I’ve said it many times on this site, but I’ll repeat myself one more time because the town of Dublin amazes me at how the people have it goin’ on over there! That point hit home again recently when Dublin’s Karen Wright told me about a community service volunteer program offered by Dublin High School. Wright went on to absolutely sing the praises of the program and, of course, I wanted to know more about it.
It’s long been a belief of mine that all high schools should have some type of a community service program that gives young people a chance to see their community from the inside, so to speak, and so today, I made the short drive to Dublin in order to visit with DHS counselor, Chesta Schneider, who heads up the program. We began with the basics.
“We’ve been thinking about initiating the program for a good while now,” she began. Dr. Schneider [Chesta’s husband is the superintendent of Dublin ISD.] and I believe that the way the community goes is the way the school will go, and the way the school goes is the way the community will go. For the past four years, we have worked very hard to build a great rapport with the community, and today we are really reaping the benefits of that.”
The two of us stopped here to visit a bit about the importance of a positive attitude, both in the community and the school system and, of course, that brought me back to my interview with Coach Bob Cervetto, who just might be one of the most positive people that I have ever met.
“We do things like inviting the community into the school at the beginning of each year as well as several other times a year for breakfast meetings. Then, during football and basketball season, we have a free admittance night for our businesspeople, and we try to recognize them for what they do for us. We have so many people who are very willing to do things for the school; they just need to be given the opportunity to do so. Our Dublin community is just as big a part of our school system as we are.”
Of course, you have to remember that the Schneiders have only been in Dublin for the past four years. They are from that West Texas friendly part of the world, and connecting the school to the community is just second nature to them.
By the time this school year rolled around, Mrs. Schneider was ready to organize a community service program at DHS. It is not mandatory, and students are allowed to decide for themselves whether they want to be a part of it.
“The program actually involves the juniors and seniors. These kids have to get 20 hours of community service per year to become a community service graduate. We do have some of the underclassmen who wanted to come onboard, and we let them do so.
“The way we approached it was that we wanted our Dublin kids to be able to communicate with our business owners, etc. in the community without always going to see them with their hand out for money. You know how often these people get hit with fundraisers in a small town, and we wanted to be the ones offering the service for a change.”
According to Schneider, parents have been very responsive to the whole idea.
“In fact, we have several parents who have used our kids as volunteers. We definitely have not had problems finding things for them to do. The only thing we ask is that the volunteer work not be done during the school day.”
There are a few exceptions to this rule, however. This week, in fact, there will be students volunteering during the 8th grade orientation, but this is not the norm.
“The Dublin Chamber of Commerce holds a big fiesta each year, and several of our students worked that. We also have those who volunteer at the library and the museums. Others volunteered to work during the safe trick or treat, and still others hold a homework lab for the children of parents who are taking an ESL class during the week.”
Of course, there are still others who volunteer to pick up trash, work at the nursing home or blood drive, or even serve at the chamber banquet. Others have helped businesspeople take put up and take down their Christmas lights, and some have even helped others in their homes. The only real limitation on the program is that the school asks that the service be of direct benefit to someone in the Dublin community. In other words, students may not count hours they might work outside of that community.
“We also have a group of seniors who get out of school early each day, and some of them go to the elementary school as mentors for the younger children. Basically, what happens is that our students begin to see that it can be fun to serve, and that they can help simply because they want to do so. Getting the recognition as a community service grad is no longer the most important thing to them; the serving is. I think this is especially true for the students who have chosen to help some of our senior citizens. It is amazing how they have built a rapport with those whom they help.
“We have fabulous kids that are willing to serve. I think it will definitely help them in life to understand that you don’t have to be paid for every single thing that you do. I am also especially proud because a lot of our volunteers have parents who do not speak English, and they want things better for their children. They just haven’t had the opportunities. That their kids want to serve shows how well they have been trained at home. We just love this community,” the counselor smiled.
So, do all of the students who are eligible volunteer? Of course not. However, at the time of my meeting with Mrs. Schneider, there were 39 students who had logged 755 hours of volunteer work. In a town the size of Dublin, can you just imagine what 755 extra hours and extra manpower mean? I’m thinking that the Big Green Machine could absolutely change the world…in Dublin, Texas!
And on a very serious note, can you imagine what it would mean to this country if every single high school graduated only 39 students per year who understood service to their communities? The change this one thing would bring with it would be unbelievable.