LORAIN — High school seniors were out in force for Lorain Schools’ Senior Service Day.
Four hundred students signed up to volunteer at organizations, including elementary and middle schools in their district as well as nonprofit organizations like Friendship Animal Protective League, Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio and Catholic Charities.
Jonathan Merchant, 17, chose to go to Southview Middle School as part of the Big Brother Big Sister program.
“I thought it was a chance that I could give back to the community,” he said. “I was born and raised in Lorain, and this community helped me in many ways.”
The high school senior said he wanted to be somebody the kids can relate to and talk with. He also wants to encourage them.
“Every moment you have impacts the rest of your life,” he said. “I want them to get on the right foot as soon as possible.”
Classmate Tatianna Ammons, 17, also chose to volunteer with younger kids at Frank Jacinto Elementary School. She said she hopes to mentor some of the kids.
“Volunteering is important, especially here in Lorain, because I do believe it takes a village to raise a child,” she said.
This is the first year for Senior Volunteer Day. Matthew Kielian, a student program specialist with the district, said it was a collaborative effort with social worker Elisha Neely and others in the school. He said since the junior class was busy with mandatory ACT testing, the district was looking for activities for the other classes.
The focus for the freshmen and sophomore classes was college and career options in which the students visited colleges, universities and trade schools of their choice.
Kielian said there is a community service component for seniors to graduate, so the idea took off but they had only three weeks to plan it. He said that’s when they contacted Bobby Taylor, youth services coordinator for Lorain County Community Action Agency.
“We’ve been working with Lorain City Schools with our work experience program and our mentoring program,” Taylor said. “We’ve also worked with other districts to do community service projects, which is a cornerstone of what we do for our youth.”
He said when the school called asking for help with the community service project, he said the agencies he has worked with were excited to participate.
“A week prior, we were meeting with Buckeye Health to find a partnership strategy, and this was a great introduction of what we can do together,” Taylor said.
Buckeye Health Plan supplied T-shirts for the volunteers.
“It gives that uniformity of bringing everyone together,” said Michael Hibbard, community relations representative for Buckeye Health Plan. “It aligns with Buckeye’s goal of transforming the community for better health.”
Other organizations that participated in the Senior Volunteer Day include Pass it On Outreach, United Way, LIFE a Dementia Friendly Foundation, We Care We Share Ministries, Lorain County Community Action Agency and Lorain elementary and middle schools.
Contact Cindy Breda at 329-7126 or firstname.lastname@example.org.