SIKESTON - Sikeston Public Schools is encouraging its young people to be civic minded, self-directed and capable of leadership.
The best way to accomplish that, believes the R-6 District, is to place the students in a setting that provides that kind of opportunity which is what's happening through a new project called the Service Learning Program.
Participating students in grades 9-12 volunteer their services to an organization, group or church in the community and hours accumulated will be in addition to school activities that already require volunteering.
Those who reach 100 hours of volunteer service will earn a gold cord and an opportunity to become a member of a new society known as "The Bulldog Golden Achievement Club. Students who volunteer 75 hours of service will earn a silver cord and 50 hours of volunteer work will mean a bronze cord. The cords will be worn at the commencement ceremony at the end of the year.
Two participating seniors who meet the requirement of 100 hours of service in a 12-month period and other established criteria will receive the American Institute for Public Service Award.
Sikeston Public Schools is hoping the community will support the project by offering volunteer work to the students.
"Allowing the students to volunteer at businesses, organizations and other groups will help connect them with the community, not to mention the valuable service they can do for the organization," said Dr. Larry Bohannon, assistant superintendent of secondary education and professional development.
"As a board member of the Sikeston Depot, I know we would appreciate the volunteer hours for museum display changes, upkeep of landscape and preparing and dismantling art shows, to mention a few," Bohannon said.
Each participating high school may select two students from among the senior class to receive a $1,000 scholarship for outstanding service to the community. The Corporation for National and Community Service provides $500 for each scholarship, matched with the $500 from the community.
"I think this is an excellent opportunity for students to get involved with the community and show that they want to be involved helping others," said Debbie Hampton, counselor for the high school seniors. "So many times scholarships are tied to academics and this will allow all students (no matter how academically oriented) to apply for this money for schooling after high school."
Students are encouraged to contact organizations to offer their volunteer services. Volunteer hours will need a sponsor signature for verification purposes. The organization sponsors will be asked to sign the verification sheet and may be randomly called to verify work and hours.
"It is extremely important to help teach students the importance of service, but also give them another activity in which to become involved," said Bohannon. "Programs such as these help make civic-minded citizens while also giving them a sense of accomplishment and self-worth. Any student that puts his or her mind and heart into it can achieve this goal."
Hampton remarked the idea has been met with enthusiasm by both students and parents.
"I get really excited when kids have opportunities to show that they can help, do help and want to help others," she said. "This type of program really rejuvenates our belief that young people are sympathetic to others' needs. As we have all heard, young people are our future and now our young people can have a little acknowledgement for their service to others."