped us a lot,” he added.

McGrath said the idea behind the class is two-fold.

“My main objective is to set them up for doing presentations in college.

“Students who are in this class for two semesters have to do a 15 minute presentation in front of anywhere from 10 to 15 teachers, which that is scary enough, but we also invite the faculty, their parents, their mentors and usually [Mayor] Eddy Ford comes.

“I also want them to know that they were given a lot in this world, particularly those that live in this community, and I want them to know that they need to give back.

“They need to know that if you have to get your hands dirty, then so be it. You do that,” she said.

FHS students Taryn Truett and Travis Bolton volunteer on a more personal level, working with participants in Concord United Methodist Church’s CADES [Concord Adult Day Enrichment Services] program.

“We play games and help them with the things they cannot do. There are a couple that we are really close with, it is like having another grandparent,” Taryn said.

“We try to come as often as we can, but we always come at least two or three times a week,” Travis added.

Diane Wright, director of the CADES program, said, “It is really important when working with the elderly to have young faces in.

“Intergenerational programming opens up widows for people, especially those with memory problems. It brings them back to a better place and they remember good times.

“The kids have a lot of energy. It’s a real non-threatening relationship for the participants because they are kids. They just enjoy their smiles and their energy,” she said.

McGrath wants to make sure the community knows its children are learning to be productive members of their society.

“I want the community to see the good things these kids do,” she said.


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